I would say it’s a toss-up between U2 and The Rolling Stones – but the Stones edge it. They were forced into because, historically, their record deals were not great and so they had to go on the road to make any serious money. They are the ones who have perfected it and now we are at the stage where every time you go and see the Stones you wonder if this will be the last time they’ll tour. Every tour is the farewell tour.
It is incredible that they are still out on the road. They are also a genuinely good live band and they’re also a band that you know exactly what you’re going to get when you go along. They’re not going to play most of the new album – which you’ll get with just about every other band. They are iconic rock stars and you know you are going to get a good show.
If you compare them with U2, you need to remember that U2 used to make huge losses on their tours as they had become so extravagant. It wasn’t until a few years ago when they pared it all back where they started making money from touring. Those kinds of tours will have a couple of hundred people on the road. So that’s 200 salaries and 50 trucks on the road.
Festivals will often tell you that they are not in the business of making money on the bands – they make money selling beer and hotdogs. Equally bands will make money selling merchandise. I have heard of one major pop star who played Australia a while ago but the cost of shipping the production there was so high that they still lost money on a sell-out tour. That shows you, when you add bells and whistles, how quickly the costs can escalate.