Swedish ABBA stirs b.o. storm in Down Under tour
By Mike Harris
- Variety (New York) 9 March 1977
Sydney, 8th March 1977
One facet of the success of the Swedish pop group ABBA has been the shrewd
merchandising program that has progressed step-by-step with their increasing
Australia, the first English-speaking country really to latch on to the
quartet, could well be considered a proving ground. Stig Anderson, the group’s
manager and co-producer, may be using this four city, 11 concert tour as a pilot
for their eventual tour of the U.S.
In all, this tour will result in a cash turnover of about $3,700,000 in
Australia; of that, ticket sales amount to slightly less than half. Paul Dainty,
the promoter bringing ABBA back to Australia, put tickets on sale six months ago
for the concert series. They were a quick sellout at $9.80.
Says Stig Anderson: “That’s a hell of a lot of money to be invested. It is
held by the venues.” Among them, the operators of the Sydney Showground, The
Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Melbourne, Adelaide’s Westlake Stadium and Perth’s
Entertainment Centre banked the money. A conservative estimate of the gross on
the 11-concert tour puts it at $1,765,000. Even if the overheads reach an
expected $710,000 that leaves a tidy profit, counting the potential half-year’s
interest on the ticket money which range from 9% to 10%.
Increased record sales also spin off from a tour like this. Sales of ABBA
disks and tapes already stand at a phenomenal 5,000,000 units in Australia in a
population of 13,000,000.
RCA, which distributes the group Down Under, had to establish a special ABBA
warehouse for product. As it was, following the March 1976 showing of a TV
special, the company had to throw over its entire pressing line to keep pace
with the sales demand.
Since the group writes nearly all of its own material, royalties stick close
to the various ABBA-owned companies. The agreement with RCA (Australia) is a
lease-tape deal which involves an up-front fee plus a percentage of sales
Between them, Anderson and ABBA own Polar Music which is the key among the
five or so companies owned by the group. Essex Music of Australia, which
publishes their material, says it pays royalties to five ABBA-owned companies
including Union Songs. All of these companies are registered in Sweden. The 85%
tax bracket there takes a big bite out of what they earn.
Add the $50,000 fee for advertising National, the Japanese electronics giant
whose current campaign has been budgeted at $1,650,000. ABBA’s TV commercials
for them (which ran between September and the end of last year) resulted in a
30% sales boost.
Reg Grundy Productions, the TV and film packaging house, has mounted a film
loosely based on the group’s current tour. Incidentally, Grundy also has bought
the merchandising rights to ABBA, and from the plethora of ABBA-embossed product
in local shops, both parties are doing all right from the deal; ABBA
particularly well since one of their companies gets some 80% of the royalty fees
paid in. About 500,000 T-shirts have been sold. Additionally, there are ABBA
jackets, ABBA pantsuits, ABBA pillow-covers, schoolbooks, caps, kites,
stationery, towels, mirrors, belts, socks, wall hangings and carpets.
That’s only a partial list: there’s a gold-plated medallion at $4.35, various
other jewelry, cushions and even heavy glass mugs. But Anderson turned thumbs
down on plastic mugs, underwear, cosmetics, and a range of dolls – along with 60
other attempts by Aussie manufacturers to cash in on ABBA’s impact. Unlicensed
makers of schlock and spurious ABBA items are slapped with a writ as soon as
their presence is known. ABBAloney will not be tolerated.
Regarding the film, the budget is undisclosed, but with a double crew, five
Swedes covering the four singers a la cinema-verite, 20 Aussie technicians
filming the concerts and the extra plot-required appearances – all in Panavision
– the figure is seen near $550,000.
According to producer Ray Newell, the film will include new songs and will
require considerable post-production. It’s expected to run about 95 minutes. The
director is a Swede, Lasse Halström who is mainly noted for documentary work,
and working on previous ABBA-oriented pix for TV
The media coverage of the quartet rivals that set to cover the upcoming royal
tour of Australia, which in many ways it resembles in terms of interest and
© 1977 Variety. Thanks to Samuel Inglles