Bono and his U2 bandmates have pulled in $85.8 million on their 360 tour.

The concert touring business is enjoying a healthy comeback this year after struggling in 2010.  Despite the slow economy acts like U2, Kenny Chesney, Bon Jovi and Lady Gaga are bringing in concert goers.


In the first six months of 2011, total grosses for the top 100 North American tours was $1.12 billion. That’s up $157 million or 16.2% over the same period last year, according to Pollstar, which tracks the live music industry. The total number of tickets sold was 16.7 million, a 5.3% increase, but surprisingly, the average ticket price was up 10.2%, or $6.25, to a record $67.02.

Through the end of June, U2’s 360 tour was the runaway top moneymaker, raking in $85.8 million and selling 979,000 tickets to 14 North American stadium shows with an average gross of $7.8 million.

Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni says artists and promoters have helped the upturn by taking a more conservative approach in terms of venue size, frequency of return to certain markets and number of markets played. He says the higher prices weren’t expected coming off a year with lower grosses and ticket sales. But many of this year’s shows offer audiences good value for their dollars.

“What’s happening is that some artists are combining with a stronger support act, almost a co-bill situation,” Bongiovanni says, pointing to package tours such as Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks, New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys, and George Strait, Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack.

Getting shows priced right from the start and avoiding discounting later has been key, says Mark Campana, Live Nation’s co-president for North American concerts. Using social media and offering a limited number of tickets on outlets such as Groupon helped create buzz. “We still have some headwinds related to the economy, but indications are people are buying tickets.”

Billboard touring editor Ray Waddell says the industry has done a good job of offering multiple pricing levels, while concertgoers have found great value at music festivals. Many fests (Coachella, Bonnaroo, Essence, among others) had record or near-record attendance.

“There are a lot of healthy things going on,” Waddell says. “You talk to people in this business, they are telling more good stories than bad ones. A year ago, I was hearing the word ‘bloodbath’ a lot about this time.”

Photo credit: martijneerens/Flickr

Via USA Today