Beginning on March 16, 2017 at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, Italy, and closing on Aug. 26, 2019 at Chantry Park in Ipswich, England, Ed Sheeran has wrapped the 255-date ÷ (Divide) Tour. Across 30 months and six continents, Sheeran grossed a record-setting $776.2 million according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore — making it the highest-grossing tour of all time.
Sheeran broke a record that had been previously set in 2011 by U2, after the completion of The 360° Tour (2009-11). The Irish quartet had set a seemingly unattainable standard for worldwide domination after 110 in-the-round performances in stadiums around the globe. Their final figure of $736.4 million had surpassed the previous record-holders by more than $175 million (The Rolling Stones’ A Bigger Bang Tour, 2005-07).
U2’s tour grossed 42% of the tour’s total revenue in its first year ($311.6 million), while Sheeran built to a crescendo. He began the tour one week before debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with its namesake album, ÷ (Divide). The album’s lead single, “Shape of You” was in the middle of a 12-week run atop the Billboard Hot 100. Still, it was only his third studio LP and his 2014-15 The Multiply Tour had simply teased his global touring prowess.
Sheeran’s 2017 run sprawled across arenas in North and South America, Europe, and Asia, moving at a blistering pace with 111 shows before the year’s end but kept tickets relatively affordable, averaging $83.50. The first leg of the tour grossed $131.5 million and ranked No. 6 on Billboard’s year-end Top Tours tally (No. 1 was, of all acts, U2, with $317 million).
After spending 2017 reigning over the charts (he was ultimately named Billboard’s Top Artist of the year), Sheeran graduated from arenas to stadiums, now fully in conversation with the biggest acts in the world, from record-holders like U2 and The Rolling Stones, to his contemporaries on the Hot 100, like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.
While those acts ranged from $116/ticket (Beyoncé and Jay-Z) to $156/ticket (The Rolling Stones) in 2018, Sheeran barely budged, bumping by 7% to an $89.32 average upon his transition to worldwide stadiums. Despite low ticket prices, Sheeran kept up the pace, playing 93 shows in 2018, now to three-to-five times the number of people he reached in arenas.
Inflation and an ever-rising ticket market can boost tour grosses for treks in the 2010s against those of the 1990s and 2000s, but Sheeran’s 2017-19 run has transcended the growing touring business. The Divide Tour not only became the highest-grossing tour in Billboard Boxscore’s history, it is also the best-selling tour in terms of tickets sold. After two and a half years, the tour sold 8,882,182 tickets, far beyond the 7.3 million tickets sold by U2’s turn-of-the-decade trek.
AEG Presents and Messina Touring Group exclusively promoted the North American shows, via Marty Diamond at Paradigm Talent Agency. Overseas, CAA’s Jon Ollier worked with a variety of local promoters in international markets (in addition to Live Nation and AEG Presents), honoring the nuance of different music cultures, economic environments, and languages across continents. Sheeran was already a global artist on his first two album cycles, but on The Divide Tour, he added new markets to his repertoire, including two South African cities and broader swaths of venues in Asia and South America.
See below for a continental breakdown of Sheeran’s international success. His European grosses alone would place The Divide Tour in the all-time top 10, but his elastic global appeal pushed the trek into record-breaking territory.
CONTINENT – GROSSES (in millions); ATTENDANCE; SHOWS
Europe – $419.7; 4,844,884; 112
North America – $178.8; 1,993,746; 88
Australia – $82.6; 1,006,387; 18
Asia – $55.6; 453,948; 19
South America – $27.4; 357,325; 14
Africa – $12.1; 225,892; 4
In total, Sheeran has reported over 10 million tickets sold over his career.