Jesus Is No. 1

Pollstar’s 2011 first quarter worldwide ticket sales chart for tours had some predictable names near the top, but what is with the top slot?

Bon Jovi ranked No. 2, U2 No. 3, Lady Gaga at No. 5 and Usher at No. 6.

Nothing surprising about having some of the biggest names in the music business in the gold circle, but the top position went to the touring Christian music festival “Winter Jam,” promoted by Premier Productions, the same people who helped bring ministry group Hillsong United to a sold-out Staples Center.

Premier wasn’t surprised by all of this – the company’s Shane Quick told Pollstar a month in advance that the festival’s ticket sales were substantial enough to take pole position when the chart came out.

Of course, ticket sales are one thing, revenue is another.

“At $10 a ticket, I don’t think you have a lot of price resistance, even in a recession,” Premier’s Roy Morgan told Pollstar. “You can’t even go to a movie for 10 bucks anymore.”

Most of “Winter Jam”’s attendees “won’t respond positively to a $60 ticket,” Morgan said. “We rely a lot on church groups. There’s a ton that come to the show. And part of the reason is because it’s affordable for their kids to come, as well as a lot of families that bring their kids.”

“Winter Jam” began when Christian act NewSong charged about $5 for a show at the long-gone Greenville Memorial Auditorium in South Carolina. The concert drew about 6,000, according to Morgan. Soon it became a series of January events in different cities that was called “January Jam.”

When more cities were added, and more months, it became “Winter Jam” and the last edition featured Newsboys. Before that, Third Day headlined. NewSong has been a staple throughout the event’s history.

The last tour sold 495,034 tickets. Morgan claims attendance was 524,000, up from last year’s attendance of 404,000.

“Last year we ran into a little bit of bad weather. This year we only had one bad date where weather affected us,” Morgan said. The latest “Winter Jam” also featured 10 bands, versus the previous tour that had seven.

“I know if U2 did 45 cities from January through March, we wouldn’t be ranked No. 1 in attendance,” he noted. “Same thing is true for other mainstream artists. It just so happens our dates come in the first three months of the year and the average attendance was almost 12,000 a night.”

“Winter Jam”, booked by Jeff Roberts & Associates, is expected to return for a West Coast run in November.