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Can the 'wisdom of crowds' predict the big 2008 tour?

The Police reunion was the surprise of early 2007. Van Halen, with original singer David Lee Roth, will close out the year. Can the hive mind predict the big tours of 2008?

UPDATE: A few minutes after I first published this post, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band announced a tour for 2007. I've removed him from the running because (a.) he has no tourdates scheduled for 2008 and (b.) for this experiment in predictive markets to be interesting and valuable, I feel that it has to run for more than a few hours.

Although the recording industry's in the doldrums, the concert business has been pretty good of late.

The Rolling Stones just wrapped up its two-year-long Bigger Bang tour. The tour started in fall 2005, and a year later had eclipsed U2's Vertigo tour as the highest-grossing tour in history. The Police surprised everybody earlier this year by announcing a reunion tour after a 23-year hiatus and have already grossed more than $107 million on the first leg. That should put The Police in first place for 2007--if the Van Halen/David Lee Roth reunion tour doesn't knock them off. Other recent surprises included Roger Waters selling more than 1 million tickets worldwide and a partial reunion tour from Genesis. The Eagles are on tap for 2008.

Perhaps the wisdom of the crowd can predict who will announce the next big tour for 2008. Inkling Markets lets people set up predictive markets. It works like a stock market, with people bidding on the likelihood of a particular outcome--only there's no money at stake, just pride.

I was skeptical about how well it could work until I set up a market for last year's Super Bowl winner back in August 2006. The eventual winner, the Indianapolis Colts, led the market for the entire year, with the New England Patriots (second place in the AFC, and probably the second best team last year) and Chicago Bears (the NFC champions who played the Colts in the Super Bowl) placing 2nd and 3rd throughout the season. The only thing the market didn't predict was the New Orleans Saints' surprising second-place NFC finish, but none of the experts predicted that either.

So I've set up a market with 10 artists who've not yet announced 2008 tours. The safest bets would probably be AC/DC and Metallica, who are reportedly working on albums for release in 2008, with accompanying tours to follow.

Or you can take a risk and bid on a longshot. Will that long-rumored Led Zeppelin tour finally happen to commemorate its first downloadable release? Will Roger Waters and David Gilmour move beyond the four-song Pink Floyd show at Live 8? Will Michael Jackson surprise everybody by coming out of exile? Will David Byrne take a cue from Sting and reunite the Talking Heads? A Phish reunion? A Madonna tour?

The rules: for it to count as a "tour," the artist has to play at least six cities--no Vegas stands like Prince or one-off festival shows like Pink Floyd at Live 8. The first tour to be announced is the winner, but the auction will remain open until tickets for that first tour actually go on sale, in order to avoid any possibility of a Chinese Democracy-style flakeout.

Bid away.