Crunching The Numbers On A Led Zeppelin Reunion Tour

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Twenty million people tried to buy tickets to Led Zeppelin‘s lone reunion show in 2007 at London’s O2 Arena. Take a moment and let the crushing hugeness of that number sink in. For Zeppelin to perform for 20 million different people, it would take roughly 1,000 shows at New York arena Madison Square Garden.

So when rumors of a Led Zeppelin tour get tossed around – as they were this week – the weight of the situation is not to be taken lightly. Take the mad-dash for Rolling Stones tickets last year – when they played a mere five shows for the first time in five years – and multiply that by the largest number your brain can comprehend, then just stop thinking because multiplying levels of human excitement makes no sense whatsoever. A lot of people would be very, very, very happy if Led Zeppelin reunited and toured.

But let’s be clear, we don’t think it’s going to happen. How much finger-pointing will this take before this matter gets put to bed? Page explained the Zep reunion situation late last year in his Rolling Stone cover story: “Some of us thought we would be continuing [after the O2 show], that there were going to be more concerts in the not-too-distant-future… He [Robert Plant] was busy.”

Plant fired back this week with a segment on Australia’s 60 Minutes, blaming Zeppelin’s lack of reunion on astrological signs, of all things. “[Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones] are Capricorns,” he said. “They don’t say a word. They’re quite contained in their own worlds and they leave it to me. I’m not the bad guy… You need to see the Capricorns – I’ve got nothing to do in 2014.”

The he-said/he-said doesn’t instill much confidence in the odds, but let’s think in hypotheticals for a second. How much could a Led Zeppelin reunion tour gross? The potential is pretty much endless – 20 million people applied for 16,000 tickets priced at £125 each in September 2007, with proceeds reportedly going to charity (the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund). According to 2007 exchange rates, that’s about $250 per ticket before inflation – a standard, possibly even fair price for a show of that magnitude. Assuming nothing has changed regarding the demand (the concert’s live album, Celebration Day, has sold 366,715 copies after a couple months – trust us, there’s still demand), there’s a potential to make $5 billion – IF and only if Zeppelin played shows for each and every one of those 20 million people, who would all pay the flat ticket price of $250. But like we said, that would take hundreds, possibly thousands of concerts, so that’s not happening.

So let’s be slightly realistic instead, despite the fact that this entire pursuit is not. Let’s say Page, Plant and Jones (with Jason Bonham on drums) launch a 10-date tour in major arenas around the world. It could easily be more, a lot more – when Page and Plant toured in 1995 and 1996 as a duo, they played nearly 125 shows on four continents. But let’s consider the fact that the guys are older and it was tough enough to get them in the room to play one show in honor of their beloved Atlantic Records boss, Ahmet Ertegun. We’ll just go with 10 shows.

Let’s assume Zeppelin’s ticket prices are generally comparable with those of the Rolling Stones, who charged anywhere from $145 to $1500 (for VIP) for tickets to their 2012 shows, according to Reuters. Zeppelin could easily fill the same size venues at the Stones, so logic and history suggests they would. The Stones’ 144-concert A Bigger Bang Tour, the second-highest-grossing tour of all-time, grossed $558,255,524, according to Billboard. With inflation considered, that sum is equivalent to $625,719,239 in 2013. Divide that by 144 (the number of shows): $4,345,272 gross per show, on average, with inflation considered. Multiply that by ten shows: $43,452,720. With that few number of shows, Zeppelin likely wouldn’t crack even the top 100 highest-grossing concert tours. Would they play 100-some shows like U2 (who would the highest-grossing-tour honor) and the Stones? Ha!

Of course, this isn’t a reflection of how much the members of Zeppelin would stand to make. Zeppelin’s booking agent would more than likely negotiate a flat fee of millions for each performance. For example, inside sources told Billboard that the Rolling Stones would earn $25 million from four arena concerts – two in London, Newark, NJ – in late 2012. That’s a little more than $6 million for each show, and a little over $1.5 for each core member per show. Not bad for a night spent jamming with your mates.

Long before tickets would go on sale, each member would know how much they would walk away with. Hell, they’d probably have a ballpark idea of how much they’d make before their agent even approached concert promoters (or one big promoter, like Live Nation). So if Led Zeppelin wants $7 million for each performance, Led Zeppelin would get $7 million for each performance. It’s a simple matter of supply, demand and the biggest rock band on the planet.

- Jillian Mapes, Radio.com

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