I admit I was surprised to hear this: Ed Sheeran is about to break the record for the most money any artist has ever made on a single tour.
His current tour, called Divide, launched in 2017 and runs through an August 26 show near London. By then, he will have made a total of $750 million according to projections by to Neil Shah at the Wall Street Journal. That will be enough to break the $735 million record currently held by U2 for a tour between 2009 and 2011.
It's an impressive milestone. But even more impressive is the way Sheeran has pulled this off--a simple series of steps that will inspire anyone who wants to achieve success in their field.
Right at the top is a simple strategy that no other artist seems to be able to pull off. In fact, most do the opposite.
Two numbers: 94 and 260
He's the amazing thing: Sheeran is about to break the record for most money on a tour despite charging significantly less for tickets--and bringing in considerably less money per show-- than most other top performers.
The difference that works to his advantage is the other side of the equation: the sheer number of nights he takes the stage.
For example, the Journal's Shah reports that during 2018, Sheeran charged an average ticket price of $89. While that's not exactly peanuts, it's considerably less than other big artists.
Compare him to Drake, whose shows cost an average of $116 per ticket last year, or Jay-Z and Beyonce would have cost you $117 on average,
Taylor Swift charged $119 on average, U2 charged $132, and septuagenarian bands like The Rolling Stones and The Eagles charged $155 and $172 per ticket, respectively.
However, Sheeran simply took the stage more often: 94 shows during 2018.
Those other performers we mentioned? They had 48, 52, 59, 14, and 53 shows each.
Overall, Sheeran's Divide tour had 260 dates scheduled -- with just six that I can find canceled during the two-year calendar.
He canceled once because of crowd control concerns (a show in St. Louis the same day as a highly controversial court verdict), four shows after Sheeran broke his arm in an biking accident, and once at an outdoor venue in Hong Kong, because of a lightning storm.
The authenticity card
Besides keeping ticket prices down and performing more often, there are at least four factors contributing to his popularity, according to Shah:
- Image: "To millennials and Gen Z, Ed is the real deal--the most authentic artist of their time. He's cute, but his tatted-up arms make him just dangerous enough," Lori Majewski, co-host of the "Feedback" show on SiriusXM's Volume channel, told the Journal.
- Anti-scalping efforts: Sheeran's team reportedly puts a lot of emphasis on canceling tickets that seem, based on an algorithm, to have been purchased in bulk in order to scalp them.
- Giveaways: During at least some shows last year, Sheeran reportedly didn't sell front-row tickets, and instead gave away the seats to concert-goers who had purchased seats in the nosebleeds, or who were waiting outside and didn't even have tickets.
- Lower production goals: This is actually a two-sided weapon. Sheeran's on-stage act is really just him with a guitar. This means there's less to break down and set up, which makes it easier to play more shows.
Takeaways for everyone else
I don't pretend to be a giant Sheeran fan myself. I like what I've heard, but let's just say I'm not exactly in his main target demo (40 percent of his fans are girls and women between 13 and 34).
But I find a lot of inspiration in reading his story -- takeaways that I think just about anyone could follow to achieve success in whatever field they care most about.
Pick one or two things that really resonate with fans -- or customers -- and do them over and over and over.
Treat the people who turn out to see you -- or who pay you for your products -- as if they were royalty.
And don't be afraid to be authentic and transparent with them. People connect most readily with other people -- not corporate brands.