Jay Z And Beyoncé’s ‘On The Run’ Tour Is Either A Historic Success Or A Humiliating Failure


We have a tragedy in our midst: word on the internets is that Jay Z and Beyoncé, America’s first couple of limo trysts, have hit some financial hard times. Namely, that their “On The Run” tour, Where The Romance Meets The Road (TM pending) isn’t selling like it should be.

First came the report that in the aftermath of that tape leaking the average price for “On The Run” tickets dropped 13.5%, from a “you can’t be serious” cost of $306.22 to a “I’m pretty sure you still cannot be serious” cost of $264.73. Then came the rumors that people might just be sick of the ubiquitous duo. Both Jay and Bey toured last year, Jay Z alongside Justin Timberlake, selling out all 14 of their dates on the 15th-highest grossing tour of 2013, and Beyoncé on her Mrs. Carter World Tour, the eighth-highest grossing tour of the year, which sold out 40 of 59 shows. Maybe Jay and Bey are far more enamored with their coupledom than anyone else could ever hope to be. In this way, the Carter-Knowles clan is not so different from all the PDA-loving couples who flood your Facebook feed.

Given the widespread outrage over the ridiculously expensive tickets (counterpoint: it’s only ridiculous if people won’t buy them), it sure would be satisfying to see Jay and Bey price themselves out of their fans’ marketplace. That turn of events would be very the-99%-beats-the-1%. That’s what you get for thinking you can fly so close to the sun, Knowles-Carterses!

Compelling narratives all. There’s just one thing: Forbes is reporting that “On The Run” sales are so amazing they’re set make history, thank you very much: the tour is on track to sell almost a million tickets, gross $100 million, and become the second most successful tour of all time (gross revenue per show-wise).

So where did this chaos all begin? Forbes names Hollywood411 — actually, the site is called Showbiz 411 — as the Patient Zero of the lousy sales rumor mill. Last week, the gossip site claimed “tickets are selling slow as molasses”. Showbiz411 suggests oversaturation of the market is to blame, citing those 2013 tours that raked in millions apiece. The site also suggests any buzz surrounding the state of the Knowles-Carter union, including the elevator brawl, ain’t nothing but a publicity stunt to boost ticket sales.

That number that’s making the rounds — 11,000 tickets on Stubhub still up for grabs — specifically refers to the show at MetLife Stadium; other venues have anywhere from 3,000 to 9,000 tickets left in circulation. Forbes claims that this is a sign of a “robust secondary market,” because it proves there are thousands of people out there who “think there’s an opportunity to make money” off the “On The Run” tour.

Forbes also cites the trends of ticket buyers: people tend to buy either on the initial onsale date or in the three days leading up to an event. Ten days out from the start of the tour, we’re not close to having a complete picture of “On The Run” sales.

But this “gross per venue” ranking comes with a huge qualifier: the “On The Run” tour is only playing 20 dates. The number one all-time grossing tour, for context, was U2’s 360 tour: $736 million across 110 dates. If “On The Run” sells as projected and nabs that number two spot, it will do so with the fewest number of dates per tour by far; the next-lowest number of tour dates by a top ten grossing artist is 85, for Madonna’s “Sticky Sweet” tour. Which tells you a lot about how many people actually want to see Jay Z and Beyonce together, and how expensive those tickets need to be for the couple to make music history.

Still, something about both sides of this story doesn’t compute. Why bother to run so much defense on Bey and Jay if sales are actually excellent? What do any of these numbers, and the myriad of ways in which a person could choose to interpret them, really tell us about the tour?

Chances are the truth can be triangulated to some middle, boring and therefore not buzzworthy place: sales are okay but not spectacular, probably because the Venn diagram of “Beyoncé fans” and “Jay Z” fans does not have very many people in the union (at press time, the only confirmed members of this cross-section were Blue Ivy and Grantland’s Rembert Browne). Any Beyoncé fan worth his or her salt caught the Mrs. Carter tour last year; any normal mortal only has so much cold, hard cash in the concert budget and isn’t likely to empty the piggy bank twice on the same performer two years in a row.

Why did the false narrative of a huge failure catch on? There’s nothing like seeing Regina George get hit by a bus; nothing like seeing a king fall from the throne. Even though the facts don’t hold up to close inspection, the feelings beneath those rumors do: people do feel like times are too hard for tickets to be so exorbitantly priced, people do feel as though the performance of Jay Z and Beyoncé’s marriage is too perfect to be real (stemming from the belief that Beyoncé is more robot than woman), people do tire of the same celebrity news cycle, no matter how beloved the star may be. Like most rumors, the stories about “On The Run” sales tell us less about the people the gossip is ostensibly about than they do about the people who latch onto that gossip in the first place.

Kind of a disappointment, I know. But no matter what happens, we’ll always have this ridiculous fake movie trailer: