In the digital age, touring has proven to be the most lucrative option for musicians aiming to not only make a living off their music but to rake in the big bucks. The artists on this list have made their tours larger-than-life with huge arenas and mind-blowing audio and visual effects that sell-out shows. Some of these musicians are young, some are legendary, and they’re all earning hundreds of millions of dollars on tour.
This list will make you want to quit your day job and hit the road.
Taking Chances World Tour – Celine Dion
Celine Dion is one of the most successful Canadian born pop singers of all time. Active since 1980, it was a little over two decades before Dion set out on her Taking Chances World Tour. The tour began in 2008 and ended up bringing in a ton of dough.
It was her first tour after taking an extended break and the ticket sales proved that her fans needed more Dion in their lives. After inflation, the tour grossed an incredible $326,058,136. Dion’s tour director Jamie King was also behind Madonna’s Confession’s World Tour.
The Joshua Tree Tour – U2
Initially released in March 1987, U2’s The Joshua Tree album was a massive success and ended up earning the band a Grammy for Album of the Year. The band toured to promote the album not once, but twice.
They toured in 1987, then fast-forward 30 years later, U2 took the album on tour yet again in 2017. As it turns out, it was a smart move. The Irish rock band grossed $329,889,628 from the 30th-anniversary tour, which fans embraced with open arms.
The MDNA Tour – Madonna
In 2012, Madonna performed an incredible 88 sold-out shows on the MDNA Tour, proving that a lot of time and hard work go into making millions on the road. MDNA was her 12th studio album and her ninth concert tour. MDNA grossed $305.2 million but it also had its share of controversy.
Each show opened up with a cathedral backdrop as biblical scriptures came blasting through the speakers with men dressed as monks filling the stage. Not only that but towards the end of the show, Madonna pulled out a fake gun to “shoot” multiple people, something members of the audience weren’t too cool with.
Reputation Stadium Tour – Taylor Swift
After starting her career as a country artist, Taylor Swift quickly became one of the biggest pop stars in the world. Since 2006, she’s released a handful of albums, but her sixth LP, Reputation, is where the money was on tour.
The Reputation Stadium Tour hit the road in 2018 and Swift earned a whopping $345,700,000 from her incredible performance in 53 shows. She brought her fans fresh music, only performing a few songs from other albums, focusing on her new music on the Reputation album.
Wrecking Ball World Tour – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Bruce Springsteen has had an incredible career and has toured an incredible 17 times. The most successful of all of them was touring in 2012-2013 with the E Street Band on the Wrecking Ball World Tour.
Together they performed 136 shows and racked up $415,280,347 in the process. It was his first tour in three years and also his most attended. Sometimes, breaks work in your favor.
Coming in hot is one band that’ll more than likely see more than once on this list…
Bridges to Babylon Tour – The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones have a reputation of being one of the greatest rock n roll bands in history, and a lot of that is attributed to their live shows. By the time the Bridges to Babylon Tour arrived, they were already on their 23rd album.
After 23 albums, your fan base should be quite extensive. As a result, The Stones brought home $421,181,298. And to think, they still go on tour today, so their bank accounts should be flooding with the green.
Reunion Tour: The Police
Sometimes a reunion tour is all you need to get things back to how they used to be. Unsurprisingly, The Police’s Reunion Tour ended up grossing more than any other during their heyday. $421,251,623 is quite the load!
From 2007-2008, The Police proved that we don’t know what we have until it’s gone. An incredible 3.30 million fans attended 156 shows on the tour, which is insane. Many of the sets started off with their classic song “Message in a Bottle.”
The Division Bell Tour – Pink Floyd
In 110 shows, Pink Floyd managed to gross $422,597,665 during The Division Bell Tour in 1994. It would be their final tour and fans didn’t want to miss out. Out of their founding members, Nick Mason and Richard Wright took the stage.
Wright and Mason were accompanied by David Gilmour and eight other artists who filled the void left behind by Syd Barrett and Roger Waters. Six million people showed up to these final performances.
Licks Tour – The Rolling Stones
In a clever move, The Rolling Stones celebrated their 40th anniversary by releasing their first compilation album featuring their most beloved songs. They titled it, Forty Licks. While on this year-long tour, they performed songs mainly from the album but sprinkled in a few of their favorites.
Overall, they grossed $423,574,349 in 115 days. That’s a lot of money to make in less than half of a year of performing. After 40 years on the job, they deserved it.
Up next, a tour with a very suggestive name from an unpredictable lady!
Sticky And Sweet Tour – Madonna
Madonna graces the list yet again. After 11 albums, Madonna had done eight tours with Sticky and Sweet being the eighth and highly profitable one. The album she toured with was called Hard Candy, so this tour name isn’t as suggestive as it seems when you look at it that way.
Still, that could have helped influence the 3.55 million fans who showed up to watch the Queen of Pop perform in 2008-2009 during the 85-show tour. Surprisingly, this is one of her least controversial tours ever.
Vertigo Tour – U2
During U2’s Vertigo Tour, the band made the decision to film their shows. The tour was a massive success, grossing $483,515,954 while simultaneously shooting footage during the 131-show tour.
That’s what you call killing two birds with one stone. The Vertigo Tour hit the road in 2005-2006 and spawned the live show recordings, Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago, Vertigo: Live from Milan, and U2 3D. Bono’s net worth is estimated at $700 million– this band means business.
The Wall Live – Roger Waters
The deeper we get into this list, the more these stars are making off of their music tours. Roger Waters went on a three-year-long tour starting in 2010. During that time, he played 219 shows and brought in $493,336,432.
The Wall Live Tour has been called “one of the most ambitious and complex rock shows ever staged.” It looks like one of the founding members of Pink Floyd knew how to put on a performance. This is also the first time The Wall was played in its entirety.
Black Ice World Tour – AC/DC
Australian brothers Malcolm and Angus Young started AC/DC in 1973. A few decades later, they embarked on one of the highest grossing tours ever with the Black Ice World Tour which lasted from 2008 through 2010. It was so massive, a total of 4.85 million people flooded the stadiums throughout 167 shows.
AC/DC brought in $506,821,305 during this run, despite their biggest album topping charts years earlier in 1983. That’s what we like to call greatness.
World Tour – Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
From 2014-2017, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood embarked on their World Tour. During that span, 4.74 million fans attended their shows for 390 performances. That’s an insane amount of shows!
It only makes sense that this tour hit the list as one of the highest grossing music tours in history. Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood amassed $364,300,000 on tour after adjustment for inflation. Unlike Taylor Swift, the duo performed many of their classic hit songs, which proved to be a success.
Voodoo Lounge Tour – The Rolling Stones
For nearly a decade, The Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge Tour was their top grossing tour, despite the band performing together for 30 years. That’s quite the impressive feat when you think about their past tours.
The Voodoo Lounge Tour grossed $526,158,550 between 1994-1995. They performed 124 shows to pull this off and had a total of 6.34 million people purchase tickets. This was the first tour after bandmate Bill Wyman walked away. The Stones replaced him with Darryl Jones.
A Head Full Of Dreams Tour – Coldplay
When the music guru Chris Martin is the frontman in your band, you can bet that tours are going to be long and bring in a lot of cash. Almost every person who enjoys music has heard at least a snippet of Coldplay’s breakthrough single, “Yellow.”
After six tours, it was their profits from their 2016-2017 tour that became one of the highest grossing in music history. The tour even allowed them to release their only live album Live in Buenos Aires, which they recorded at the final show.
This next tour isn’t slated to end until August 2019 but it’s already one of the top grossing tours ever…
÷ Tour – Ed Sheeran
It might have appeared that Ed Sheeran shot into the limelight rather fast, but he was anything but an overnight success. Once Sheeran made a splash in mainstream music, he just stayed there and never looked back. As a result, he’s locked in his spot as one of the top tour earners of all-time.
Sheeran’s ÷ Tour has already made him $556,500,000 with shows running through August 2019. The tour began in 2017, with the possibility of more shows being added.
Not In This Lifetime… Tour – Guns N’ Roses
Now we’re starting to get to the big bucks! If it weren’t for Guns N’ Roses in the mid-’80s, rock and roll wouldn’t be what it is today. The band meshed together elements of classic rock and metal, and rock was never the same again.
Guns N’ Roses brought something completely new to the industry. Roughly three decades later, they went on their Not in This Lifetime… Tour that grossed $563,300,000 between 2016-2018. It also helps that this tour was the first time that McKagan, Slash, and Rose shared the stage after 20 years.
A Bigger Bang Tour – The Rolling Stones
Up until 2011, The Rolling Stones held the title of the top-grossing tour. Their A Bigger Bang Tour grossed $674,547,559 between 2005-2007. With nearly five million people going to see them across 144 shows, we’re surprised they didn’t make more than that!
A funny story, midway through the tour, they took a month-long break and vacationed in Fiji. While their, Keith Richards fell out of a coconut tree and landed on his head. He had suffered a concussion but he said he only spent a few days in the hospital. It was later reported that he had brain surgery to remove a blood clot thanks to the fall.
360º Tour – U2
One would imagine that $600 million+ would be tough to top, but the boys over at U2 said: “hold my beer.” Starting in 2009 and coming to a conclusion in 2011, U2’s 360º Tour brought home the bacon with $820,194,986.
Not only do they have the title for the highest-grossing tour, but their October 25, 2009 show at the Rose Bowl also holds the record for the highest attendance with over 97,000 screaming and shouting.