Ed Sheeran’s record-smashing “Divide” tour concluded last night and Pollstar can officially confirm that it’s the highest-grossing tour of all time, reaching a staggering overall gross of $775.6 million from 8.9 million tickets sold on six continents. The previous record was U2’s 360 tour, which reached $735.3 over the span of two years.
“What Ed Sheeran and his team have accomplished in surpassing U2’s records represents the height of achievement in the world of live performance,” says Ray Waddell, president of media and conferences at Oak View Group, which owns live industry trade publications Pollstar and VenuesNow. “While U2’s 360 tour and Ed Sheeran’s Divide tour were different in many ways, what these two tours have in common are great songs performed well, smart, dedicated teams behind them, tireless work ethic, and, most importantly, passionate fans who connect deeply with what the artist has to say. This is a remarkable feat.”
The final show (Monday, Aug. 26) was one of four held at Chantry Park in Ipswich, England, near Sheeran’s hometown. That four-night stand grossed $12.9 million on 139,984 tickets.
Sheeran reached No. 1 on the list of the all-time top-grossing tours earlier this month on Aug. 2 with the first night of a two-show run at Messegelände, a fairgrounds and outdoor exhibition area in Hannover, Germany. Sales from the first show took the Divide tour’s overall gross to $736.8 million, surpassing the gross record held by U2 for eight years. The Irish band earned a record-setting $735.3 million on the “360” tour that ran from February 2009 through July 2011.
This week’s (9/2) special issue of Pollstar, out this Friday (8/30), will be devoted entirely to Ed Sheeran’s record-setting Divide Tour and its monumental accomplishments. The main feature will dig deep into the tour’s successful strategies and feature interviews with Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp as well as the tour’s agents (CAA’s Jon Ollier and Paradigm’s Marty Diamond) and international promoters (MTG’s Louis Messina, Kilimanjaro’s Stuart Galbraith and Steve Tilly, FKP Scorpio’s Folkert Koopmans, AEG’s Simon Jones, Frontier Touring’s Michael Gudinsky and DHP Family’s Dan Ealam). Additionally, the package will include in-depth dive into the Divide Tour’s data as well as an interview with U2 promoter Arthur Fogel of Live Nation who promoted the band’s “360 Tour” in 2011 when they set what seemed an unsurpassable touring record.
Following Sheeran and U2 are three tours in the $500 million range on the tally of all-time top grossers. Guns N’ Roses currently holds the third spot on the list with the band’s ongoing “Not In This Lifetime…” tour that is set to make a sweep through North American markets this fall. Overall tour grosses currently top the $560 million-range but the band’s No. 3 all-time ranking will solidify as the tour progresses.
Pollstar’s Top-Grossing Tours of All-Time
Artist – Tour Name – Year(s) – Gross (in millions) – Tickets Sold (in millions) – # of shows
- Ed Sheeran – Divide – 2017-2019 – $775.6 – 8.9 – 255
- U2 – 360 – 2009-2011 – $735.3 – 7.2 – 110
- Guns N’ Roses – Not In This Lifetime… – 2016-ongoing – $561.1 – 5.1 – 145
- The Rolling Stones – A Bigger Bang – 2005-2007 – $558.2 – 4.6 – 144
- Coldplay – A Head Full of Dreams – 2017-2017 – $523.0 – 5.3 – 114
- Roger Waters – The Wall Live – 2010-2013 – $460.2 – 4.1 – 220
- AC/DC – Black Ice – 2008-2010 – $441.9 – 4.9 – 165
- Madonna – Sticky & Sweet – 2008-2009 – $411.1 – 3.5 – 85
- U2 – Vertigo – 2005-2006 – $395.6 – 4.6 – 131
- Pink – Beautiful Trauma – 2018-ongoing – $380.3 – 3.0 – 154
The Rolling Stones were the first to smash the all-time highest-grossing tour record in this century, setting the bar high in 2007 after the completion of “A Bigger Bang,” the iconic rock band’s two-year trek that earned more than $558 million. Coldplay joined the top five in 2017 with an overall take that also topped half-a-billion dollars from “A Head Full of Dreams,” the band’s worldwide trek that included performances in 2016 and 2017.
Roger Waters lands at No. 6 based on $460 million in sales from “The Wall Live” his 220-show worldwide jaunt that ran just over three years (2010-2013). AC/DC’s “Black Ice” tour follows in the seventh position based on a $441 million gross from 165 concerts that ran from October 2008 through June 2010.
Madonna currently sits at No. 8 with $411 million earned on her “Sticky & Sweet” tour in 2008-2009, and U2 has long held a second top-10 ranking with the “Vertigo” tour that took in $395 million in 2005-2006, but two current tours are poised to potentially shake up the top 10. Pink currently has grosses in the upper 300-million-dollar range from her ongoing “Beautiful Trauma” tour as does Metallica with the “WorldWired” tour that continues into 2020. Both acts are forecasted to land somewhere on the list by the time their tours are completed.
The “Divide” tour spanned almost two-and-a-half years with 255 performances and broke a number of records around the world, including:
Denmark: Most tickets sold for one artist in one day.
France: Most concerts in the same stadium.
Ireland: Ed’s stadium tour of Ireland in May 2018 was the biggest tour in Irish history.
Scotland: Most amount of tickets sold ever at Glasgow Hampden Park.
Wales: First artist to sell out 4 consecutive nights; fastest selling artist in venue history.
South America: First artist ever to play three dates at Sao Paulo’s Allianz Stadium on one tour.
South Africa: Biggest ever and highest grossing tour with 225,000 tickets sold.
Jakarta: Biggest concert in its history.
Kuala Lumpur: Biggest concert in its history.
Hong Kong: Biggest-ever outdoor concerts.
Australia & New Zealand:
Highest ticket sales for a single concert tour in Australia.
Highest ticket sales for a single concert tour in New Zealand.
Biggest stadium tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Austria: First artist who played four stadium shows in one tour and one year
Latvia: Riga show with 50,437 sold tickets was the best ever attended international artist show in Latvia ever, as well as the highest grossing.
Iceland: Most tickets sold at the biggest shows in Iceland’s history with one in seven of the population attending.
Portugal: Most of amount of tickets sold in Portugal’s history by an international artist.
Spain: First and only artist who has sold out the three venues at the Anella Olímpica (Olympic Ring) in Barcelona one after the other – in straight succession.
Czech Republic: Best-selling international artist in the entire history of the Czech Republic with more than 142k tickets sold for his two Prague shows.
Finland: The Helsinki shows on 23 and 24 July 2019 in front of 108,000 fans were the largest concerts ever staged in Finland.