U2 world tour yet to turn a profit

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Gabrielle Monaghan, The Sunday Times

It is one of the world's most popular live events but U2's massive 360° tour has still not turned a profit.

The concerts have generated €205m in ticket sales so far, but Paul McGuinness, the band's manager, said that the tour has not yet broken even because the daily running costs are more than €500,000.

The band started the tour in Barcelona at the end of June, followed by North America for a string of concerts that began at Chicago's Soldier Field on September 12.

"When do we hit the break-even point? We haven't hit it yet," McGuinness told Billboard, the American music trade publication last week. "But we will between now and the end of this leg. Not exactly gravy, because whether we're playing or not, the overhead is about $750,000 (€511,245) daily."

With more than 120 trucks transporting three stages that cost $40m to build and up to 500 staff on the payroll, U2's tour is being touted as the most expensive rock'n'roll expedition ever mounted.

The band expects to clock up 70,000 miles jetting around the world by the time the two-year tour concludes in 2010.

"That overhead is just to have the crew on payroll, to rent the trucks, all that," said McGuinness. "There's about 200 trucks. Each [of the three stages require] 37 trucks. And then the universal production is another 50-odd trucks, and there are merchandise trucks and catering trucks."

These expenses do not include the construction cost of the band's 150ft spaceship-like stage, known as "the claw". Three of these custom-built claws, each containing a 54-tonne, cylindrical video screen, are being hauled around America.

The tour is designed to support No Line on the Horizon, U2's latest album, which is not selling as well as previous releases. Since going on sale in March, the album has sold 991,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, a company that tracks sales data.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, the band's previous album, released in 2004, racked up sales of 10m.

McGuinness attributed the disappointing sales to overall market conditions rather than a decline in popularity.

The 360° tour is the first of three U2 is expected to undertake as part of its 12-year contract with concert promoter Live Nation. It signed up in March last year for a rumoured $100m and the tours are anticipated to generate €1 billion in total.

U2 generated almost €93m in gross earnings from its first 16 European shows on the tour, making the band the third musical act this year to gross more than €70m from concerts. Only Bruce Springsteen and Madonna had earned more, according to figures compiled last month by Billboard.com from concert venues and promoters such as Live Nation and MCD.

Dublin was the most lucrative city for the band. Their sellout shows at Croke Park on July 24, 25 and 27, which drew an overall attendance of 243,198, earned €20.2m.

Last Wednesday, U2 broke the attendance record at the Giants stadium in New Jersey, America, drawing 84,472 fans to the concert and beating local hero Springsteen.

Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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