After more than two years of no concert appearances by music’s biggest stars due to COVID-19, artists have again begun to schedule tours. Taylor Swift, one of the most awarded singers in history, for instance, announced her “Eras” tour, her first since 2018, and fans went wild – so much so that Ticketmaster had to shut down due to historically unprecedented demand.
Though Swift may be the artist whose upcoming tour is the most anticipated in the months to come, she doesn’t come close to the top when it comes to the most popular touring musicians in modern history – or at least the most popular since concert touring became the norm.
Ever since digital streaming services change the way people consume music starting in the early 2000s, live performances have become increasingly lucrative. But even before concert tickets started going for hundreds of dollars each, popular groups – especially rock bands – made millions by going on world tours. (These are the most popular rock bands of all time.)
To determine the biggest touring artists of the last 40 years, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on concert ticket sales from live music trade publication Pollstar. Musical acts were ranked based on total tickets sold since Pollstar began tracking concert ticket sales data in 1981. Data on total concert gross since 1981 also came from Pollstar. Data on certified U.S. album unit sales came from the Recording Industry Association of America and is current as of November 2022.
Data used to determine the top charting song for each artist came from Billboard magazine and is based on a customized score wherein a week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 is worth 100 points, a week at No. 2 worth 99 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 100 worth one point. A similar system was used to determine the top charting album for each artist on the Billboard 200 00 points, a week at No. 2 worth 99 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 100 worth one point. Chart data is current through the week of November 19, 2022. (These are the 20 biggest pop hits of the last 20 years.)
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