Many of music's biggest names will light up concert venues in 2012, including several -- among them, The Beach Boys and Van Halen -- who will be getting the band back together after years of anticipation.
The live music industry is coming off a year in which revenue steadied after a sobering 2010. Touring trade publication Pollstar estimates that the top 100 tours of North America grossed $2.3 billion, up 6.3% over 2010's $2.2 billion but still below 2009's $2.5 billion. Those tours sold 34.7 million tickets, a drop of 2.6 percent offset by rising ticket prices, which climbed 8.8 percent to an average $67.22.
The industry has reason to expect a very good year, says Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni.
"There are a lot of major attractions touring, and given the growing optimism with the economy and consumer spending, (we) would probably project a record year in revenue," he says. "The only question will be if we push the envelope too far on ticket prices and there is push back in the other direction."
Brian Wilson rejoins the Beach Boys as they celebrate the group's 50th anniversary with a tour that kicks off April 27 at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Van Halen will be joined by lead vocalist David Lee Roth, who left the band to go solo in 1985. (The band's album A Different Kind of Truth is out Feb. 7.) Black Sabbath will hit the road with frontman Ozzy Osbourne and record a Rick Rubin-produced album. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham have said they will be back with Fleetwood Mac.
There is speculation that the Rolling Stones, who also are celebrating a 50th anniversary, will go out again. "If and when they tour, particularly if it's billed as their last, it will be massive," says Ray Waddell, Billboard's senior editor of touring.
Adele is expected to mount one of the biggest tours of the year. Bongiovanni says there's pent-up demand for the British singer, whose album 21 has sold more than 6 million copies. She cut her tour short in October for vocal-cord surgery.
Madonna will be going on the road for the first time since 2008-2009's Sticky & Sweet tour, and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band will make their first trek without saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died last year. Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw's 19-city Brothers of the Sun stadium tour, which kicks off June 2 in Tampa, promises to be huge. Roger Waters, Katy Perry, Drake, Neil Diamond, Lady Antebellum, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga also will be crisscrossing the map.
"Country remains strong with a healthy mix of arena-level headliners and developing acts," Waddell says. "Nickelback, Radiohead, Coldplay and a wealth of heritage (rock) acts are sure to sell. Electronic dance music is now a solid seller, and there are some young hip-hop acts that have revitalized that genre."
Festivals will continue to attract top acts and droves of fans. The premier Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., expands to two weekends (April 13-15 and 20-22) with lineups headed by the Black Keys, Radiohead and Dr. Dre.
"The festivals remain the most robust part of the business in North America," Waddell says.
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