The Year in Touring Charts: Ed Sheeran Claims 2018's Top Tour; Taylor Swift, Beyoncé & Jay-Z Do Big Business

Mark Surridge
Ed Sheeran

The ongoing Divide Tour grossed $429 million in the 2018 chart year, setting all-time records for the highest-grossing solo tour and highest year-end gross ever.

99 shows and $429 million later, Ed Sheeran walks away with Billboard's Top Tour of 2018 (see Top 25 Tours chart, below), according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore. The British singer’s eye-popping total follows the $122 million he grossed in 2017, having begun the tour on March 16, 2017 in Turin, Italy.

Billboard's Year-End Boxscore charts are based on engagements that played between Nov. 1, 2017 and Oct. 31, 2018 

The year-over-year increase from $122 million to $429 million is particularly remarkable when considering that Sheeran played 105 shows in the 2017 chart year, compared to 99 shows in 2018. The introductory legs of the tour focused on arena dates, hitting certain major markets two consecutive nights (three at London’s O2 Arena, Los Angeles’ Staples Center, and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center). But multiple arena shows can’t stack up to a worldwide stadium run. This year, Sheeran scaled his tour globally, delivering 2018’s top boxscore grossing $28 million over four nights at London’s Wembley Stadium, compared to $5 million over three nights at the same city’s O2 Arena on May 1-3, 2017. Similarly, he leapt from grossing $3.6 million at the Staples Center on Aug. 10-12, 2017 to $6.3 million from one night at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl on Aug. 18. Elsewhere, Sheeran leveled up to stadiums across Japan, Australia, Europe, Singapore, and markets throughout the U.S.

Explore All of Billboard's 2018 Year-End Charts

The jump from 2017 to 2018 is to say nothing of Sheeran’s skyrocketing star power since his last tour around the world. Sheeran has grossed more than half a billion dollars while touring in support of Divide, absolutely dwarfing the $63.8 million he earned in 2014-2015 on the Multiply Tour.

Not only does Sheeran easily claim the year’s biggest tour, The Divide Tour’s $429,491,502 is the biggest year-end total in the history of Billboard Boxscore (dating back to 1990). Twelve years after the fact, he narrowly eclipses The Rolling Stones’ 2006 total of $425.1 million from A Bigger Bang Tour. Far past the $400 million mark, The Divide Tour is one of only six treks to gross more than $300 million in one year, following The Rolling Stones in 2006, U2 in 2009 and 2017, Guns N’ Roses in 2017, and Taylor Swift in 2018 ($315.2 million, The Reputation Stadium Tour).

At the close of the 2018 year-end tracking period, The Divide Tour has grossed $551.8 million, making it the highest-grossing tour by a solo artist in the history of Billboard Boxscore, handily defeating Roger Waters’ The Wall Live, which grossed $459 million between Sept. 15, 2010 and Sept. 21, 2013.

Sheeran is scheduled to continue his expansive trek throughout 2019 before wrapping up on Aug. 26 at Chantry Park in Ipswich, England. After three shows Nov. 3 -9, 2018 (these grosses will count toward the 2019 year-end charts), $171.4 million separates The Divide Tour and U2’s 360 Tour, which remains the highest-grossing tour of all time. With 50 dates on the books next year, Sheeran needs to average $3.4 million per show to break U2’s record, significantly less than his 2018 average of $4.3 million. Come next fall, we could have a new reigning Boxscore champion.

Swift, Bey & Jay, Bruno and P!nk Were Powerhouses on the Road: Taylor Swift follows at No. 2 on the year-end Top 25 Tours tally with $315.2 million in the bank. As previously reported, the Reputation Stadium Tour became the most successful U.S. tour of all time but she adds almost $50 million to her domestic total with shows in England, Ireland, Canada, and Australia (not to mention additional shows in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan that fell outside of the 2018 reporting period). Swift’s international appeal hit a feverish peak in London, grossing $12.2 million over two nights at Wembley Stadium on June 22-23, 2018.

The Carters, or, Beyoncé and Jay-Z ($253.5 million), Bruno Mars ($237.8 million), and Pink ($180.4 million) round out the year-end top 5. The Top Tours list is headlined by relatively young pop stars causing commotion across the 2018 year-end charts, a marked shift from the overbearing presence of legacy acts like U2, Guns ‘N Roses, Depeche Mode, The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen in previous years.

Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars extended their 2017 tours into 2018 with stellar results, ranking among the Top 10 Tours for the second year in a row. They are joined in the top 10 by other 2017 headliners U2 (No. 1 in 2017; No. 7 in 2018) and The Rolling Stones (No. 7 in 2017; No. 8 in 2018).

The rest of the overall top 10 is filled with touring veterans. It’s Taylor Swift’s fourth appearance in the year-end top 10 and Kenny Chesney’s tenth. Beyoncé and Jay-Z have individually graced the top 10 in 2011 (Jay-Z), 2013, and 2016 (Beyoncé) and ranked No. 8 in 2014 as a pair on the original On the Run Tour. This is the third top 10 placement for Pink (2009; 2013) and Justin Timberlake (2007; 2014).

Journey and Def Leppard both make their year-end top 10 debut, joining forces to push their co-headline tour to No. 10.

Notably, after the 2017 Top 25 Tours ranking featured no women among the top 10, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Pink all storm this year’s top tier, with Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and Lady Gaga close behind. 

2018 TOP 25 TOURS

Rank; Act; Total Gross; Total Attendance; Number of Shows
1; Ed Sheeran; $429,491,502; 4,800,441; 99
2; Taylor Swift; $315,186,362; 2,636,355; 48
3; Beyoncé and Jay-Z; $253,514,983; 2,177,049; 48
4; Bruno Mars; $237,770,168; 1,929,456; 100
5; Pink; $180,402,074; 1,271,730; 88
6; Justin Timberlake; $149,277,272; 1,175,216; 76
7; U2; $119,203,900; 840,151; 55
8; The Rolling Stones; $117,844,618; 750,874; 14
9; Kenny Chesney; $114,333,176; 1,298,089; 42
10; Journey & Def Leppard; $97,095,894; 1,003,198; 60
11; Eagles; $93,454,297; 574,721; 34
12; Drake; $81,446,702; 693,189; 44
13; Depeche Mode; $78,804,765; 926.682; 54
14; Foo Fighters; $77,750,695; 930,310; 47
15; Celine Dion; $76,465,107; 376,431; 51
16; Billy Joel; $70,227,385; 589,813; 24
17; Luke Bryan; $67,572,102; 935,668; 50
18; Luis Miguel; $64,935,983; 612,818; 72
19; Harry Styles; $61,073,923; 774,473; 65
20; Dead & Company; $56,220,873; 689,783; 42
21; Andre Rieu; $55,933,149; 640,284; 88
22; Elton John; $55,387,328; 351,817; 45
23; Shania Twain; $52,587,060; 630,44; 55
24; Trans-Siberian Orchestra; $50,228,977; 864,132; 86
25; Jay-Z; $45,496,805; 401,921; 30

Billboard's Year-End Boxscore charts are based on engagements that played between Nov. 1, 2017 and Oct. 31, 2018

2018 Top Tour by Genre
Genre; Act; Total Gross

Country; Kenny Chesney; $114,333,176
Latin; Luis Miguel; $64,935,983
Pop; Ed Sheeran; $429,491,502
R&B/Hip-Hop: Beyoncé and Jay-Z; $253,514,983
Rock; U2; $119,203,900

While pop dominated 2018’s touring charts, The Carters’ On the Run II Tour emerges as the year’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Tour, followed by Billboard's overall Artist of the Year Drake ($81.4 million), and Jay-Z himself, having pulled in $45.5 million on his solo headlining 4:44 Tour. Rounding out the genre’s top tier are J. Cole ($26.1 million) and Janet Jackson ($21.6 million). 

For the eighth non-consecutive year, Kenny Chesney has the Top Country Tour. His biggest run yet brought in $114.3 million and sold 1.3 million tickets, making it the year’s fifth most attended tour overall. Next up are Luke Bryan ($67.6 million) and Shania Twain ($52.6 million), both of whom have claimed the Top Country Tour in years past, Bryan in 2016 and 2014 and Twain in 2004 and 1999.

Luis Miguel has a commanding lead as 2018’s Top Latin Tour with $64.9 million. Jennifer Lopez follows with $39.5 million from her residency at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Rounding out the top 5 are Romeo Santos ($38.4 million), Shakira ($28.2 million), and Bad Bunny ($19 million).

U2 claim the Top Rock Tour honor for the ninth time since 1992 with $119.2 million from their Experience + Innocence Tour. They narrowly squeeze by The Rolling Stones ($117.8 million), followed by Journey and Def Leppard ($97.1 million), Eagles ($93.5 million), and Depeche Mode ($78.8 million).

As a bonus, Andre Rieu, once again, has the Top Classical Tour for the tenth consecutive year, adding $55.9 million to his career total.

Billboard Year in Music 2018