Carol Jones Morrissey is a 65-year-old artist and quilt designer from Double Oak, Texas. She’s the mother of four children and grandmother of seven, and she just saw the Rolling Stones perform on June 6 at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It wasn’t her first time, either. It was her sixth, and she said that they still deliver the goods.
“The first time I saw them was in 1965, at the Will Rogers Memorial Auditorium in Fort Worth,” she said, citing a ticket price of $3.85. “I think what attracted me to them was they felt a little dangerous, a little edgy… I liked that kind of bluesy, rough edge they had.”
Today, the Rolling Stones are in the middle of their “Zip Code Tour,” which began at Petco Park in San Diego on May 24 and wraps up in Quebec City on July 15. Tickets cost considerably more than $3.85, with seats at the Petco Park show selling for $395 at the high end.
If you’re tempted to dismiss the tour as the death rattle of a bunch of septuagenarians who should know better, be advised that the Petco Park show is thus far the highest-grossing concert of 2015, with gross sales of $8,465,082, according to Billboard. With ticket sales like those, it can’t just be baby boomers politely keeping the band afloat, and if Morrissey’s experience is any indication, it isn’t.
“They attract a younger crowd,” she said. “I saw a lot of people in their 30s, and I saw a lot of parents with little kids, some of them were 12 years old, in Stones shirts.”
In addition to the “Zip Code Tour,” the Stones are reissuing their classic 1971 album “Sticky Fingers” on June 9. It’s being released in vinyl, compact disc and mp3 formats, as well as a “Super Deluxe Edition” box set with three CDs, a DVD, a vinyl single and a book.
Just as young people are helping to make the “Zip Code Tour” the number one concert attraction in the country, Don Rettman, buyer at the Princeton Record Exchange in Princeton, N.J., said that he expects them to help drive sales of the “Sticky Fingers” reissue as well.
“It’ll do well with kids who just bought turntables and are starting vinyl collections,” he said. “We still sell lots of Stones back catalog on vinyl, especially ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ and ‘Let It Bleed.’”
For people outside of the music industry, the news that young people are driving sales of vinyl records by 53-year-old bands may be a surprise. But for Rettman, it’s just another day at the office.
“I’m not really surprised,” he said. “I’ve been working here for a long time, and some things, if you market them right, they’ll sell really well.”
Whatever the musical format of the moment happens to be, the Rolling Stones have managed to weather each shift. In a career spanning six decades, their music has been released on vinyl, 8-track tape, cassette, compact disc and mp3, and they’ve survived the transition every time. It never would have happened if people didn’t like the music in the first place, and the ongoing popularity and commercial viability of the band is a testament to that.
Daniel Bukszpan is a New York-based freelance writer.