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There's a particular thrill sharing your favorite artist with thousands of other people, all singing along to the hits. Concert tours make big money. Here's a look at history's biggest money-making tours.
There’s a particular thrill sharing your favorite artist with thousands of other people, all singing along to the hits. Of course, in order to get to your seats (or mosh pit, we don’t judge), you have to buy a ticket. Concert tours make big money, particularly for the biggest names in the business.
Whether stadiums or theaters, a well-selling concert tour can go on for several years. And with ticket prices in the hundreds of dollars, it’s easy to see why popular shows make mega bucks.
Here’s a list of the top 10 grossing concert tours of all time, as reported by Billboard and Pollstar. Did you see any of these shows in person? Let us know in the comments, and rock on!
Special Mention: Cirque du Soleil, “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” (2011-2014)
Revenue: $371 million
Number of Shows: 501 shows
While not technically a concert tour, the Canadian performance troupe did outsell several major artists with its tribute to the Gloved One. The first of 2 tribute shows created in honor of Michael Jackson, Cirque traveled around the world for three years and is the most financially-successful show for the company. The second show, “Michael Jackson: One” has been in residence at a Las Vegas casino since 2013.
9. Rolling Stones, “Voodoo Lounge Tour” (1994-1995)
Revenue: $320 million
Number of Shows: 124
The Stones know how to tour, and have for a long time. The Voodoo Lounge Tour is the only concert series from the 1990s in the top 10 grossing tours. These concerts coincided with a new album released under the same name, and eventually a tour DVD. The opening acts from the tour today read as a time capsule from those years: Spin Doctors, Counting Crows, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz, etc.
8. Bruce Springsteen, “Wrecking Ball World Tour”
Revenue: $345 million
Number of Shows: 127
The first tour after the passing of saxophonist Clarence Clemons, the Wrecking Ball tour included some memorable moments for Springsteen et al. After a thunderstorm delayed a concert in his home state of New Jersey for a few hours, he played well into the night before his family members came on stage to celebrate his birthday with a guitar-shaped cake. While playing past curfew is no problem in New Jersey, police in England unplugged The Boss and Paul McCartney for playing a few minutes into the town’s quiet hours ordinance. Also on the Wrecking Ball tour, Springsteen played several benefits for people affected by Hurricane Sandy.
7. The Police, “The Police Reunion Tour” (2007-2008)
Revenue: $362 million
Number of Shows: 156
Another anniversary tour for a legendary British rock band. Sting and his mates in The Police reunited for a world tour to celebrate their 30th anniversary. The tour was announced after the band played at the 49th Grammy Awards. Despite some well-documented rust, the band played to sold-out shows around the world and received critical success. It was the first time The Police had toured since 1986.
6. U2, “Vertigo Tour” (2005-2006)
Revenue: $389 million
Number of Shows: 131
The success of the Vertigo Tour for U2 was documented not in 1 but 3 live show DVDs. Shows in 4 western European cities sold out in less than an hour, and more than 200,000 tickets overall were sold in record time. Like all U2 tours, Vertigo had a unique stage design and multiple configurations of video screens, but the tour was more known for set lists featuring songs that had not been played since the 1980’s.
5. Madonna, “Sticky and Sweet Tour” (2008-2009)
Revenue: $408 million
Number of Shows: 85
The Sticky and Sweet Tour took Madonna around the world to promote her album “Hard Candy.” The tour is still the highest grossing of all time for a female artist. The tour was only planned to have 50-60 dates, but was extended to 85 when an additional European leg was announced. It still has the fewest dates of any tour on this list. Madge performed for more than two hours in designer costumes with 16 dancers and a 12 piece band, delighting her fans and the critics alike.
4. AC/DC, “Black Ice World Tour” (2008-2010)
Revenue: $441 million
Number of Shows: 167
The last tour for founding member Malcolm Young came 8 years after the band’s previous romp around the world. The Aussie rockers were promoting their 15th studio album, “Black Ice,” and visited North America, Europe, Oceania, South America, and Asia. For a short time, the tour was the second-highest grossing of all time, but was bumped down to fourth not long after the tour ended.
3. Roger Waters, “The Wall Live” (2010-2013)
Revenue: $458.7 million
Number of Shows: 219
With the most shows and the longest run on the list, it’s not surprising that The Wall Live was so financially successful. But the tour had to be financially successful to cover the estimated $60 million it took to stage the legendary rock opera. The tour was the first time that the album “The Wall” had been performed live in its entirety since a show in Berlin in 1990.
2. Rolling Stones, “Bigger Bang Tour” (2005-2007)
Number of Shows: 144
Mick, Keith, and the boys return for the third time with their follow-up to the Licks Tour. While ticket prices for The Stones can reach astronomical prices, the tour kickoff at the Phoenix Concert Theater in Toronto treated guests to a surprise show for just $10 cover charge! It’s also estimated that 2 million people showed up for a free concert on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, not to mention the millions of people who saw them perform at halftime of Super Bowl XL in Detroit. The Bigger Bang Tour was the first time the Rolling Stones performed at Radio City Music Hall, as well as the first time they played in China. Also, in San Francisco, Metallica broke their 17-year streak of headlining shows to open two nights for The Stones.
1. U2, “U2 360 Tour” (2009-2011)
Number of Shows: 110
U2 threw out the record books with just about every aspect of the U2 360 tour. The tour, spanning 3 years, broke attendance and sales records by leaps and bounds, as well as records for the largest stage ever created. “The Claw” configuration allowed the band to play in the round (hence the name of the tour), increasing the capacity of the football stadiums they were playing by 15-20%. The speakers, expanding video screen and lighting rig were part of the 167-feet-tall, four-legged, spaceship-looking stage. Three stages were constructed, because set up required at least three days, so some of the crew and a lot of the equipment moved around the world way before the band did. More than 130 crew members toured with the band, and roughly 120 more were hired locally in the cities they played, meaning each show cost roughly $750,000 to put on. The tour was not expected to break even until the end of its second leg! Three sold out shows in their hometown of Dublin in July 2009, and wrapped up the whole tour on July 30, 2011 in Canada as the highest grossing tour of all time.