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Ed Sheeran breaks touring revenue record, despite charging less

By | Published on Wednesday 19 December 2018

Ed Sheeran

No surprises that Ed Sheeran has scored the highest grossing tour of 2018. But hey, here’s another stat for you from the end-of-year maths US live industry mag Pollstar presented earlier this week. Sheeran’s tour income for the year is the highest scored by any one artist in any one year since Pollstar started counting such things 30 years ago. He also sold more tickets in a single year than anyone has ever managed to do before.

Since the start of this year, Sheeran has raked in over $432 million from touring, selling 4.8 million tickets. It’s not the highest grossing tour of all time – that record belongs to U2’s ‘360’ tour, which pulled in $736 million and sold over seven million tickets – but it also took two full years to do so.

The previous holder of the record for the highest gross revenue in a single year was also U2. Their 2017 touring activity brought in $316 million, a whole 37% less than Sheeran managed just a year later.

“A very good manager friend of mine said, ‘can you fuck off please because you’re making me look really bad'”, Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp tells Pollstar. “He was trying to sell an arena tour for his act that wasn’t going well. He was like, ‘just piss off’. In a good way, but you get what he was saying: ‘Will you just go away and give people a chance’. But we’re not doing it for ego, that literally was the demand. And we could have played a lot more, there just wasn’t a big enough window”.

The financial success of the tour also highlights something else. While other artists attempt to boost income by selling high price VIP ticket packages and meet and greet opportunities, Sheeran does none of this. His average ticket price is considerably lower than that of other top selling acts, and he doesn’t charge for any fan-meeting sessions he takes part in. It will be interesting to see if Sheeran’s massive haul, despite all this, has any effect on the pricing of other tours.

Of course, having a relatively simple set-up – appearing on stage with just a guitar and a loop pedal – Sheeran also gets to keep more of that money than most other acts would. Maybe next time U2 tour it’ll just be Bono and a ukulele.