One of the first big bands of stadium rock was Led Zeppelin, who played to audiences of 50,000. They were so successful that they could take 90% of the revenue, leaving only 10% for the promoters, who were used to taking the largest slice of the pie. But in the case of Led Zeppelin even 10% was worth their while. Queen took this even further and played for audiences of 130.000, filling big stadiums. This was in part due to the act they put on. In the US, Kiss took that even further, ignoring the music and focusing purely on the act. They made their money largely from merchandise, which was bought by children who knew nothing of Rock and Roll and the merchandise alone gave them a revenue of 50 million dollars per year. In the US, Bruce Springsteen also became one of the icons of stadium rock, almost against his own will. He kept playing clubs when he could have been playing theatres and he kept playing theatres when he could have been playing stadiums. But ironically, it was exactly this 'regular guy' attitude that made him popular.
When The Police had made it in England, they first financed their own tour of the US (where for a while they became the biggest band) and then started going to countries where few other western bands had gone before. Queen did something similar by touring South America and filling huge football stadiums. In Japan they were received as warmly as The Beatles. This was all topped by Live Aid, which was heard by a third of the world population. Bob Geldof: "It turned out the lingua franca of the world was not English, but Rock and Roll."
U2 was the last great band to emerge from stadium rock. Zoo TV brought the TV on stage. And they introduced another new phenomenon, the B-stage, in the middle of the audience, where they were totally surrounded by them, thus reversing the ongoing development of the bands getting ever further separated from their audiences.
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