After earning positive reviews and debuting strongly at #1, MDNA, experienced a sharp sales decline in its second week and a majority of her US tour dates have yet to sell out. Those two facts taken together sent a few music writers down the rabbit hole, with some going so far as to say Live Nation, which signed Madonna to a $120 million 360 deal with in 2007, was concerned over both her album and concert ticket sales given the size and length (10 years) of their commitment to the Queen of Pop.
Yesterday, Madonna’s manager Guy Oseary hit Twitter to address the rumors and now Arthur Fogel, Chairman of Live Nation Global Touring, talked to Billboard, saying that not only is business brisk for Madonna’s tour but it is actually “on track to end up in the top 10 tours of all time.”
First, what many of the reports fail to mention is that Madonna’s last tour, 2008-09’s “Sticky & Sweet” jaunt, was actually her first venture under her Live Nation deal, and it’s enormous success ($408 million in grosses, making it the third highest grossing tour ever and the most successful by a solo artist) most certainly offset a great deal of M’s sign-on cost. Merchandising is also a major factor in Live Nation’s revenue stream and it controls all of that for Madonna’s tours, creating another significant source of revenue for the concert promotion giant.
Perhaps most importantly with regard to MDNA‘s sales, Madonna’s 360 deal is, at its core, touring and merchandise-driven, so talk that the company will take a loss on the album if it doesn’t sell 15 million copies (as has been reported) is a bit of a reach. (Quick, name the last album by any artist to sell 15 million copies…)
Talking to Billboard, Fogel said, “To say this tour is not performing is so off base I don’t even know what to say. When this tour is said and done, combined with ‘Sticky and Sweet,’ you’re talking $750 million in gross ticket sales. That sounds pretty impressive to me.”
“You can do the math,” Fogel continued. “46,000 in Istanbul, 44,000 in Milan, 39,000 in Florence. We sold out two arenas in Barcelona, two in Berlin, two in Amsterdam, we sold 42,000 in Edinburgh, 40,000 in Helsinki, 51,000 in Paris. If that’s trouble, give me more.”
With over a month and a half to go before the tour kicks off in Tel Aviv, Israel, and four months before it comes stateside, Fogel tells Billboard that he isn’t exactly looking for sell-outs at this point. “One of the things some people don’t get is, I don’t necessarily want to be sold out at this point; I keep trying to find tickets to sell,” he said. “Every day our people are trying to fine-tune the site lines and production kills. That’s my job. It’s great when you can say ‘sold out,’ but right now I want to keep finding tickets to sell. That’s the game.”
Sold out or not, ticket sales have been strong enough that Madonna was forced to add a second show at New York’s Yankee Stadium in early-September and a pass through the city’s Madison Square Garden in November, in addition to added shows in Washington DC, Seattle, Berlin and Amsterdam.
And to those claiming first week album sales figures for MDNA were inflated by many receiving the album as part of a (optional!) bundle deal with their concert ticket, we have a question: Don’t you think that the people who were willing to shell out $300 (or more) for a concert ticket probably would have been the first people in line to pick up the album anyway?