The Top 100 Tours of 2017 were reported by Pollstar. In these series of posts we explore the most interesting stories revealed by the data. Additionally we referenced our 2016, 2015, 2014 posts; and Wikipedia to confirm basic artist information like years active and music genre.

The best thing about working with data are the stories it tells.
To bring these stories to life, we transformed the PDF from Pollstar into a BuzzFeed-esque format, where each act listed is now featured with a YouTube video of a 2017 live performance next to their key metrics of the year.

If any particular statistic stands out to us, we make a note of that as well in the list; like the fact that most of the artists listed had already started their musical career before Shawn Mendes (also on the list) was even born(!) and that Adele made almost $10 million per performance in 2017.

However there are some general trends or specific stories that were just so interesting, we've pulled them out specifically and explored them further, either here below or in its own post. Questions like 'what's the most popular genre of live music in 2017?', 'what is up with Britney in Vegas?', and 'how can some acts sell over 1 million tickets and still not break the top 20 on this list?' are all explored in this 2017 annual live industry recap.

The "Top 100 Tours of 2017" end of year list is linked below (and here), and this post gives an overview of the most interesting stories revealed by the 2017 data with links to the more detailed posts.

Q: What Genre Is the Most Popular?

A. Rock, followed by pop and country.

Counting R&B, Rap and Hip Hop as one would make that the fourth big live music genre. 

Q: How Do Some Tours Rank so High with Such Few Shows?

In most cases, performing a lot of shows means ranking higher on the list.

However, the end of year rank consists of how much the tour grosses over the year, not how often an act performed live. To get the annual gross figure, it matters sure how many shows an act performs; but also how many people attend each show and how much each person paid to be there.

Some acts are able to attract bigger crowds per show, or charge more per ticket, which means for each performance they move up the list quicker. The Rolling Stones is such an act. To see more about The Rolling Stones calculations and an in-depth comparison with Ed Sheeran (who ranked one spot higher on the list, with 8x as many shows), click here.

A: End of year rank is established by the number of shows yes;
but also how much tickets cost and how many people attend each performance.

Q: Why Is the Number of Shows Not Equal to the Number of Cities?

Shows ≠ Cities

One of the most interesting trends from 2017 is Pollstar's choice to report the number of cities visited separately from the number of performances. In this post we explain the phenomenon fully and look at a case study to understand it better.

The implication is that management companies value a better control of the demand of tickets to better serve their own operational interests but also keep the fans satisfied.

Too many unsold tickets are not just bad for business in the short-term, but further it can create a weird vibe at the event if the venue feels half-empty which can be damaging for the act in the long-term. However not having enough tickets available means not everybody who wants to go is able to get tickets, which can leave fans disappointed (and angry on Twitter).

A: Organising tours into Concert Series gives management more granular control over the supply of the tickets so they can more accurately meet the demand in each location.

Q: How Can Tours Sell so Many Tickets Yet Rank so Low?

There's a trend almost reverse to The Rolling Stones' one of ranking high with not so many shows; and that are the acts ranking low with lots of shows and lots of people attending each one; i.e. lots of tickets sold.

Revisiting the formula of how ranking is established (gross = tickets sold x ticket price) reveals that indeed there are acts who are pricing their tickets a lot lower than the average while also moving incredibly high volume of tickets. So despite huge popularity, their end of year rank seems unfairly low.

One thing they all have in common? They are all live entertainers in the country genre. This trend is explored at length here where we conclude that this may be a strategic choice.

A: It seems like tickets are strategically priced lower than the average to encourage such incredibly high number of tickets sold in a year.

Q: From Which Decade Are Most of the Top Touring Bands?

A: The 2000s.
The 60s and 80s are then tied for seconds!
90s and 70s come next, also tied.
Presumably the 2010ers are yet to work their way to this level.

If you want to look at the breakdown by decade (we still have the list somewhere) tweet us & we might publish it.

Q. What's up with Britney in Vegas?

Britney has achieved something far bigger than entertaining her 916,184 Vegas residency guests. She's being applauded as a pioneer for the latest addition to the live entertainment industry lineup: the superstar residency.

When she agreed to a Vegas residency it was still viewed as an 'end of career' move. After four record-shattering years, she's done more than doing herself and Vegas proud; many A-list acts are now adopting the residency strategy as their own – even beyond Vegas!

Have a read on residencies here, where we explore one of the most interesting trends in the touring industry at the moment: the tours that don't actually tour.

A: So what's up with Britney in Vegas? She killed it, that's what.

Q. Where Is Everyone From?

A: The United States mainly.

Q. Is Cirque du Soleil taking over the world??

Those who read the piechart above with a keen eye noticed that the fourth biggest category in the live entertainment industry of 2017 is circus (it's easy to forget that it's not just music people buy tickets to!). Not only that, but all the circus acts on the list (8 total) are run and operated by the same company: the Canadian Cirque du Soleil.

Were they all to be counted as one, they would by the number one top live act of 2017 and by a lot. Their operation grossed over $400 million in 2017, which is twice as much as Bruno Mars' 24K Magic tour did over the same time, and he ranked 4th.

Find out more about their operation world domination.

A: We're going with "Yes" on this one.

2017: The Year Touring Got a Break from Touring

The data that was by far the most interesting to delve into was how touring now incorporates less touring. As in more acts are putting up more shows that involve less travel. We see this in two ways, with the 'concert series' and the boom of residencies.

Take That performed six times in a row at London's O2 and Drake eight times; iconic touring legend Bruce Springsteen took to Broadway (he famously performs continuously for 3-4 hours straight, and in his 40+ year long career as a touring artist he tends to do three years touring for every one year off – an inversed ratio to most other acts), and Garth Brooks of course did nothing but these concert series.

This trend is nowhere near tapering off. For 2018, Bruno Mars is booked five times over to perform at Sydney's Super Dome; and if the biggest tours of this year are not already booked for 2-3 shows in the biggest cities there's noticeable 'padding' in their touring schedules, presumably setting up for adding extra shows in the cities where the demand surpasses the venue capacity more than once over.

For the first time we see the number of cities reported separately from the number of shows.

As we outlined in our concert series post, this shows that good management appreciates more granular control over the supply and demand of their act's tickets; wanting to both a) execute as close to a sold out tour as possible and b) not leave disappointed fans.

The rise of residencies is also an interesting trend, clearly visible in the data. It's an attractive option since without the need to pack up the set at the end of each day both saves a fortune and allows for venues to put on an extravaganza on an entirely new scale. Plus, the data shows audiences and fans alike are prepared to pay top dollar for such exclusive and extraordinary experiences.

Using data to manage tours is clearly becoming an increasingly important tool in live entertainment professionals' arsenal.