CAA’s Chris Dalston Talks AC/DC Selling 1.5M Tickets In A Day 

Power Trip Day 2
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Stevie Young, Brian Johnson, Angus Young, and Cliff Williams of AC/DC perform onstage during the Power Trip music festival at Empire Polo Club on Oct. 7, 2023, in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Power Trip)

Before Chris Dalston got into the music business he was working as a cruise ship photographer a “long, long time ago.” He explained that you get to know the entertainers very well and one of them, comedian Phyllis Diller, encouraged him to get off the cruise ship and work for her friend, “a guy called the Amazing Kreskin.” And so he did, moving to New Jersey to work for two years as his road manager. That eventually led to Dalston joining Triad Artists and later William Morris Agency.

Dalston, who serves as Co-Head of International Touring at CAA, has been at the agency for nearly 30 years and works with some of the biggest artists in the world including AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Lionel Richie, Queen and Adam Lambert, Rammstein, Ricky Martin, Leslie Grace Martínez, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Tom Jones, Ludovico Einaudi, Seal, Ehrlich Brothers, James Morrison, Jamie Cullum, Liam Gallagher & John Squire, YOASOBI, Ian Brown, Bryan Ferry, Scorpions, Sting, Kraftwerk, and Korean conglomerate SM Entertainment, among others.

Pollstar caught up with Dalston to chat about the international market and the wild success of ticket sales for AC/DC’s “Power Up Tour,” which launches in Germany in May. 

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Pollstar: You’re one of the rare agents that books artists both domestically and internationally. Can you share more? 

Chris Dalston: I used to head up International at Triad and William Morris and then I got hired by Carole Kinzel who works here and Tom Ross who was running CAA at the time. My job initially was to grow the international business and at some point somebody took me in, saying you really [need] to understand and appreciate the American marketplace because people still view [it] as the single most important marketplace to be an agent for. Rob Light gave me a chance working on Natalie Merchant [as] the domestic agent … [which] led to Bon Jovi and then once you start you just keep going and your confidence grows, which is the most important thing and then you have the ability to go out and sign other clients.

What’s your take on the current state of international touring?

We’ve all talked about China being one of the great markets and it’s yet to prove it for many reasons: currency things, issues getting into the country, people being on blacklists [and] greylists. It’s a very complicated country to do business in. In terms of our biggest challenges, post-COVID costs are more expensive, flights overseas are more expensive, production’s more expensive, hotels are more expensive. So it gets much more expensive for clients to tour. Plus the dollar rate is always a big thing. … Australia is 66 cents to the dollar and when you make your deals in U.S. dollars, you’re getting a lot less U.S. dollars for the same Australian currency. There’s more revenue coming in because ticket prices have changed but there’s no tour support … [International touring] is still a huge growth area for the department. As evidenced by the number of agents we have here in America and the London office.

AC/DC’s “Power Up Tour” is the band’s first tour since 2016. How did you approach it? 

There was a lot of thought that went into it because we had to work around the Olympic Games in France and the European football championships in Germany. Now as agents we have to think about a lot of things that we didn’t have to think about many years ago, like the weather. One of the reasons the tour starts in Germany was because we had to find somewhere to rehearse for a week. And then it goes immediately into Italy and Spain because we believed if it gets to July and August it’s going to be way too hot and very dangerous for the fans and the band to be outside. I was in Europe last summer in Seville, and we had to delay shows until 11:30 at night because it was still 100 degrees outside. … And then we have to be very careful of Brian [Johnson]’s voice that we don’t push it, that he feels comfortable in the schedule. Then you have to make sure the finances work.  

Let’s talk about ticket sales. 

We believed it was going to be one of the biggest tours ever but you just never know until you put tickets on sale. It’s like Christmas the night before we went on sale. You can’t sleep, you’re nervous. I woke up at 2:30 or 3 in the morning and Europe had already opened — and we’d sold out some of the shows already. They sold 1.5 million tickets in one day. … It’s staggering and it gives you great faith because they’re very particular in how they conduct their business. They don’t do VIP. They don’t do dynamic ticket pricing. They never want to hear fans complaining about ticket prices being too high. There’s also a point where we have to push it a little bit because otherwise they couldn’t afford to tour — especially when they’re playing one day on, three days off. … Obviously the goal is to hopefully have them continue if they enjoy it and it works well … to try to keep them out in ’25, ’26, ’27, however long they want to go but we gotta get through Europe first.

What promoters do they work with?

One thing that’s incredible about them, they’re loyal to the promoters they’ve worked with, be it Herman Schueremans or Leon Ramakers … or Marcel Avram … They’ve had massive offers. They’ve turned them down because they believe in the system of individual promoters promoting their markets and it’s worked for them. 

You book a number of other clients — any projects or tours you’re especially excited about? 

I’m extraordinarily fortunate who I work with. … I don’t think there’s one artist that I work with that I don’t either know personally or have some kind of attachment to. It’s like can you pick a favorite child? No, you can’t. I just had Queen in Japan and those are incredible guys. Nile Rogers is unbelievable, Lionel Richie is amazing, Rammstein is amazing, Ludovico [Einaudi], Seal … It’s incredible to see who I work with. I mean, I grew up in a town called Leeds and I saw Queen play at the university in Leeds and now to represent them and go see them play five stadium shows in Japan, it’s just fucking unbelievable.