Year End Special Features: Top Tours, Ticket Sales Charts, Industry Pros Weigh In On 2018

Ed Sheeran Taylor Swift
Christopher Polk / Getty Images for iHeartMedia
– Ed Sheeran Taylor Swift
Back To The Future: Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, pictured together at the 2017 Jingle Ball at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., this year grossed a combined $777 million with their own respective stadium tours, good for about 14 percent of the overall gross of the Top 100 Worldwide Tours.
Top Tours: 
Sheeran Rules, Top 10 Hits $2 Billion In Sales
The global landscape of live entertainment in 2018 includes some of the biggest names in the business, both old and new, and remarkable box office feats – most poignantly the musical juggernaut known as Ed Sheeran and his ascent to No. 1 with the highest gross ever recorded for a touring artist in a single year. 
He and the nine other acts included in the Top 10 on the annual Top 100 Worldwide Tours chart all topped $100 million in sales – a rare occurrence but one that has happened in three previous years. This year, however, marks the first that gross revenue surpassed $2 billion from just the Top 10 tours alone. In 2017, the Top 10 hit $1.8 billion collectively at the box office, but this year’s group took it to the next level.

Pop artists make quite a showing among the Top 10 tours on the chart, taking six of the top seven slots. At No. 2 is Taylor Swift. Combined with Sheeran, the two racked up $777 million in sales – about 14 percent of the overall gross of the Top 100 Worldwide Tours. 
Pink, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake are also in the Top 10, along with the Jay-Z / Beyoncé co-bill adding their brand of hip-hop and R&B to the mix. 

2018 Year End
– 2018 Year End
The A Team Sets The All-Time Touring Record
The other four acts are rock royalty: Eagles, Roger Waters, U2 and The Rolling Stones – all iconic artists and longtime road warriors. With those acts joining the pop stars who kicked off their careers late in the previous century – and the ones who got their starts in this one – every decade from the 1960s through the 2000s is represented in the Top 10.
Sheeran, the king of the road in 2018, took his Divide tour to stadiums on four continents, performing for more than 4.8 million fans. The English pop star has astounded the world with the simplicity of his stadium production, the strength of his connection with the audience – and, of course, his award-winning music. But numbers speak loudest when it comes to the success of the tour, and the overall gross from his 2018 trek reached a whopping $432.4 million based on ticket sales from 94 concerts staged in 53 cities.
His 2018 gross is the first to top $400 million in one year, and handily blasts U2’s single-year gross record set just last year with $316 million from the Joshua Tree Tour. U2 also passed the $300 million threshold one other year as the top ranked tour. The Irish band accomplished that feat in 2009 with $311 million earned during the first year of the 360 Tour that currently ranks as the top grosser of all time with $735 million in sales.
U2 is the only other act besides Sheeran to gross more than $300 million in one year as the top-grossing tour, but five other artists of note have reigned as the top tour with earnings in the $200 million range. Madonna did it twice – most recently in 2012 with $296.1 million but also in 2008 with $281.6 million. 
One Direction, 2014’s top touring act, scored a $282.2 million gross, and Bruce Springsteen hit $268.3 million in 2016. Bon Jovi also broke the $200 million barrier twice – in 2013 with $259.5 million and three years earlier with $201.1 million. U2 also appears in the $200 million category based on a $231.9 million take in 2011, and Taylor Swift grossed $250.4 million when she was No. 1 in 2015. Swift’s gross this year is $345 million, which also tops U2’s record-setting total from 2017, so any other time (sans Ed) she would have easily taken No. 1 with those figures.
Sheeran’s gross is currently $554.6 million after two years on the road. That alone makes history as one of the highest-grossing tours of all time behind U2’s 360 tour and The Rolling Stones’ A Bigger Bang tour (2005-07) that took in $558 million. The Divide tour resumes in 2019, however, and with 45 headlining stadium dates already booked Sheeran is the first touring artist with a bona fide chance to overtake U2 and claim the title of highest-grossing tour of all time.
Swift completed her Reputation stadium jaunt with a sold ticket count of 2.8 million to produce the tour’s $345 million gross. With dates in North America, Europe, Oceania and Asia, this was her fifth concert tour and her first set exclusively in stadiums. Like Sheeran, she is also approaching a major career milestone of her own. With Reputation in the books, the overall gross from all of her tours currently sits at $925.6 million from 9.5 million total tickets since her first reported concerts in 2006. So, on her next tour, she will probably reach the $1 billion mark in box office success, being only a mere $74.3 million away from that distinction at this point.
At No. 3, Jay-Z and Beyoncé scored $254 million in box office revenue with their On the Run II Tour at 48 stadium performances. More than 2.1 million fans saw the show in 39 cities in Europe and North America. It marked the couple’s second stadium trek with the On the Run moniker, the first coming in 2014 – a 17-venue run in North America and Europe that amassed $109.6 million.
Pollstar 2018 Year End Special Features
Worldwide Ticket Sales
For OTRII, the Carters brought DJ Khaled on board as support for the North American trek as well as R&B duo Chloe X Halle. Atlanta generated the best box office counts of the entire tour with a $14 million gross for two nights at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Arthur Fogel, president of Live Nation Global Touring, which promoted the tour, described it as “one of the greatest stadium shows ever – a brilliant production from two amazing artists.” 
Pink lands in the fourth slot in the Top 10 with $169.1 million in sales from the world tour in support of her 2017 release, Beautiful Trauma. She performed for 1.2 million fans during the 2018 run that visited 45 cities in North America and Oceania. Some $73.8 million of that gross came from her seven-city trek through Australia and New Zealand that drew more than half-a-million fans. 
Rounding out the Top 10 are Bruno Mars, Eagles, Justin Timberlake, Roger Waters, U2 and The Rolling Stones. The Eagles’ sixth-ranked tour took in $165.9 million at the box office from 964,245 sold tickets at 53 performances – followed by Timberlake at No. 7 who, after a postponement of shows until 2019 because of health reasons, ended the year with 77 shows reported and $150.8 million in earnings from 1.1 million tickets.
Waters played Oceania, Europe and Latin America, moving 1.4 million tickets to finish an 84-show schedule with $131.2 million in sales. U2’s Experience + Innocence tour wrapped in November with a $126.1 million gross from 927,034 sold seats at 59 shows. Like Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s tour, the U2 run was also promoted by Live Nation Global Touring – along with Timberlake’s Man of the Woods trek. In the words of Fogel, “This was a tremendous year for Live Nation Global Touring. We are grateful for the support from these great artists.” And as a postscript regarding two more of their tours, he continued, “Add in a home run return from Phil Collins after 12 years and a very cool Sting/Shaggy run.” (Collins charted at No. 18 and the co-headlining jaunt by Sting and Shaggy is No. 77.)
Finally, at No. 10 is The Rolling Stones with box office proceeds totaling $116.5 million from 14 stadium performances on the band’s No Filter tour that visited 13 European cities in 2018. Attendance this year hit 750,914.
The collective gross for global ticket sales from the Top 100 Worldwide Tours is $5,640,735,434. That’s slightly down on last year’s final year-end gross of $5.653 billion, but 2017 also saw a 15.8 percent jump compared to 2016. So, this year’s final gross could arguably be called a correction – still higher than the 2016 gross but down slightly from last year.
The number of sold tickets also dropped this year compared with 2017 when the 66.7 million sold ticket count was 10 percent higher than the 2016 total. In 2018, total tickets from the Top 100 reached 59,811,438, an 11.1 percent decrease from last year. Ticket prices, however, were higher this year on average. In 2017 the average ticket price was $84.63, yet this year’s average is $94.31, an 11.9 percent increase.
This year was a year of change at Pollstar regarding the way we present our box office data. This year we have introduced a new time period for determining the 2018 chart year. In 2017 and previous years, the calendar year was used for year-end charts with estimated totals added from late fourth-quarter events. This year we changed the eligibility time period from the calendar year to a late-November closing date and discontinued accepting estimates for non-reported events.
Thus, the 2018 charts comprise data from performances that occurred Nov. 23, 2017 through Nov. 21, 2018 – and we only counted actual box office results from shows that have already occurred.