How The Rolling Stones’ ‘No Filter Tour’ Became The Highest-Grossing Tour Of 2021 And An Industry Lighthouse

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The Rolling Stones’ No Filter Tour topped Pollstar’s Top 100 Year-End World Tour chart, which bodes well for 2022. (Photo J. Bouquet/Courtesy Concerts West)

It didn’t seem possible that the Rolling Stones, the world’s greatest rock & roll band, could top themselves nearly 60 years into their career. But what the Stones achieved in 2021 with their “No Filter Tour” reboot stands out as one of the legendary band’s greatest accomplishments. Not only was it Pollstar’s highest-grossing tour of 2021, grossing $115.5 million and over 516,000 tickets in just two months, but more importantly, it served as a beacon for the whole industry and hundreds of millions of music fans around the world, showing that in this extremely difficult year, concerts at the highest level of the live industry could be organized safely and successfully .

“It’s a tribute to everyone who was on the road and on our team,” said John Meglen, president and co-CEO of Stones promoter Concerts West. “You’ve got to give each person credit for endlessly belting it out and saying, ‘Let’s go and do this thing,’ because we all wanted to do it. We didn’t want to lose a show. And we all watch the other people there and we’re like, ‘Man, they’re not taking this seriously enough.'”

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With an average gross of a staggering $10 million per show for the entire tour, there was a lot at stake and the Stones team had to do everything in their power to keep the tour safe. For Meglen, his co-CEO partner Paul Gongaware and their team’s credit, the tour’s strict adherence to COVID protocols was crucial to the success of “No Filter.”

Paul Gongaware and John MeglenThe Glimmer Twins: Paul Gongaware and John Meglen, co-CEO of Concerts West, which has promoted Rolling Stones tours for the past decade. (Courtesy of Concerts West).

“We had a very, very strict bubble, both for the entourage and the same with Opie (veteran touring production manager Dale “Opie” Skjerseth) on the production team,” Meglen explains. “When we moved to St. Louis for the first show (the race started Sept. 26 at the Dome), we really got into all the daily or bi-day testing.”

Not only were the entire crew vaccinated and regularly tested, but the tour traveled with N95 masks, doctors and even their own PCR machines. No strangers were allowed backstage, changing rooms were sanitized and areas were set up to allow access only to certain people. “We had to be very, very strict,” Meglen continues. “At the show in Los Angeles, my wife was in the suite, but I couldn’t go up to see her.”

Additionally, this year there have been an array of other challenges beyond the global pandemic, including labor shortages, supply chain issues, rising inflation, consumer fear, varying city and state regulations and, most horribly, the one thing no band should ever have to endure. , especially weeks before the start of a big tour.

“Charlie’s passing was a surprise,” Gongaware says of the immense loss of Charlie Watts, one of the greatest drummers of all time and an early member of the Rolling Stones. His passing at age 80 on August 24, 2021, barely a month after “No Filter” kicked off, was a blow to the Stones, their crew, and music fans around the world who for decades , reveled in Watts’ stability and swing. grooves. “We knew he was in the hospital,” Gongaware continues, “but we thought he was fine. He had insisted that we do the tour without him if he wasn’t going to be able to. he would come back somewhere in the middle of the tour, but he insisted that we did, and we did.

rolling stonesTHE LATE WEMBLEY WHAMMER: A video tribute to drummer Charlie Watts, who died just a month before the start of the “No Filter Tour”. Seen here during the Rolling Stones concert at Bank of America Stadium on September 30, 2021 in Charlotte. (Photo by Jeff Hahne/Getty Images)

Thank God. What the band accomplished in 2021 with 14 stadium shows in total (two shows fell outside Pollstar’s chart year) in just under two months, with a whopping 577,303 tickets and an average price of $226.75 ticket for a total gross of $130,906,734, is positive proof that the live industry can and will return.

In the context of the Stones’ concert history, a gross of $130.9 million might seem like a pittance — but it’s not, and it bodes extremely well for 2022. Over the course of six decades, the Rolling Stones have continually been at the forefront of the live entertainment industry, pushing the bar ever higher while helping to create the modern tourism industry as we know it today. When Michael Cohl outbid Bill Graham for the 1989 “Steel Wheels Tour”, it was a historic paradigm shift that replaced the regional tour promoter system with the single promoter model that has reigned ever since. It also included groundbreaking endorsement deals and generated over $140 million in revenue, which for its time was virtually unheard of.

And that’s just the beginning. The Stones’ “Voodoo Lounge” tour from 1994 to 1995 grossed $320 million and sold 6.4 million tickets, while their “Bigger Bang Tour” topped that benchmark with $558 million from 2005 to 2007. , but sold just under 4.7 million tickets. The world’s biggest rock & roll band has been among the highest earners for three decades, raking in $870m in the 2000s, $929m in teens (just behind U2) and around $800m in the 90s – a whopping $2.6 billion over those decades.

The rolling stonesSTEEL WHEELIES: The Rolling Stones at the end of their ‘Steel Wheels Tour’ at Wembley Stadium in London on August 25, 1990. L-R: Ron Wood, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. (Photo by Graham Wiltshire/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

What’s perhaps more mind-boggling is that if the Stones decided to keep turning the beat on the 2021 leg of the “No Filter Tour,” which surpassed $130 million in a single quarter, their rake for a full year would be a whopping $523.6 million – significantly more than the top tours of recent record years of 2018 (Ed Sheeran at $432 million) and 2019 (Pink at $215 million), and more than any of their past tours won in a single calendar year.

Part of their success is the ticket price, which by today’s inflationary standards at $223.50 is relatively reasonable for one of the most legendary artists on the planet. “It’s an event, not just another concert,” Gongaware says of the Stones’ ticket prices. “We want to make sure that when they come to town, it’s an event. We’ve been working really hard on this since the early teaser campaigns with people like Amy Morrison, who runs our marketing department, who’s been doing this since their 50th anniversary tour and so much more.

In addition to Morrison and Skjerseth, Gongaware and Meglen stress the importance of their team, which includes COO Kelly DiStefano, tour accountant Gord Berg, Marc Feinberg, who handles premium ticketing, and Mike Wozniak for security. Additionally, the duo shout out indispensable Stones manager Joyce Smyth, whom Meglen calls “absolutely amazing, she does all happen.”

When asked what they learned that others in the industry should know when they come out, Meglen cuts to the chase. “You better take it seriously,” he said. “We haven’t finished. All about the “Roaring ’20s” and all that, we said a long time ago, coming back is going to be one hell of a bumpy road, and it’s going to continue to be a bumpy road for a while. So all those Pollyanians who think “Oh, it’s going to be like before”, it’s not. It’s hard there. You must be smart. If you lose shows, that’s a lot of money.

And the million, if not billion, dollar question for 2022, as we approach the band’s incredible 60th year, are they going to come out or not?

“We can’t talk about it,” Gongaware said firmly. That’s a much better answer than no.

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