30 of the top-grossing music tours of all time
A record-setting $10.4 billion was spent in 2018 on concert tickets around the world. Thanks to streaming services and the preference of audiences for singles, album sales are down overall, but it's clear fans are still willing to pay to see their favorite artists in person. And their proximity to the artist doesn’t seem to matter, as ticket sales are up in every venue from intimate clubs to massive stadiums.
Stacker has rounded up 30 of the top-grossing music tours of all time. These tours were largely played in stadiums, but a few included smaller venues. The data have been pulled from a compiled list of sources, and concerts have been ranked by the tour’s gross (adjusted for inflation). While this is not a comprehensive list of all concert tours, it’s the most accurate representation as of January 2019.
Two of the tours on the list are still announcing new dates, so if you want to be part of concert tour history, consider snagging tickets now while you have the chance.
#30. Pink Floyd: A Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $272,863,087
Total tour attendance: 5.50 million
Shows played: 197
The English rock band Pink Floyd formed in 1965. Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright were students when they met and began playing together, but their famous "A Momentary Lapse of Reason” tour didn’t come until much later, toward the end of their time as a group. In fact, Waters had left the band by the time this Pink Floyd tour took place and was replaced by David Gilmour.
#29. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: Magic Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $273,464,451
Total tour attendance: 2.20 million
Shows played: 100
For many an instrumentalist, landing a job with the E Street Band would be a dream come true. The band has backed Bruce Springsteen from his debut album, "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” in 1973, but, contrary to popular belief, they weren’t always Springsteen’s band. They were merely a group of local musicians who came together for a paid gig (the album recording) and then ended up getting enough paid gigs after that (for both Springsteen and other musicians) that it made sense to become a band. From 2007-2008, the band joined Springsteen for a 23-songs-per-set tour that was called "euphoric” and "profound.”
#28. Bon Jovi: Because We Can
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $279,110,786
Total tour attendance: 2.66 million
Shows played: 102
New Jersey band Bon Jovi appeared on the scene in 1980 with big hair and electric smiles. Jon Bon Jovi, David Bryan, Tico Torres, Alec John Such, and Richie Sambora made up the original band, which had hits like "Livin’ on a Prayer” and "You Give Love a Bad Name.” Their "Because We Can” tour was wildly successful, with the group hitting multiple continents, but it was also full of drama, as Sambora quit the band in the middle night, hours before their fourth show.
#27. The Eagles: Long Road Out of Eden Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $288,513,488
Total tour attendance: 2.0 million
Shows played: 155
One of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s, The Eagles (originally composed of Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner) set out on their "Long Road Out of Eden” tour in 2008. The tour coincided with the release of their new album of the same name and featured other artists like The Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban.
#26. Paul McCartney: Out There!
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $291,414,474
Total tour attendance: 1.96 million
Shows played: 84
Ever since his days as a Beatle, Paul McCartney has been wildly popular. In 2013, he embarked on his solo "Out There!” tour, during which he played 91 gigs, sang a total of 3,631 songs (an average of 40 a show)—including 13 that he’d never performed before—and drank zero glasses of water while on stage.
#25. Billy Joel: Billy Joel in Concert
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $301,000,000
Total tour attendance: 2.07 million
Shows played: 120
One of two tours on the list that is still announcing new dates, Billy Joel’s "Billy Joel in Concert” tour so far has booked 16 dates for 2019. While on this tour, Joel has created a sort of residency for himself at Madison Square Garden, playing one show there a month, as long as ticket sales stay high (already six dates at MSG have been announced for 2019). The first artist to do that, Joel also broke the record for solo performances at The Garden, previously held by Sir Elton John, when he played his 65th concert on July 1, 2015.
#24. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: The Rising Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $301,677,551
Total tour attendance: 3.23 million
Shows played: 120
Another wildly popular Bruce Springsteen tour, "The Rising Tour” began a week after the release of Springsteen’s 12th studio album, "The Rising." The album won critical acclaim for how well it captured the feelings and aftermath of 9/11. However, the tour didn’t get off to an equally great start—Rolling Stone called the tour’s opening nights "inhibited," pointing to tech and tonal issues. Eventually, the tour hit its stride, bringing in $300 million over its 14-month run.
#23. One Direction: Where We Are Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $307,106,208
Total tour attendance: 3.44 million
Shows played: 69
After finishing third on "The X Factor” in 2003, Louis Tomlinson, Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, and Liam Payne found almost unprecedented levels of success with One Direction. Winning comparisons to The Beatles for both their popularity and their British origins, their "Where We Are Tour” was the group’s fourth and final tour as a complete band. (Malik left in the spring of 2015.)
#22. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: The River Tour 2016
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $319,972,060
Total tour attendance: 2.67 million
Shows played: 89
Bruce Springsteen went on tour with the E Street Band in 2016 to mark the 35th anniversary of his 1980 EP "The River.” There are a whopping 20 songs on the album, and Springsteen performed it in its entirety at all North American tour stops. That set list, combined with a collection of his classic hits like "Born to Run” and "Thunder Road” meant that many of the shows lasted upwards of three hours. His longest concert ever took place during this tour, clocking in at just over four hours.
#21. Cher: Living Proof: The Farewell Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $320,710,513
Total tour attendance: 3.50 million
Shows played: 326
Cher is known for her extravagant concerts, with multiple costume changes, elaborate sets, dancers, and video montages. "The Farewell Tour” was no exception. When the tour was announced in 2002, Cher claimed that it would be her last (spoiler alert: it wasn’t), and planned a massive, glittery farewell for herself with an incredible 326 stops. While 3.5 million fans were lucky enough to attend the concerts, millions more were able to watch a televised special that won three Emmy Awards.