SHAPE OF MONEY

Taylor Swift sold $345 million in concert tickets this year—Ed Sheeran beat that

Box-office champ.
Box-office champ.
Image: AP/Charles Sykes
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Taylor Swift had an incredibly successful touring year. In 2018, she grossed $345 million in tickets sales to her concerts, according to the music-industry publication Pollstar.

Ed Sheeran had her beat.

The British singer grossed $432 million, easily breaking the record for the largest haul ever in a calendar year—set last year by U2’s $316-million gross in 2017. At $254 million, Beyonce and Jay-Z were number three. (Pollstar’s revenue numbers are for Nov. 23 2017 to Nov. 21 2018 and are not adjusted for inflation).

In an age of elaborate concert staging and production, Sheeran is known for his comparatively intimate approach. The “Shape of You” singer plays to stadiums with his only props an acoustic guitar, microphone and looping equipment—no backing band or intricate light show needed.

Though Sheeran generated more total concert revenue in 2018, Swift actually made more money for each  concert at $9.6 million per show compared to his $8.2 million. She just had fewer of them. Her comparatively high per-show revenues are likely a result of her decision to fight scalpers by setting high prices for buyers that could not prove to TicketMaster they were fans.

While Swift is no slouch, Sheeran won the year by being an absolutely tireless performer, playing 94 shows across the world, almost twice as many of Swift’s 53. Among the top 10 grossing performers, Sheeran’s average ticket price of about $89 was actually the lowest—far below bands like the Eagles and the Rolling Stones, who played shorter tours. It seems likely that Sheeran will be among the very top grossing performers next year as well, as his “Divide Tour” continues through August.

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