Bruce Springsteen and his mighty E Street Band put up some huge numbers on the road in 2003. But Springsteen was not the top touring artist of 2003, despite numerous media claims to the contrary.
The record-setting Rising tour kicked some major stadium-level tail all over the world. Springsteen even threw in a world-record stand in his home state of New Jersey. At 54, he put together the top-grossing run of his 30-plus years of national touring. The Rising tour, the Jersey stand and Springsteen’s remarkable year of touring were well-chronicled in these pages. We love Bruce.
But any way you look at it, the Rolling Stones grossed far more than Springsteen did last year.
From start to finish, the Stones’ Licks tour grossed $299,520,230 from 113 shows dating back to September 2002. We lumped the entire tour into 2003’s Billboard Boxscore stats because we received them all at once from promoter Michael Cohl’s office at the end of the tour. We do not estimate.
For the year, Springsteen’s reported grosses totaled $181.7 million worldwide. If you take away the $90 million or so the Stones did in fall 2002, the band still easily outpaced Springsteen. The Boss’ tour grossed $221.5 million from 121 shows, so tour for tour, the Stones also topped Springsteen’s by more than $70 million.
There is no sin in being out-grossed by the Rolling Stones, particularly when they charged significantly more per ticket than Springsteen did. The Stones top the list every time they go out. They are the No. 1 touring act of all time.
In just about any other year, Springsteen would have far and away been the No. 1 touring act. Clearly, there is more to a tour’s success than how much money it makes, like critical acclaim, attendance, creativity and profit margin. But Billboard ranks tours by box office. And in 2003, the Rolling Stones performed better at the box office than any act in the world.