This story is part of Billboard‘s The Year in Touring package — read more stories about the top acts, tours and venues of 2022 here.
Back on the road after a three-year break following his record-breaking The Divide Tour, Ed Sheeran tops the year-end Top Ticket Sales chart after playing to more than 3 million fans in Europe in 2022.
This is not the first time that Ed Sheeran has won a year-end Boxscore trophy. The Divide Tour made him the first artist to repeat atop Billboard’s annual Top Tours ranking, winning the gold in 2018 and 2019. The first of those two victories was the biggest year-end total in Boxscore history, with $429.5 million. Further, that tour ended in 2019 with the highest gross and biggest attendance of any tour ever, at $776.4 million and 8.88 million tickets.
Now back with The Mathematics Tour, Sheeran winds up at No. 3 on the 2022 Top Tours chart with $246.3 million. But separated from gross revenue, his current tour is No. 1 on the Top Ticket Sales chart, ranking the top tours by total cumulative attendance. According to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore, Sheeran moved 3,047,696 tickets in the 2022 tracking period.
Sheeran played 63 shows between Dec. 13, 2021, and Sept. 25, 2022, averaging out to 48,376 tickets per night. But that is a misleading number, as the first 11 of those shows were “rehearsal” dates, setting the British singer-songwriter in small clubs and theaters in London and Dublin. Those shows ranged from 357 tickets at Dublin’s Whelans on April 19 to 5,230 tickets at London’s Royal Albert Hall on March 27. All 11 shows combined to 16,810; even at the top of that range, he was still selling less than 15% of the year’s average.
Removing those rehearsal shows from the equation, the picture of The Mathematics Tour comes into focus. Sheeran’s 52 “proper” tour dates in 2022 paced 58,287 tickets.
Almost every market – each one except for Helsinki, Finland – required multiple shows. Sheeran mostly played double-header weekends, moving from city to city and maximizing audiences with Friday and Saturday shows. He topped off with a five-show run at London’s Wembley Stadium, moving 420,269 tickets.
And while there is no attendance-based chart for Boxscores, the Wembley streak does have the highest attendance total of any engagement this year, beating Coldplay’s four shows at Paris’ Stade de France by more than 100,000 tickets.
Elsewhere, Sheeran broke the 200,000 threshold with four shows at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium and Munich’s Olympiastadion.
These numbers are huge, but even compared to his record-setting predecessor, The Mathematics Tour is ahead of schedule. The Divide Tour included three European legs in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Those runs averaged 14,321 tickets (the 2017 leg was in arenas), 54,485 and 51,898, respectively. Sheeran’s ’22 stadium pace is 7% in front of Divide’s strongest year, setting him up quite well as he prepares to leave his home base.
The Mathematics Tour is scheduled for 12 shows in Australia in February and March, followed by 24 shows in North America throughout the summer. Whether or not Sheeran can match (or even approach) The Divide Tour’s three-year total may be entirely up to him. Fans showed up in droves to his European shows, but the expanse of his pre-pandemic tour was so huge. And not only did the tour last, it went wide, including shows in Asia, South America and South Africa. If Mathematics routing remains modest, it will be difficult to triple the tour’s current totals.
Based on his scheduled 36 shows in 2023, The Mathematics Tour should pick up another 1.5 million to 1.75 million tickets as it approaches the 5 million mark. Should more dates be added, the sky’s the limit.