Live music used to be the only kind there was. The earliest recorded example is thought to be a rendering of the French folk song “Au Clair de la Lune,” captured by a Parisian printer and bookseller around 1860 on a device he called the phonautograph. The first 78 record appeared in the late 19th century, and then came 45s, LPs, eight-track tapes, cassettes, CDs, and so on — and the next thing you knew, all those tunes were floating around somewhere in cyberspace just waiting for us to stream them.
The convenience and virtually endless variety of recorded music, no matter how we may access it, is something nobody is likely to want to give up — but there’s something about seeing your favorite performer in person that transcends mere audio: the sense of community at a concert, the chance to watch musicians actually making their magic in real time, the unexpected new material or surprise guests, even the mistakes (which can make the music seem all the more genuine).
There are very few genres that anyone living in or near a major American city can’t enjoy today, including classical (including opera), jazz, folk, world music, and more. But the events that draw the really big crowds are mostly performances by rock or pop artists, and virtually all the acts on our list of the most popular musicians touring this year fall into one of those two categories.
Concert ticket sales in North America have soared over the past decade or so. In 2007, Americans and Canadians spent a combined $3.9 billion to hear live music. By 2017, the amount had more than doubled to $8 billion. (The most successful tour of 2017 was U2’s, which sold more than 1.5 million tickets and grossed over $176 million.)
Clearly, we sometimes prefer our music in the flesh instead of in the cloud.
To identify the 100 most popular musicians on tour in 2019, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on the weighted average of the number of fans tracking an artist’s tour dates on live music-tracking site Songkick as well as the average daily number of visits to the artist’s Wikipedia page over the past 24 months (as of Jan. 3, 2019). To be considered for the ranking, an artist or band needed to currently have scheduled tour dates in the United States and have at least 200,000 fans tracking them on Songkick.
Songkick is a concert listings aggregator that collects listings from sources including all major ticket vendors, smaller vendors, local listings, and more. Artists and their managers can also manage their own listings on the site. The “total number of shows” for each artist comes from Songkick and contains both international and domestic events. Some artists may add to or remove events from their schedule that are not reported by Songkick. However, the number of shows listed is the best approximation at the time the data was collected (Jan. 8, 2019). Each artist’s most recent album refers to their most recent full-length studio album.