The whole nub of coming back to America and touring was that America was gonna insist on sending me home very, very rich," Pete Townshend told Rolling Stone prior to the start of the Who's current tour. "And that's a good feeling."
Townshend must be feeling very good indeed: Based on financial information provided by music-industry sources, it's estimated that the Who tour will gross more than $55 million, with the three band members splitting between $25 million and $30 million.
Ticket sales alone for thirty-five concert dates should account for gross revenues of more than $35 million, while service charges on tickets will put approximately $3 million into the pockets of ticket-selling services. The group is also playing four charity shows.
A wide-ranging worldwide merchandising agreement with Winterland Productions brought the group an advance of more than $5 million, according to an industry source, and the group is expected to earn an additional $2 million from merchandising in the U.S. The Who's deal with Winterland apparently gives the band an unusually high forty-plus-percent royalty rate. One month into the tour, merchandising sales were ranging from $6.50 to $13 per concertgoer; if the 1.6 million fans expected to attend Who concerts this summer spend an average of $8.50 each on T-shirts, programs, sweat shirts and other paraphernalia, sales will exceed $13.5 million.
In a potentially precedent-setting move, the Who clinched not one but two sponsorship deal with beer companies. According to one source, Anheuser-Busch paid about $1 million for the rights to tie Budweiser beer to the Who's two benefit Tommy performances. Meanwhile, industry sources estimate Miller Brewing Company has paid nearly $2 million for the exclusive sponsorship of the Who's twenty-five-city tour, although the company says the figure is inaccurate. Miller has also guaranteed $1 million to Texas Special Olympics as part of a year-and-a-half-long campaign in Texas, and the Who is being paid an undisclosed fee to headline two Miller Lite concerts to benefit the Texas Special Olympics.
Both sponsorship deals were concluded only weeks before the beginning of the tour. Sources say the group was originally seeking a deal worth more than $5 million but couldn't find a sponsor willing to shell out that much money. Still, nearly a month into the tour, one company came out of the woodwork wondering if a million dollars would buy them a sponsorship deal for the test of the tour. It didn't.
DIR Broadcasting has guaranteed the Who about $2 million for the rights to broadcast the Who's August 24th performance of Tommy on pay-per-view television, according to a source. The show will reach a potential 12.4 million homes, and DIR president Bob Meyrowitz is expecting 500,000 to 600,000 homes to pay $19.95 each for the right to view the entire, unedited performance of Tommy, which includes guest appearances by Phil Collins. Elton John, Billy Idol and others.
Who manager Bill Curbishley is now talking about a possible home-video rock-umentary and a three-disc tour album. Each of those projects could bring the band $2 million in advance money.
This story is from the August 24th, 1989 issue of Rolling Stone.