30 of the top-grossing music tours of all time
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.
#20. Celine Dion: Taking Chances World Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $326,058,136
Total tour attendance: 2.60 million
Shows played: 132
Celine Dion’s "Taking Chances World Tour” marked her return to the touring circuit after taking an extended break for her first Las Vegas residency, "A New Day...” The tour was directed by Jamie King, who also directed Madonna’s "Confessions World Tour,” and included lots of new material from Dion’s album "Taking Chances,” as well as several of her classics like "My Heart Will Go On” and "The Prayer.”
#19. U2: The Joshua Tree Tour 2017
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $329,889,628
Total tour attendance: 2.71 million
Shows played: 51
On a crisp fall afternoon in Dublin in 1976, Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. gathered in Mullen’s kitchen and decided to form a band: U2. A half-dozen albums later, U2 released "The Joshua Tree” in 1987, which won them the Grammy for Album of the Year and spawned two of their most classic tracks, "With or Without You” and "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” In 2017, marking the 30th anniversary of their landmark album, the group embarked on their "Joshua Tree Tour,” in which they played the entire song list in order every night.
#18. Madonna: The MDNA Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $333,024,687
Total tour attendance: 2.21 million
Shows played: 88
In 2012, Madonna’s "MDNA Tour,” which followed the release of her 12th studio album of the same name, was the highest-grossing tour of the year. It didn't come without controversy, though. The tour opened on a cathedral backdrop with biblical scriptures booming from the speakers and men dressed as monks filling the stage, before quickly shifting into Madonna’s #1 hits "Girl Gone Wild” and "Material Girl.” Later in the show, Madonna pulled out a fake gun and "shot” multiple people, a move that didn’t go over well with some audience members.
#17. Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $345,700,000
Total tour attendance: 2.89 million
Shows played: 53
Taylor Swift began her career as a country artist; her self-titled debut hit shelves in 2006 and was full of twangy guitar and fiddle interludes. These days, she’s very much a pop artist, and her sixth studio album, "Reputation,” proves it. The accompanying tour, which lasted for a large portion of 2018, also proved that she has a massive fan base whose members go to great lengths to support her. Swift's sets primarily came from the "Reputation,” album with only one or two classics mixed in.
#16. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood: World Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $364,300,000
Total tour attendance: 4.74 million
Shows played: 390
Unlike Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks is a huge believer in playing the old stuff. The "Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood: World Tour” is a perfect example of that. Married in 2005, the country music powerhouses teamed up for this three-year-long party, singing hits from both of their solo repertoires, as well as some of their fan-favorite duets like "In Another’s Eyes.”
#15. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: Wrecking Ball World Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $415,280,347
Total tour attendance: 3.65 million
Shows played: 136
The final Bruce Springsteen tour on this list, the "Wrecking Ball World Tour” has been Springsteen’s most successful tour to date. Grossing over $400 million, the tour was his first in three years (a long break for the Boss) and his most heavily attended of all time.
#14. The Rolling Stones: Bridges to Babylon Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $421,181,298
Total tour attendance: N/A
Shows played: 108
Closing in on six decades of being "the greatest rock & roll band in the world,” the Rolling Stones are one of the oldest bands still performing today. Announced at a news conference held under the Brooklyn Bridge, the Stones’ "Bridges to Babylon” tour supported their album of the same name—their 23rd U.S. studio album.
#13. The Police: Reunion Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $421,251,623
Total tour attendance: 3.30 million
Shows played: 156
Proving that we often don’t know a good thing ‘til it’s gone, The Police’s reunion tour grossed more than any of their heyday tours. The band reunited for 156 shows, playing their final show at Madison Square Garden. Most nights of the tour opened with their classic hit "Message in a Bottle,” but the August 2008 show began with Cream’s "Sunshine of Your Love”—a moving tribute to the band who had played their own final show at MSG years prior. The last song the band played live together? "Next to You.” That was the first song on their 1978 debut LP.
#12. Pink Floyd: The Division Bell Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $422,597,665
Total tour attendance: 6.0 million
Shows played: 110
When Pink Floyd played their final tour in 1994, only two of the band’s founding members (Nick Mason and Richard Wright) took the stage. They were joined by David Gilmour, who became an official member in the late 1980s, and eight other musicians who filled the holes left by Syd Barrett and Roger Waters. This final tour was run in conjunction with the release of the group’s final album, "The Division Bell.”
#11. The Rolling Stones: Licks Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $423,574,349
Total tour attendance: 3.47 million
Shows played: 115
To mark their 40th anniversary, the Rolling Stones released their first compilation album, "Forty Licks,” which featured 40 of their most popular and beloved songs. They also went on a year-long tour, primarily playing the songs on the compilation, but sprinkling in a handful of other band favorites.
#10. Madonna: Sticky & Sweet Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $476,474,639
Total tour attendance: 3.55 million
Shows played: 85
Her eighth tour supporting her 11th album "Hard Candy,” the "Sticky & Sweet” tour was Madonna’s least controversial tour. Known for gimmicks like simulated masturbation or hanging from a cross, the "Sticky & Sweet” tour had none of that. It did include an impressive array of the pop diva’s most famous hits from her 30-year career, as well as some iconic dance moves, but it was perhaps the pop star’s most family-friendly tour ever.
#9. U2: Vertigo Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $483,515,954
Total tour attendance: 4.62 million
Shows played: 131
Concert films have become a major trend over the last several decades, and U2’s "Vertigo” tour was no exception. The tour, whose set list leaned heavily on the band’s most recent release "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” spurred three concert films: "Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago,” "Vertigo: Live from Milan,” and "U2 3D.”
#8. Roger Waters: The Wall Live
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $493,336,432
Total tour attendance: 4.13 million
Shows played: 219
Roger Waters, a founding member of Pink Floyd, embarked on a solo career in the mid-1980s. His tour "The Wall Live” has been called "one of the most ambitious and complex rock shows ever staged.” It also marked the first time that "The Wall” had been played in its entirety since a one-off performance beside the (fallen) Berlin Wall in 1990.
#7. AC/DC: Black Ice World Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $506,821,305
Total tour attendance: 4.85 million
Shows played: 167
In 1973, Australian brothers Malcolm and Angus Young founded AC/DC. They didn’t stay a duo for long, swiftly being joined, and left, by a variety of other musicians. Their biggest album, "For Those About to Rock, We Salute You,” topped charts in 1983, but in 2008 they were still going strong. Their "Black Ice World Tour” was significant for being the last full tour of longtime vocalist Brian Johnson.
#6. The Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $526,158,550
Total tour attendance: 6.34 million
Shows played: 124
For close to a decade, and through several of their other tours, the "Voodoo Lounge” tour was the Rolling Stones’ top-grossing tour. It’s a particularly impressive feat when you consider that the band, which by this time had been performing together for 30 years, had just lost a member. Bill Wyman walked away from the band, saying that he was tired of touring and would no longer continue playing with the group. Beginning with the "Voodoo” tour, Wyman was replaced with the group’s current bassist, Darryl Jones.
#5. Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $546,023,369
Total tour attendance: 5.39 million
Shows played: 114
No matter your personal taste in music, it’s highly probable that you know Coldplay’s breakthrough single, "Yellow,” which climbed the charts in 2000. The British pop-rock band, fronted by Chris Martin, has had a series of wildly successful albums over the past two decades. In 2016–2017, their tour "A Head Full of Dreams” became one of the top-grossing tours of all time, showing just how big an influence the group has had on the music scene. The tour also spawned the group’s only live album "Live in Buenos Aires,” recorded at the final show.
#4. Ed Sheeran: '÷' Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $556,500,000
Total tour attendance: 6.39 million
Shows played: 205
Year(s): 2017– present
British-born pop singer Ed Sheeran released his debut album "+” in 2011, and it instantly won him millions of fans. In a genius move, he signed with Elton John’s management team the same year, and the rest, as they say, is history. His third album "÷” was released in 2017, and the album’s tour began the same year. The tour has been far and away Sheeran’s best. So many fans are still demanding to see him that there are regular shows scheduled until August 2019, with the possibility of adding even more dates.
#3. Guns N' Roses: Not in This Lifetime... Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $563,300,000
Total tour attendance: 4.38 million
Shows played: 159
By the mid-1980s, the rock and roll scene had begun to feel a little stale. Nothing new, or exciting, or experimental had popped up in a number of years. But in 1985, that all changed when Guns N’ Roses hit the stage. Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler mixed elements of classic rock with metal undertones and slasher influences and brought something totally new to the industry. However, in 1993, the band began to splinter. Their "Not in This Lifetime…” tour marked the first time in over two decades that Rose, Slash, and McKagan shared a stage—something fans were clearly excited to see.
#2. The Rolling Stones: A Bigger Bang Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $674,547,559
Total tour attendance: 4.68 million
Shows played: 144
For a few years, the Rolling Stones held the title for the top-grossing tour of all time thanks to their "A Bigger Bang” tour. Avid Stones fans claim that this is the group’s best tour, but it’s also one that almost didn’t happen. Midway through the tour, the Stones took a month-long break. While on vacation with his wife in Fiji, Keith Richards took a hard fall out of a coconut tree and suffered a major concussion. Richards said he only "spent a couple of days” in the hospital; it later came out that he’d actually had brain surgery to remove a blood clot resulting from the fall.
#1. U2: 360º Tour
Tour gross (adjusted for inflation): $820,194,986
Total tour attendance: 7.27 million
Shows played: 110
The honor for top-grossing music tour of all time is held by U2. And this tour was big. Not only did the tour break the record for the highest-grossing tour, but the band’s Oct. 25, 2009 date at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, also holds the record for the highest attendance at a single concert with over 97,000 people. In addition, U2 had a stage set that was 164 feet high that accompanied them to every venue—twice the height of the previous stage set record.