With the Rolling Stones’ North American Steel Wheels tour grossing an unprecedented $140 million, the group is now hoping to play Japan in February and is considering a thirty-to-fifty-date summer tour of Europe.
Before the Stones can perform in Japan, the government there must be persuaded to allow Keith Richards, who was convicted of heroin possession in 1978, to enter the country. If that hurdle is cleared, the group plans to play nine shows at the 50,000-seat Tokyo Dome. Those shows could gross more than $30 million. Sources close to the Stones say the group could then play to 2.5 million people during a European summer tour and gross about $80 million.
As a touring act, the Stones are now without peer. In the United States and Canada, the band played sixty shows in thirty-two cities, performing for about 3.25 million fans.
It’s estimated that ticket sales brought in just over $100 million, with merchandise — averaging a high $10 per head — adding $32 million to the take. Another $8 million came from miscellaneous revenue, including a sponsorship deal with Anheuser-Busch, a Showtime pay-per-view special and merchandise sold in stores like JC Penney and Macy’s.
Although the Rolling Stones were guaranteed $65 million to $70 million against a percentage of the gross by promoter Michael Cohl, the group’s share of the gross is likely to exceed the guarantee by a substantial amount and could reach $85 million, with the group pocketing about $50 million.
Cohl, who shocked the music business early in 1989 when his unprecedented guarantee became public, is being well rewarded for his gamble. Insiders estimate a $12 million to $15 million profit for his company, BCL. It’s expected that if the group proceeds to Europe, Cohl will continue to be involved with operations, although his financial arrangement with the Stones will be different.
The Stones’ latest album, Steel Wheels, has sold nearly 4 million copies around the world, making it one of the better-selling albums of the group’s career.
This is a story from the January 11, 1990 issue of Rolling Stone.