The Rolling Stones had what was almost certainly the most high-profile tour of the year. On Pollstar’s just-released ranking of 2021’s top tours, though, the Stones come in only at No. 8. There’s a good reason for that, of course — the list is ranked by tickets sold, not grosses.
Harry Styles was No. 1, with 669,051 attendees at his arena shows, adding up to an $86.7 million gross for the year. The Stones played a far more modest amount of stadium shows, with 516,624 paying customers, but higher ticket prices accounted for a robust $115.5 million take, which made the group the only artist to bring in a nine-figure gross for 2021.
These are among the stats included in Pollstar’s 2021 year-end touring report, dubbed “The Great Return,” the hub for which can be found here.
As touring started up again in what may or may not be remembered as the beginnings of a post-pandemic era, Styles was one of just two artists to play to more than 600,000 customers, the other being the No. 2 “Hella Mega Tour,” featuring Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer, which brought in 659,000 patrons and a $67.3 million gross. Styles’ year-topping tour sold 669,000 tickets.
The remainder of the top 10 tour list consisted of Dead & Company at No. 3 with 588,600 tickets (and a $50.2 million take); Dave Matthews Band at No. 4 with 583,000 customers ($46 million); Phish in fifth with 573,000 ($45 million), the Jonas Brothers taking sixth with 529,000 ($42 million); Luke Bryan at No. 7 with 523,000 ducats; Chris Stapleton in ninth with 516,000 sold ($35 million); and Alanis Morissette, who was celebrating the anniversary of “Jagged Little Pill,” coming in at No. 10 with 499,000 ($29 million).
In the Nos. 11-20 spots: Maroon 5, Pitbull, Luke Combs, Los Bukis, Guns N’ Roses Grup Firme, Zac Brown Band, Garth Brooks, Enrique Iglesias/Ricky Martin and Korn.
The list of the top 100 tours was just one of many Pollstar put together for the annual occasion. The trade publication for the concert biz also ranked the top promoters, arenas, theaters, clubs, stadiums and amphitheaters.
The report additionally includes rankings like a look at the year’s top 300 concert grosses, which is led by (no surprise) the Rolling Stones, with a two-night stand at L.A.’s SoFi Stadium that sold through all 81,676 available tickets, at a top face value of $499.50. The gross for that two-gig engagement alone as $18.9 million. A single date by the Stones at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium was the second-biggest booking of the year, with a $14.8 million gross off of 42,000 tickets sold.
SoFi Stadium did well in its opening year of 2021. Besides hosting the Stones’ chart-topping gigs, it was also the site of the No. 3 engagement, as two shows by Los Bukis in September added up to $13.8 million.
In fact, between them, the Stones and Los Bukis took 11 of the top 12 slots on the list of top grosses. Only a three-nighter by the Eagles at L.A.’s Forum, at No. 9, was able to break into those ranks.
The top promoters were Live Nation, with 13 million tickets sold and $1.1 billion in grosses, followed by AEG Presents, with nearly 3 million tickets and $281 million brought in. Both those companies have divisions that are ranked separately, like AEG’s Concerts West, which ranked No. 10 and sold 569,000 tickets, and its Messina Touring Group at No. 12 with 412,000 tickets.
Said the Pollstar study, “Outdoor venues… saw a bump this year – understandable since social distancing and general concern about being indoors in close contact with others during the time of COVID were factors. The percentage of amphitheater performances in 2021 was 10% of the overall in North America, considerably higher than 2019’s 4%. Likewise, stadium shows, most of which are outdoors, were about 8% of the total this year in comparison to only 1% two years ago prior to the pandemic.”
The top arenas: Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena (336,000 tickets, $26 million), New York’s Madison Square Garden (298,000 tickets, $38 million) and L.A.’s Forum (278,000, $33.7 million). Both the New York and L.A. facilities had fewer tickets sold but higher grosses than their Nashville counterpart.
The top stadiums, by tickets sold: San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Hershey’s Hersheypark Stadium, Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Boston’s Fenway Park and the newcomer of the group, SoFi Stadium.
The top theaters: Nashville’s Ryman, Atlanta’s Fox, Hollywood, Florida’s Hard Rock Live, Las Vegas’ Park Theatre and New York’s Beacon.
The top amphitheaters: Red Rocks in Colorado, Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville, IN, DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI, Cynthia Woods MItchell Pavilion in the Woodlands, TX and Xfinty Cener in Mansfield, AZ.
“This year started slowly as the live entertainment industry knocked the rust off and ‘got the band back together,'” said Ray Waddell, president of Oak View Group’s Media & Conferences Division, which oversees Pollstar, in a statement. “But in the final analysis, our superstars performed like superstars at the box office and fans embraced the return of live music, with joy and unbridled passion. The industry still has many challenges, including establishing consistency in safety and sanitization protocols at venues and events around the world, solving the pricing puzzle, and big picture inclusivity and sustainability objectives. But we’re thrilled to note that so many artists returned to the stage this year and fans couldn’t get enough of the live thing. Barring unforeseen challenges, 2022 could see live return to its record-setting ways of the past decade.”