The Rolling Stones Sees More Than 'Doom and Gloom'

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Mick Jagger will turn 70 in July and is currently on tour in his usual spot as frenetic front man for the Rolling Stones.

One more time, for emphasis: Mick Jagger. 70. On tour.

Proof of the preservative side-effects of a bruising, self-indulgent lifestyle and a keen business sense.

My 12-year-old son listens to Rolling Stones songs. He doesn't know the band, exactly -- couldn't tell you who Mick Jagger is if his life depended on it. But he knows Fool to Cry, Gimme Shelter, Jumpin' Jack Flash and a handful of other hits.

My 16-year-old niece views herself as a woman of the world, wise in the ways of culture. I asked her if she knew the name Mick Jagger.

"Ya, sure," she said. "Famous singer, right?"

Right. What band?

"Um . . . don't know . . . ?"

Frankly, I told her, I wouldn't think you would. The band members were stars for my generation. But the band is on tour now celebrating its 50th anniversary and is about to gross more for that tour than probably Lady Gaga will for the same number of concerts.

"Holy crap!" she said.

Right, I said. I feel the same way.

The Rolling Stones was the top-grossing act of the last decade, raking in over $869 million for 264 shows in 10 years, according to Billboard, beating U2, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen. All of those are so-called "legacy" acts, but Springsteen was only just starting out and Bono of U2 and Madonna were still kids when the Rolling Stones members were partying up a storm in France and recording Exile on Main Street. That was 1972. The band had already been around for 10 years.

The question of how the Stones achieved such popularity and why the band remains so popular, what the allure is -- that will have to wait for another article.

For now let's just say it was a combination of factors -- the group's legendary wildness and musical savvy mixed with a clear-eyed perspective on pop culture, the music industry and society as a whole.

The current tour includes only a handful of shows scheduled so far in England, France and the U.S. including one at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Dec. 8 and two at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Dec. 13 and 15.

But you can bet there'll be a few more. With regular single tickets ranging from about $100 to over $1,000 and merchandise galore on sale at each venue, they are going to be bringing in the cash in truckloads.

The Stones has been preparing for this anniversary by ramping up an onslaught of products in all media, beginning with Keith Richards' juicy and much-praised autobiography, Life, released late in 2010.

Earlier this year, the group released a new compilation of hits, GRRR, that includes two new songs, of which Doom and Gloom has gotten the most attention.

Doom and Gloom is high-energy and has all the qualities we expect from a good Stones song: A memorable, impassioned hook; rough, challenging word play that reflects back at us the ugly flaws of the world we take for granted; the aggressive slashing of the electric guitars; the way everything in the song fuels the drive of the opening riff.

It's definitely not one of their greatest songs, but I'm left shaking my head in admiration just the same. Fifty years on and the guys can still bring it.

A video for Doom and Gloom -- overproduced and not terribly original but still entertaining -- is available for free right now on the band's Web site and a new app ("The Rolling Stones Official App") is available through iTunes.

A new documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, produced by Jagger and directed by Brett Morgen for HBO, also premiered Nov. 15 and is available as an on-demand offering. It will continue to be aired again through January on HBO2.

Of course, if you want to get your merchandise early, Kohl's ( KSS) is selling an authorized line of T-shirts with band's pictures and concert tour promotions.

Apart from the Richards' memoir and the tour, none of this adds very much to the Stones' legacy. It's more about polishing the stone, as it were -- raising the brand's visibility, stimulating revenue streams that are already there.

And it works. A couple of nights ago, I bought Exile on Main Street from iTunes. The "Deluxe Remastered" edition. Twenty bucks.

Go ahead and laugh. What a sucker I am.

But I wonder how many more like me are out there right now, trolling for a Stones album they used to love, or are discovering the band for the first time?

Delivering the Goods

This group has recorded more than two dozen studio albums of material, not to mention more than a dozen compilations and about that many live albums.

Of the original studio albums, a few prior to 1968 sold 500,000 copies in the U.S., earning a gold record each, and one or two, including the 1966 breakthrough Aftermath -- containing the megahit singles Mother's Little Helper and Under My Thumb -- sold more than a million copies, earning a platinum record.

But since 1968, every album the band has released has gone platinum or multiplatinum -- a million copies several times over. Sixteen total since 1968 -- and that's not counting the compilations and live albums.

That's a lot of very popular product floating around out there. Every time the band stages a public event articles get written, old fans are reminded, airplay increases, teenage girls get the history lecture from their uncles and sales of that product ramp up.

According to London's Sunday Times' "UK Rich List," Jagger had a net worth of over $300 million in April 2012. That means if he dropped everything he was doing professionally right now, stuffed all that money under a collection of super-king-sized mattresses, he could live comfortably for the rest of his life, no problem.

Not that I would waste time drawing up a budget for his golden years if I were him.

The Stones' revenue stream is a fire hose that shows no sign of shutting off any time soon, even if the band stops touring completely, as it was rumored to be considering last year. (The band later denied the rumor, but not before the publicity had landed it in the headlines again for a few weeks.)

Books, movies, licensing old songs out for various uses, reissues, new apps and games branded with the band's signature "lapping tongue" logo, virtual performances online -- the possibilities are endless to reinvigorate sales of existing albums and songs.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the band form a few of its own high-quality Stones tribute bands out of auditioned younger musicians and reap the profits from shows and merchandise sales around the world, the bands acting like living action figures.

Why not?

But whatever strategies pan out, chances are the Stones will go on finding ways to revive public interest for years to come. The band is a master at this game, as it has proven over and over, five decades running.

-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park, N.J.

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