As U2 gets ready to take the stage again this weekend at the Rose Bowl Sunday evening, they will have performed 42 shows in front of almost 3 million fans. They've broken attendance records and grossed nearly $300 million. What they haven't done, however, is make any money. The elaborate tour stage is sucking up all the profit.
The expense of hauling around their giant spider-like prong stage is so immense even after months of sold out shows, they aren't swimming in cash. The 170-ton, $40 million four-pronged stage is so enormous that it takes a full two days to dismantle.
After four months on the road, they are finally hitting the break even point. Just in time to dismantle the stage for the winter. Afterall, it is far too large for indoor venues.
When the band resumes their tour in the spring and hit the road, they'll still be burning through $750,000 a day in just overhead costs as three separate models of the biggest stage in rock history travel around the world. Each stage itself will be attended by a separate crew.
U2's extravagance comes amidst a troubled economic climate that shuns over-the-top, grandious affairs and at a time when the band's latest album, "No Line on the Horizon", is not doing as well as their past efforts.
The albums first two singles were not hits, and the songs aren't getting much radio air play. Overall sales have also been slow - it took U2 seven months to reach sales of 1 million.
These days most artists make their money touring, rather than through album sales. So if the band isn't turning a profit on the road, their music isn't making them a whole lot of money.
Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. said:
"In the end it’s investing in our future. Not in our future financially, in our future musically – ‘cause at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. We’ve all made enough money to live for the rest of our lives quite comfortably.”
By the time the tour ends, which will likely be next year, U2 manager Paul McGuinness said that it will likely top the Rolling Stones' $558 million "Bigger Bang" tour to come come the top-grossing tour of all time. But because of the enormous expenses involved, it won't be the biggest moneymaker.
At the beginning of the US tour, Bono commented:
“I want to put on an extraordinary show, but I’d like to own my house when it’s over.”