According to Billboard, the Live Nation promoted Stadium Tour across North America throughout the summer headlined by Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe earned $173.5 million and sold 1.3 million tickets. That makes it the biggest tour of either band’s career, dating back to when Boxscore began collecting data in the late 1980s. Supporting acts included Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Poison.
Hitting a career-high was inevitable, as it was both acts’ first run in stadiums. The hottest market on the co-headline tour was Boston, where a double-header at Fenway Park on Aug. 5-6 earned $9.3 million and sold 64,000 tickets. As for single-night earnings, they broke the $6 million threshold in Charlotte, N.C.; Denver; Glendale, Ariz; and Inglewood, Calif.
Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe are two of the most successful rock bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s but neither band has had a Billboard Hot 100 hit this century, and were averaging less than 5,000 tickets each around the turn of the millennium. So how did they join forces for one of the biggest tours of the year?
Their co-headline power proves that one plus one equals five-or-so, akin to the exponential effect of Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer coming together on last year’s Hella Mega Tour. Both Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe had previously peaked as solo headliners in arenas and amphitheaters with 10,000-11,000 tickets per show on both sides of the Atlantic. The Stadium Tour averaged 37,520 tickets each night, hitting more than three times the audience that each band previously reached on their own.
Def Leppard experienced something similar on its last co-headline jaunt, breaking one million tickets alongside Journey in the summer of 2018. But despite playing nearly half the number of shows, this year’s Stadium Tour grossed almost twice as much, and pushed an additional 300,000 tickets. Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe toured together in Europe in 2011, but the limited reporting for that brief run shows $705,000 and 11,000 tickets in Manchester, less than a third the attendance and about one seventh the gross of the average show on their second go-around 11 years later.
Combined with increased attendance, surging ticket prices had something to do with it. The Stadium Tour’s grosses, both nightly and total, far surpass any previous tour history by either act. On a proper headline tour, Def Leppard nor Mötley Crüe had averaged more than $1 million per show. But on The Stadium Tour, nightly earnings hit $4.96 million.
The other major factor of the post-pandemic touring landscape is perhaps the most obvious: time. The nearly two-year COVID shutdown raised anticipation for just about every musician to return to the stage, and then some for these two bands. Def Leppard played brief stints in Las Vegas and Canada in 2019, and with Journey in 2018, but not as a solo headliner since 2017. Further, it was the first time Mötley Crüe launched a tour in eight years, since the then-farewell run The Final Tour played from 2014 to 2015. That trek became the band’s highest grossing tour yet, but the $44.3 million total only hinted at the stadium magic to come alongside its glam-metal peers.
The forced break may have been the perfect accent to both bands’ slow resurgence over the last 20 years. Mötley Crüe was pacing 2,800 on the expansive Greatest Hits Tour in 1997-98 and crept up and up, passing 10,000 tickets on the Saints of Los Angeles Tour (2008-09) and 11,500 on The Final Tour. Def Leppard had a similar incline, boosted by more substantial co-headline stints with Heart, Whitesnake, and KISS. Increased capacity on this summer’s stadiums made for an obvious earnings boost. But the timing had to be just right in the grand arc of both acts’ careers to step up to bigger venues.
Dating back to reports from the late ‘80s, Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe have earned $730 million and sold 14 million tickets combined.