Talk about a bigger bang. The Rolling Stones zipped past U2 to top this year’s list of highest grossing tours; in fact, trade magazine Pollstar reports, the ”A Bigger Bang” tour is the highest-grossing trek of all time. It grossed $162 million, surpassing the record the Stones set in 1994 by about $40 million.

Of course, it helps that the price of concert tickets has soared. (Helps the Stones, that is, not you.) Overall, Pollstar says, concert business was up this year, with a record $3.1 billion in sales, even though the number of tickets sold declined for the third straight year. That means the average ticket price rose $7 this year; a ticket for any of the top 100 tours would have set you back an average of $57.

In other words, the concert business is a lot like the movie theater business; ticket prices are rising, but fewer people are buying, and the attractions that gross the highest numbers are often pop culture brand names first launched decades ago. (Other top touring artists this year included The Eagles, Neil Diamond, and Paul McCartney; according to Box Office Mojo, 2005’s biggest movies included Star Wars: Episode III, War of the Worlds, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Batman Begins.)

This trend doesn’t bode well for the health of an industry that needs to cultivate young audiences. It seems especially worrisome for the concert biz — Hollywood can always remake old properties, but the tour circuit can’t manufacture another Rolling Stones. While movie ticket prices climb as high as $11 in some markets, that’s still nowhere near $57 for a concert (plus surcharges, parking, souvenirs, etc.) So I ask: Is it worth it? How many concerts can you afford per year? And what’s the most you’ve paid to see your favorite performers?

addCredit(“The Rolling Stones: Reuters”)