In what amounts to the greatest arena engagement of all time, Billy Joel has sold out his 30th show in a run of monthly dates at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Joel’s perpetually sold-out booking at the Garden, a first-of-its-kind deal that bestowed the “franchise” tag upon the artist and sold 223,921 tickets in its first year, 2014, is showing no signs of losing steam. Through October, Joel had grossed $46,353,458 as a franchise, with attendance totaling 410,661 to the first 22 shows.
The 30th onsale — and 30th sellout — took place Saturday, Dec. 13, for a June 17 show. Joel sells in a 360-degree configuration at the Garden and, given his consistent average gross of $2.1 million in gross and 18,666 in attendance per Garden party, the 30th gig in June will take the total to $63 million and 559,980.
“Nobody has ever done this kind of consecutive business in an arena,” says Dennis Arfa, CEO of Artist Group International, says of his flagship client. “We’re making history here.”
It is indeed true that there are few comparisons to Joel’s Garden run, though are a couple. In August and September of 2007, Prince played 21 shows at the O2 arena in London, generating a gross of $22,052,026 (U.S.) from 351,527 tickets sold, according to Boxscore. In January through March of 2009, Luis Miguelplayed a run of 25 shows at Auditorio Nacional in Mexico City, for a Boxscore gross of $11,613,724 (U.S.) and attendance of 185,978.
Of course, the “arena king” title would belong to Michael Jackson, had things played out differently and the King Of Pop been able to complete the scheduled 50 shows at the O2 for his ill-fated This Is It run back in 2009. With tickets averaging about $115 and capacity at about 15,000 per show, This Is It would have grossed about $90 million, with attendance of 750,000. Jackson died during rehearsals for the shows.
Now Joel stands alone among the few artists attempting arena residencies, and the “franchise” artist is enjoying a remarkable live performance run 22 years after his last album of new material. For Joel, 2015 was a “year of nuggets,” as described by Arfa, including headlining Bonnaroo, sellouts at six Major League Baseball stadiums (three of which were repeats from 2014); closing down the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. on Aug. 4; and breaking the all-time attendance record at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., on March 20 at 36,594 ($2,857,331 gross). Over the summer, Joel tied and broke Elton John’s previous record for most shows ever at the Garden (64), and Joel’s total now stands at 69. With a total 2015 gross of $68 million from only 29 shows reported in the period tracked, Joel was the eighth highest-grossing act of the year in 2015, with attendance 635,023, according to Boxscore. He also got married, for the fourth time on July 4.
For next year, Joel has already sold out his first-ever gig at Wembley Stadium in London at 60,000 tickets for Sept. 10, and is nearing sellout on the 33,000-capacity CommerzBank Arena in Frankfurt, Germany, on Sept. 3. “Last time in the U.K. we did a small gig at Hammersmith Odeon a couple years ago, now he’s going back to play Wembley Stadium,” says Arfa. “What can I say, the guy got hotter. By going to London and Germany, we’re taking it out of the states, saying, ‘it’s not just here, it’s there, too.’”
That increase in heat continues in America, as well. Arfa is currently in discussions for Joel to play a “handful” of MLB stadiums again in 2016. “Out of Billy’s dates [in 2016], probably between two-thirds and three-quarters of his dates will be in stadiums and at the Garden,” says Arfa. “That’s pretty crazy for a guy who has never been perceived as a stadium act, that he can actually go into many cities and play stadiums now.”