Taylor Swift took the crown from Queen B as her blockbuster Eras Tour earned her $305 million, more than double what Beyoncé took home for her record-breaking Renaissance Tour.
By Marisa Dellatto, Forbes Staff
“I can’t believe I get to do music as a career,” Taylor Swift said at the Los Angeles premiere of her new concert film, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, before an audience of more than 2,000 Swifties that included Adam Sandler, Mariska Hargitay, Simu Liu, and even Beyoncé. “That’s crazy. I’ve always had so much fun doing it. I’ve never had this much fun in my life as I have had on The Eras Tour. It is far and away just the most electric experience of my life.”
It’s also the most lucrative. Beginning in March and ending in August, Swift played 56 stadium shows across 20 U.S. cities and Mexico City, grossing more than $780 million and earning the 33-year-old pop queen an estimated $305 million.
Spanning nearly two decades and 10 albums, the Eras Tour is more than a retrospective of Swift’s career, it’s also a financial phenomenon. Because of the tremendous economic impact concert tours have on cities, Swift and Beyoncé–who pocked an estimated $145 million from her record-breaking Renaissance World Tour this summer—were credited by Morgan Stanley for adding $5.4 billion to the U.S. economy in the third quarter.
Both superstars will continue to reap millions with the release of their concert movies. Swift’s, which cost a reported $15 million to produce, according to the New York Times, is expected to earn upwards of $125 million at the domestic box office in its opening weekend and another $60 million internationally. Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé, premieres December 1. (Forbes’ estimates in this story do not include potential or pre-sale grosses from the films.)
But not every dollar spent on a tour goes directly into the headliner’s pocket. “When you’re doing tours of this magnitude, you could have a staff of hundreds doing services on the road,” Jarred Arfa, head of global music at Independent Artists Group, which represents Billy Joel and Metallica, among many others, tells Forbes. “The list is never ending.”
The massive scale of a global tour typically includes bandmates, backup singers and dancers, crew members, sound engineers and lighting and stage designers, all of whom move from city to city with the headlining artist. Of course, venues need to be rented, and in the case of stadium superstars, transformed from a field to a stage. On the business side, there’s also a headliner’s manager and agent, as well as the promoter and the ticketing company, all of whom get a cut of the gross revenue.
Higher ticket prices—and Swift’s were estimated to be $253 on average, earning her about $10 to $13 million a night—doesn’t necessarily mean higher take-home pay for an artist. The costs of trucking and freight have increased significantly since the pandemic, and touring internationally typically costs more than putting on shows in the U.S.
For a tour to be profitable, acts have to “gross a significant amount of money across a lot of dates,” Arfa says. And that doesn’t always happen. Miley Cyrus recently claimed she “didn’t make a dime” from her Bangerz Tour in 2014. Which is why sponsorships, like Swift’s deal with Capital One, can help offset the exorbitant costs.
Despite the significant expense of touring, Forbes estimates the top 10 highest-earning musicians have netted more than $1 billion from January 1 to August 31. Other top performers include Ed Sheeran, whose Mathematics tour has earned an estimated $110 million, and Coldplay, who have earned some $85 million so far this year from their Music of the Spheres World Tour; Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, the last of his storied career, ended after five years in July. And those yellow bricks were clearly made of gold John’s became the first tour to gross more than $800 million and then $900 million, to become the highest-grossing tour of all time with a total of $939 million.
Until next year.
The second half of Swift’s Eras Tour will resume in November—with concert dates in Asia and Europe before returning to North America—and when it finishes in 2024, it is expected be the first tour to gross well over a billion dollars.
Here are the top-earning concert tours of 2023 through August.
#1. Taylor Swift
The Eras Tour | No. of shows: 56
2023 Gross: $780 Million | Earnings: $305 Million
Taylor Swift may be doing a mini tour of luxury boxes at Kansas City Chiefs games right now, but for most of the year she was selling out stadiums. An average ticket price of $253 (and Ticketmaster’s crash during the sale) didn’t deter concertgoers: she’s played to more than 3 million adoring fans so far. Some diehard Swifties also waited hours in line for the chance to purchase coveted $75 hoodies—though everyone knows there are plenty of free friendship bracelets to be traded in the stands.
Renaissance World Tour | No. of shows: 46
2023 Gross: $460 Million | Earnings: $145 Million
By the time the Renaissance Tourwrapped up earlier this month, after stops in 12 countries, it grossed $579 million, making it one of the highest-grossing tours in history. For Beyoncé’s 42nd birthday show in Los Angeles in September, she asked concertgoers to wear silver and those in attendance—including Meghan Markle, Chris Rock, Jeff Bezos and Tyler Perry—did as Queen B commanded.
#3. Ed Sheeran
– +–=÷× (Mathematics) Tour | No. of shows: 41
2023 Gross: $240 Million | Earnings: $110 Million
Fittingly, the 2023 leg of Ed Sheeran’s Mathematics tour did big numbers. His pared-down production style and average ticket price of roughly $100 allowed the 32-year-old Sheeran to net a greater portion of ticket sales compared to his superstar competitors. Sheeran started the year in New Zealand before ending the tour in the U.S. Along the way, he broke a record at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, performing in front of more than 77,000 fans.
Music of the Spheres World Tour | No. of shows: 43
2023 Gross: $275 Million | Earnings: $85 Million
For its Music of the Sphere world Tour, eco-conscious Coldplay kept the production as sustainable as possible: The stage was built from reusable materials; the confetti was biodegradable, and the LED wristbands given to fans were compostable. Band members Chris Martin, Johnny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion visited 10 countries this summer in South America and Europe. After a stint in North America, the band will head to Asia and return to Europe in 2024.
Summer Carnival | No. of shows: 37
2023 Gross: $300 Million | Earnings: $85 Million
Only P!nk could perform two tours at once while hanging upside down—this month she took a break from her Summer Carnival tour to start her 20-date Trustfall tour shows. For a musician who famously flies through the air and performs acrobatics during her shows, P!nk also shattered a glass ceiling this year: In August, she became the first woman to headline a stadium concert in Wisconsin.
#6. Harry Styles
Love On Tour | No. of shows: 49
2023 Gross: $227 Million | Earnings: $70 Million
Before music fans were coordinating themed outfits for the Eras and Renaissance tours, they were buying groovy costumes and feather boas for Harry Styles’ Love On Tour. After kicking off in 2021—when it quickly became the most-attended tour of the year—Styles’ love fest finally wrapped up in July. He spent most of 2023 playing to international audiences, first in Oceania, then Asia, before wrapping up in Europe. It concluded with a total gross of $617 million, having sold more than 5 million tickets across 169 shows.
#7. Elton John
Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour | No. of shows: 63
2023 Gross: $195 Million | Earnings: $70 Million
Having toured since the 1970s, the Rocket Man had his final splash down in July. Since 2018, when Farewell Yellow Brick Road began, the 76-year-old John has played 330 shows and worn some 16 Gucci outfits. During John’s last Glastonbury appearance in June drew an A-list crowd, including Paul McCartney, Kate Hudson, Debbie Harry, Anya Taylor-Joy and Lewis Hamilton.
#8. Morgan Wallen
One Night at a Time World Tour | No. of shows: 30
2023 Gross: $190 Million | Earnings: $70 Million
Wallen’s $70 million haul from his One Night at a Time tour would have been higher, but the singer opted to donate $3 from every ticket sold at his U.S. shows to the Morgan Wallen Foundation, which supports sports and music programs for youth. After a brief tour in Oceania, Wallen trekked across the United States. In April, he played to more than 39,000 in two shows at Milwaukee’s American Family Field, a record for the stadium. Last month, Wallen announced he was extending the tour through 2024 with 10 more U.S. shows.
#9. Luke Combs
World Tour | No. of shows: 30
2023 Gross: $125 Million | Earnings: $55 Million
When tickets for Combs’ world tour went on sale last October, the 33-year-old country star instantly sold out 37 of the 39 dates. With an average ticket price of $97, Combs’ fans don’t have to break the bank to see him perform. After wrapping up the 17-country tour this month, he will hit the road again in April for Growin’ Up and Gettin’ Old, a North American stadium tour.
#10. The Weeknd
After Hours til Dawn Tour | No. of shows: 30
2023 Gross: $158 Million | Earnings: $55 Million
After riding out a delay because of the pandemic and bringing the tour to the United States last year, The Weeknd’s post-apocalyptic After Hours til Dawn tour kicked off its European leg in June. He played to 160,000 people over two nights at London Stadium, breaking the arena’s single- and two-night record, and broke the record for most tickets sold for a traditional concert at Wembley Stadium. The tour is currently in South America and will head to Oceania later this year.
Figures represent 2023 pretax earnings from January 1 to August 31, minus fees for representation—managers, lawyers, agents—and tour operating costs. Sources include data from Billboard and Pollstar, as well as interviews with industry experts and analysts.
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