And it proved to be more than a bit of a surprise. Yes, I expected Carrie Underwood to be the top earner, but her number is amazing – $20 million, as much as the next four combined. But Carrie works hard – all the Idols do – and deserves that money.
The next one is even more amazing. Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert are tied for second at 6 million each. Daughtry wasn’t a surprise. His season was five years ago, he’s had two successful albums and several successful tours. He, like Carrie (and Kelly) are in the big three when it comes to American Idol, with recognition outside the Idol bubble.
On the other hand, having someone who had had ONE album and ONE tour – an album that has done well for the current music business but the current music business is doing terribly, and a tour in mostly mid-sized venues – make that much money in the same twelve months? That is unexpected at best. Especially since Adam hasn’t had a single paying gig between mid-December 2010 and May 2011. I mean, he probaby got something for Idol and for his Ellen pre-Grammy performance, but I can’t imagine they paid as well as a concert.
The article attributes this to his tour – his world-wide 99% sold-out tour, his 116 nights (well, a couple of days) singing his face off, in fairs and casinos, charming old theaters, crowded new ones, clubs, circus tents, a bridge and a slaughterhouse, in the US, in Canada, all over the South Pacific, all over Europe. Six months of living in buses, in planes, in hotels.
The article says this is his gross income for the year – pre-tax and before giving his agent and management their fees. But that, to me, makes it sound like it’s still his net from his tour. That is, it’s what he earned after the promoter took his commission, after the venues took their cuts, after he paid the salaries of all of his many employees, from the people who shared his stage to the ones who worked behind the scenes to his brother,after he paid for his equipment, his buses, his truck and the drivers. Because they didn’t say pre-expenses. They said pretax and commissions. Oh, this probably includes the big paydays of the Singapore trip, which probably paid for the rest of Asia and probably part of Europe.
He gets to keep so much (although it’s likely at least half did go to taxes and fees) because he financed this tour himself. He didn’t get the traditional tour support (read loan) from his label. He probably used his advance from his second album plus whatever he had left from his first advance and his Idol tour money. Since the record industry is designed to keep as much money as possible away from the artists, I doubt he saw much from FYE sales, or even it’s many offshoots. It’s possible that 19 fronted him some, but that is also a loan and would have to be paid back. While I suspect he put some money aside to live on, just in case, but he basically would be risking everything else.
This was an enormous risk – even more so that particular summer when tours were being curtailed, moved to smaller venues or outright canceled. And most labels and artists consider a headlining tour a success when they don’t lose money. The point of such a tour is to raise awareness of the artist, after all, so breaking even is good. And Adam more than broke even. Way more.
If I were to budget a tour, I’d figure on a certain sales level – this is what we’d gross if we sell this percentage of seats – and use that figure. I would certainly not budget with the expectation of selling out. And, really, that’s still a bit of wishful thinking unless one chooses a very low percentage. That summer there were tours that sold under 50%.
I have no idea what number Adam or his advisers chose. I can’t even guess. But what happened was that he out almost all his dates – he had to play in a disgusting, un-air-conditioned slaughterhouse to play to a visibly non-full house. Even the bridge sold. And he didn’t count on that. Yes, the venues were small, but other Idols played small houses – even the same ones – and didn’t sell much.
Forbes isn’t some music industry rag. It’s not a gossip magazine that can say that Adam had dinner with his brother and sister-in-law and their baby when in reality Neil has neither wife nor child, and the family in questions were dear friends. It’s something people in and out of the industry read to figure out what’s happening in the financial world.
And the business men who run the record labels and book the tours and do the advertising for those tours will have paid attention – here’s someone who works hard (again, that’s true of all successful musicians but 116 dates is huge), who puts butts in seats (or crowds them into GA floors) and who isn’t afraid to take reasonable risks. He didn’t have a sponsor last tour, for whatever reason. I can’t guess. But if he wants one for the next tour, presuming his next album sells, he might well have one. Especially since one look at his tour proves that he’s not going to waste their money – he spent every dime he had to so the show would look and sound the way he wanted it, and so that the tour would go smoothly, but not a penny more. (And his lifestyle shows that now – he hasn’t purchased a mansion, he’s still driving the Mustang he pretty much got for free, and he’s not really being extravagant even with his expensive tastes in clothing. He’s using his money for producers and studio time instead.) They see a man willing and able to invest in his career. And that’s going to get their interest. And that’s an interest Adam needs to have.
Just as you only get bank loans if you show you already have the money, he’ll get investors and sponsors because he’s proven he doesn’t need them. If he wants them, that is. They’ll have to show him he can make as much of a profit, if not more, with them on board.
He won’t be as high on the list next year, but he’ll probably still be there. And that’s enough to reassure me that Adam is going to be with us a long time.