Ed Sheeran’s Record-Shattering Tour Dominates Pollstar Mid-Year Charts

Ed Sheeran
(Photo by Matt Jelonek/WireImage)

Whole Other Level: Ed Sheeran on opening night of his record-setting Australian tour at Perth’s Optus Stadium on March 2, 2018

As robust and expansive as Pollstar’s 2018 mid-year touring data is. especially for international, which saw total grosses up 12% on the Mid-Year Top 100 Worldwide Tours Chart to an all-time high of $2.21 billion, one artist stands out among all others with a record-shattering gross and massive ticket sales yet they kept prices well below the mid-year average and still somehow managed to beat all comers by a country mile: 27-year old Edward Christopher Sheeran, MBE, from West Halifax, England, known far more widely and informally as just Ed.


Indeed, Ed Sheeran’s $213.9 million gross, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports, is the largest ever recorded on the Mid-Year Worldwide Chart (which began in 2009). It’s a massive 40% increase over last year’s No. 1 ranked Guns N’ Roses trek, which totaled $151.5 million and 20% higher than the chart’s all-time topper, AC/DC who brought in $177.5 million in 2010.

To put it in perspective, Sheeran’s six-month tally is so massive it is nearly double the individual grosses from the rest of the mid-year’s Top 5 in Bruno Mars, The Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift and Pink which hover close to the $100 million mark.

For a guy performing with just a guitar and a mic, credit Sheeran and his team—manager Stuart Camp, CAA which handles Sheeran internationally led by music agent Jon Ollier (Paradigm/Marty Diamond has him in North America which kicks off in mid-August), as well as promoters that include Frontier’s Michael Gudinski in Australia, the U.K.’s Kilimanjaro and DHP Family along with AEG Presents in Glasgow. Together they managed to parlay his global recorded music dominance in a tour that owned Pollstar’s 2018 Mid-Year tally like no other.

POllstar Mid-Year Chart

Top 10 of Pollstar’s 2018 Mid-Year Top 100 Worldwide Tour Chart.

Much of the tour’s success, like so many others, begins and ends with routing, which over the course of 52 stadium dates, included a high number of multiples in two legs: A May-June jaunt through the U.K. (20 shows) and Ireland (8) with a stop in Amsterdam (2); and a record-setting Down Under run in March and April in Australia (12) and New Zealand (6) that sold a record-setting 1 million tickets and ended with dates in Japan (3) and the Philippines (1).

The monster tour’s highest grossing stops were an estimated $23.92 million over four nights at London’s Wembley Stadium and $20.83 million for a record-setting quad at Etihad in Melbourne. This was followed closely by two more record-setting four-nighters at Sydney’s ANZ and Cardiff’s Principality, each coming in at more than $19 million.

Equally as staggering is the number of tickets Sheeran sold, 2.624 million in total, which is nearly double the Gunners’ 1.39 million tickets in 2017 and 44% higher than AC/DC’s chart-best at 1.823 million in 2010.

Part of those over-the-top numbers can be attributed to Team Sheeran’s fan-first pricing, which at an estimated average of $80.90 a show is well below the $96.31 average on the Mid-Year Worldwide chart. In fact, it’s significantly lower than all but one of the chart’s Top 10 tours (right on, Kenny Chesney).

Ed Sheeran Fans
(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

2.6 Million Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Ed Sheeran fans on the opening night of his record-setting Australian-New Zealand tour at Perth’s Optus Stadium on March 2, 2018.

In 2017, Sheeran’s tour ranked eighth on Pollstar’s Year End Top 100 Tours Worldwide and sold 1.5 million tickets, grossing $124 million over the course of 111 shows.

As trite as it may sound, everyone Pollstar spoke to involved with Sheeran & Co. first and foremost cited a fan-first approach.

“Our live strategy has always been the same,” said Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp of Grumpy Old Management, “A great show put on at an affordable ticket price for Ed’s fans. The bottom line is that we have to make the experience special and we have to make everyone want to come back again. We have always strived to never waiver from that ethic. There is no VIP up-sell nonsense or overpriced tickets, we’ve fought very hard against unscrupulous secondary markets. We go to as many places as we can.”

CAA’s Ollier explained just how committed they are to the fan experience. “Ed and his team tirelessly go through all emails and tweets they receive from fans and we do our utmost to make sure any problems they have are fixed. They do so with a mantra of, ‘If just one person has a genuine problem with their experience, that is too many’ and this culture runs through the entire team.” He added that, for him, “It’s an honour to be a part of this. He and the team deserve huge congratulations, particularly as later in the year they go on to do another million-plus tickets in the U.S.” 

Steve Tilley, Ed Sheeran’s promoter and a director of Kilimanjaro Live in London, also noted the team’s highly publicized anti-secondary market stance and “pricing tickets sensitively based on the knowledge and continuity gained from being in place as Ed’s promoters from day one.” He also said that all this combined with “Ed’s amazing knack to produce hit after hit” made for a “potent cocktail resulting in these astronomical ticket sales.”

Last May and April, when Sheeran sold a record-setting million tickets, Australia’s Frontier Touring Michael Gudinski told Pollstar that “One million tickets in this market is an absolute phenomenon and a feat which I don’t think will ever be beaten.” Not only did Sheeran’s dominance set records, but it personally energized the veteran promoter. “It’s inspired the whole company, and he’s completely rejuvenated my desire to get in early and develop artists’ careers.”

In the U.S., Sheeran is repped by Paradigm’s Marty Diamond and Ash Mowry-Lewis and signed to Atlantic Records.

Integral to setting up Sheeran’s stellar first half of 2018 is his repertoire’s domination over the last two years. 2017’s No. 1 song, the dance-hall inflected pop juggernaut “Shape of You,” is currently at a mind-boggling 1.8 billion Spotify streams and counting; and this year’s biggest hit thus far, the emotive love ballad “Perfect,” (the “doncing” song) was the top selling digital song in the first half of 2018, per Nielsen Music. It is currently a summer staple at clubs, proms, bbq’s and church functions across our great land.

What lies ahead for Sheeran is a dog race for tour of the year with 18 more European dates after the mid-year extending to through Aug. 12; and then 24 North American dates slated through early November.

He’ll face other major treks already out there including from his friend Taylor Swift as well as Jay-Z and Beyoncé, the always formidable U2, the Eagles, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake. At this record-setting clip, however, there may be no stopping the young man from West Halifax.