Step aside, Lady Gaga. Turns out you're not the most successful musical performer on the planet, at least in terms of concert ticket sales. Between 2000 and 2009, according to Billboard Boxscore, the Dave Matthews Band sold over 11 million tickets to its concerts — more than any other band.
For some, the Dave Matthews Band (known by fans as DMB) isn't exactly a household name, certainly not in the same league as Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, or other such performers who have tremendous box office pull. In fact, DMB has sold only around 30 million records over twenty years — modest by superstar standards.
What DMB has done differently, though, is build a legitimate road band brand by touring incessantly.
According to Slate, the band had 62 dates in 50 North American cities playing to almost 1.3 million fans in 2010. That was more than any other musical artist in North America, and DMB also traveled to South America and Europe to boot. Since 1992, DMB has performed close to 1,700 shows.
DMB has played the concert circuit wisely. They don't have a lot of expensive frills, as in Lady Gaga's over-the-top extravagant stage productions. Instead, the Dave Matthews Band features "the jams and the fans." That means the band can keep its ticket prices in the more reasonable $60 range instead of $100 per seat for a Lady Gaga concert. DMB also does a tidy business in merchandise sales, reportedly scooping around $200,000 per day when they're on tour.
DMB also takes care of its loyal fans, according to Slate: "It offers a high proportion of plum tickets to fan-club members and offers them tons of freebies and special deals online."
In fact, DMB has taken a lesson from the Grateful Dead, the legendary Sixties band that may not have made many recordings but built a (literal) following because of its public accessibility. "And," says Slate, "they courted their fans, treating the concert like a service rather than a commodity, and their fans like members of a community rather [than] purchasers of a product."
Slate points out that, with the collapse of record sales, it may be touring that "will eventually anchor the whole music industry," particularly as "the touring business has tripled in size" even as music sales have been shrinking.
That's great news for acts like the Dave Matthews Band, who may have another trick up their collective sleeve. The band has announced they will be "taking 2011 off" and will return to the road in 2012.
Interesting strategy. By the time they come back, there's sure to be a pent up demand for live DMB concerts.