Q’s With Arthur Fogel: What A 360-Degree Difference Eight Years, 200 Trucks And Three ‘Claws’ Can Make

Beautiful Day:
– Beautiful Day:
Arthur Fogel (third from left) of Live Nation promoted U2’s 360 Tour, which, until Ed Sheeran’s “Divide Tour” came along, held the top touring record for eight years. Here with U2’s Larry Mullen Jr., Adam Clayton, former manager Paul McGuinness, Bono and The Edge at a Dec. 9, 2006 concert at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

Pollstar caught up with Arthur Fogel, chairman of Live Nation Global Music and president of Live Nation Global Touring as well as the promoter behind U2’s record-setting “360 Tour,” which held the all-time touring record for close to eight years before Ed Sheeran’s “Divide Tour” broke the record. Here, Fogel discusses the differences between the two treks, the development of the international touring market and the one record U2 may still hold.  


Interactive Tour Maps: 
Pollstar: When you really look at U2’s 360 Tour, it’s incredible the tour gross and ticket sales records stayed in place for eight years. 
Arthur Fogel: Yeah, the tour spanned three years, 2009, ‘10 and ‘11. It was originally supposed to span two, but in the midst of that timeframe, Bono had [back surgery]. We were supposed to play America in 2010 and then we had to move the whole thing back a year, because obviously you can only play outdoors in the summer and early fall so we had to wait basically a full year.

U2 did 110 shows, less than half of Sheeran’s 255 shows, so right off the bat, it seems somewhat apples to oranges with such different parameters.
Yes, it is but, listen, all props to them. It’s a great accomplishment. It’s funny because at the time people in the moment go, “This’ll never be broken.” And it’s like, “Well, you know, fucking Babe Ruth, right?” Records get broken. And it’s a good thing. It’s certainly not a bad thing. So props to him, it’s a great achievement. But yes, it is apples to oranges.
A lot has changed in the touring business in eight years, especially in terms of international markets.

The Claw
– The Claw
One of U2’s three 165 -foot, 190-ton “Claws” which allowed U2 to play in the round for its aptly named “360 Tour.” Here seen at London’s Wembley Stadium on August 13, 2009.
What’s interesting is U2 has never played Southeast Asia. We’re going there later this year with the “Joshua Tree” for the first time ever to Singapore, Seoul and Manila. If 20 years ago there were 20 to 30 markets, or countries, that were sort of regular touring stops, now there’s probably 50 to 60. We didn’t play Japan because the cost then to move the Claw was extraordinary. It was an incredible undertaking just in its mass. We had three of those stages and it was just logistically, in terms of size and costs, insane to try and go too far afield.
How many trucks did The Claw have? 
Well, from memory, each steel claw took approximately 40 trucks. So three times 40 is 120 trucks. Plus, you had your universal production, sound, lights and other stuff that went to every show, which again, if memory serves, was around 50. So, with everything you were somewhere between 175 and 200 trucks. At any given time, you’d have 200 trucks on the road, because different claws were leapfrogging. 
Did seeing Ed with just the one-man band, a big LED screens and foot pedals break your heart a little bit? 
God bless him. But it’s definitely a different equation.
Another difference was Sheeran’s economic model keeping prices low, no VIPs and doing multiple stadiums?
We did multiple shows in some places. There were a couple of reasons why the 360 came about: One was just the notion of playing 360 degrees in a stadium. Clearly it had been done in arenas numerous times over the years, but it never been done in stadium. So, it was one of those groundbreaking conceptual ideas thinking we could do an in-the-round show in a stadium where you have to create your own support structure for everything to hang on. There’s no roofs per se, so that was one side of the equation. And another side of the equation was the ability to play, like the Rose Bowl. There we sold about 97,000 tickets for one show which is like two normal configuration Rose Bowls. So the notion was, “Okay, how do you do less shows to more people, to make sense of it all?” On average the increased capacity was anywhere from say 30% to 50%.

And you had no kill area for any stadium?

So at the time they were probably the highest attended music shows ever had at many of the stadiums.
Yeah, for sure. And it was interesting because I remember it was kind of like the code was cracked on how to engineer it and then you sit there, and you’re asked the question, “There’s nowhere to hide, right? You can’t hide empty seats in a 360 configuration. So the question was posed, “Will we sell all the tickets?” And I, of course, say yes. And then for weeks and months before we actually put tickets on sale, I’m shitting my pants because it’s like even if you come up 5,000 tickets short, you see the empty seats. To me that was probably the most stressful part of it as it all unfolded.
But did that ever happen?
When you started the tour, was there any thought of breaking the Rolling Stones’ “Bigger Bang” touring record or was it just about the 360 concept?
No, it was totally about, “Hey, this has never been done. It’s groundbreaking. It’s going to be a great experience.” Nobody thought about the potential for setting a record.
Was it just a grind once the 360 Tour started? 
I remember all the initial stress of just getting it all together and getting it on sale, but once it started rolling, I don’t recall it being that crazy. It was intense, no question, because it was big and complicated, but ultimately, when you put together the best possible team for this stuff, like Jake Berry [production manager] is a master, they got it down.
Did he ever call you crying or anything?
No. Although, when Bono had his accident it was literally a couple of days before we were to open the U.S. leg, I believe in Salt Lake City. And they had already started building the claw.
Everybody was there and everything was happening. And that’s when I remember getting the call at like four in the morning from [then U2 manager] Paul McGuinness going, “Sorry to tell you this, but it’s not good.”
In terms of penciling it out, it sounds like the costs were enormous with hundreds of trucks and the massive claws, did it do okay even with it enormous record-setting gross?
Clearly, with the record-setting gross of $700 million plus you would hope. While the costs were incredible, it ended up being a very successful venture. But everything was big. The show was big, the numbers were big, the costs were big.

The tour’s highest single event gross was Sao Paulo for three shows, doing a whopping $32 million. That was more than Sheeran ever got on any one stop, for which his highest was $28 million at Wembley for four shows.
Yeah, that was incredible. I remember Brazil and Mexico City were unbelievable. I think we did three shows and like 270,000 tickets or something insane like that at the Azteca Stadium. When you’re there it’s just like the numbers are so insane, particularly the ticket sales numbers. It was  pretty staggering.
While Sheeran might’ve gotten the gross record, it sounds like with three different claws and 200 buses, U2 could still hold the record for highest production costs. 
That may not ever be beaten and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it was an incredible challenge and we pulled it off. And it was quite amazing. It’s funny because we’re starting to build an internal 
database and I first got involved with U2 in 1997 on the “PopMart Tour” and then I became the global promoter/producer. 
So that’s 20 years ago. Not including the “Joshua Tree” tour that’s going to happen later this year, they have sold 21,062,755 tickets over seven tours. 
Wow. And Sheeran’s going to end up with close to 8.8 million tickets for this one tour. 
Wow, that’s incredible.
His philosophy is a bit more like volume, volume, volume, keep prices low and get the masses in.
It’s a great concept. And I give them all the credit, and God bless youth because doing 250-plus shows, it’s a lot of shows at any age, but it certainly gets harder as artists age. Maybe not Elton John, but everybody else in the world.

Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp said, “I don’t think there’s much of a coincidence that my favorite band growing up was U2. I’m not putting us at that level because they’ve obviously maintained their career for much longer. To even be in the same ballpark as them, or spoken in the sentence with a touring act like that is very humbling.” What’s your reaction to that?
Well that’s a very nice comment to make, very nice.