What Mick Jagger knows about making money in music

Mick knows better than to hope for record sales or worry about illegal downloads, says guest blogger Douglas French. He figured out the music industry decades ago.

Leon Neal / Reuters / File
(L to R) Rolling Stones guitarists Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards perform together with vocalist Mick Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts during a concert of the band's "A Bigger Bang" European Tour at the Twickenham stadium in west London, 2006.

In an extraordinary piece by Zoe Heller for the New York Times Style Magazine, Rolling Stones front man and financial overseer Mick Jagger talks about (among other things) the business of rock & roll.

“[Jagger's] beady oversight of the Rolling Stones’ financial affairs has, famously, helped make the band one of the richest in rock ’n’ roll history,” Heller writes.

“When he is on the road, he has been known to keep a map in his dressing room, indicating the city at which the tour will go into profit.”

And that’s how the Rollings Stones make money. The A Bigger Bang tour, from 2005 to 2007, was the highest-grossing tour of all time raking in $558 million.

“The band has also been ahead of the curve in recruiting sponsors, selling song rights and flogging merchandise. ‘The Stones carry no Woodstockesque, antibusiness baggage,’ Andy Serwer noted approvingly back in 2002 in Fortune magazine.”

Is Jagger crying about free downloads and declining CD sales? Nope. “There was a window in the 120 years of the record business where performers made loads and loads of money out of records,” Jagger says. “But it was a very small window — say, 15 years between 1975 and 1990.”

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