The Dave Matthews Band shows how to make money in the music industry.

Commentary about business and finance.
Jan. 3 2011 4:50 PM

Concerted Effort

The Dave Matthews Band shows how to make money in the music industry.

Dave Matthews. Click image to expand.
Dave Matthews

As usual, the list of North America's top-grossing music tours of 2010 was heavy on AARP-eligible best-selling rockers: Bon Jovi, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, the Eagles, and Paul McCartney all figured in the top 10. But tucked among them, taking in $72.9 million, was the Dave Matthews Band, the '90s-era jam-loving college-town rockers known affectionately as DMB (and less affectionately as "the Dave Matthews Bland").

The band is nothing to sneeze at, of course. It has won a Grammy. Six of its seven studio albums have hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Still, compared with the other big touring acts of 2010, DMB is a featherweight—"Stay" is no "Livin' on a Prayer." Bon Jovi (who, to be fair, will not be eligible for AARP membership until 2012), Roger Waters, and Paul McCartney have helped sell 130 million, 200 million, and north of 1.3 billion records, respectively. In the course of its two-decade-long career, DMB has moved a more modest 30 million.

Advertisement

But in an industry busy having its foundations rocked, in a matter of speaking, it hardly matters. Analysts and executives have long lamented that the music industry is dying. That is not quite true—it is the record business that is clearly done for, and in its place, touring stands as the top moneymaker for many industry participants. DMB lives to tour, making them not just popular, but very, very profitable.

When I say DMB lives to tour, I do not jest: Every summer for the past two decades, the band has hit the road. In 2010, that meant playing 62 shows in 50 cities to 1,270,477 fans—more than any other artist touring in North America. The group also took trips to Europe and South America, and there was a Dave Matthews and guitarist Tim Reynolds mini-tour. And the year was hardly unusual. Since 1992, Dave Matthews Band in its various iterations has played a whopping 1,692 shows.

So the precipitous decline in record sales in the past decade has hardly hurt DMB's profitability: The band makes the bulk of its money touring anyway. And it makes a lot of money doing it. According to Billboard Boxscore, between 2000 and 2009, DMB sold more tickets to its shows than any other band on the planet, moving a staggering 11,230,696 tickets. (No other band sold more than 10 million tickets in the same time period.) In the aughts, DMB grossed more than $500 million from touring alone.

On top of that, of course, there are profits from merchandise, records, and other revenue streams. As long ago as 1998, DMB reportedly pulled in $200,000 a day in merchandise sales on tour. Plus, DMB has a reported 80,000 fans paying $35 a year for fan-club membership. And it benefits from a large catalog of cheap-to-produce live-show discs and DVDs. "Without any marketing or promotion, Live at Red Rocks debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and was instantly certified platinum," the band itself boasts of a 1998 album. "[It] provided fans with a high quality and reasonably priced alternative to the over-priced, ill produced, and illegal live DMB CDs."

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Crime
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.