2012 has been a huge year for musical tours. From Radiohead to Refused Australia has seen its fair share of some of the world’s best stage spectaculars. But have you ever wondered just how much your favourite musicians are making from playing to devoted audiences night after night? NME recently released the list of the highest grossing tours of the year and there were more than a few surprises. Take a look at the top 20.

2012 has been a huge year for musical tours. From Radiohead to Refused Australia has seen its fair share of some of the world's best stage spectaculars. But have you ever wondered just how much your favourite musicians are making from playing to devoted audiences night after night? NME recently released the list of the highest grossing tours of the year and there were more than a few surprises. Take a look at the top 20.
Justin Bieber ($30 million)
It’s a testament to just how hideously popular this teen sensation is that he’s managed to find his way into highest grossing tour list after just two and a half months on the road. The Believe tour started on September 29th, and is booked until August next year. Luckily, there are no Aussie dates pending….yet.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra ($30 million)
This American progressive hard rock band continue their trend as being one of the biggest concert draws of the twenty first century with an American tour billed as ‘Rock Theatre’, entitled Beethoven’s Last Night. A progressive rock band performing a theatre spectacle with an intricate plot about the ol’ Ludwig. Um, what?
Elton John ($32 million)
What a busy boy. His Greatest Hits tour spanned from February 2011 and wrapped up in September this year. Then the old boy barely had enough to time to blow his nose before embarking on the 40th Anniversary of Rocket Man tour which started in November 2012 and will stretch ‘til the end of next year. This most recent tour saw him touching down in Australia in November, including a show with Pnau in Sydney to celebrate Pnau’s reworking of John’s back catalogue on the album Good Morning to the Night .
Nickelback ($33 million)
Despite protests through online petitions and magazine articles, the world’s most hated band managed to stampede across the globe from April right through to December. It even touched down in Australia last month. Considering how many people hate Nickelback, it’s pretty amazing that they managed to sell out stadium shows in Sydney and Melbourne. Twice.
Brad Paisley ($33 million)
The American country giant resumed his Virtual Reality tour for Summer in the States, and managed to sell out stadiums across the South from May to October, earning him enough to purchase his own Cowboy Hat store (we presume).
Red Hot Chili Peppers ($33 million)
The Chili’s I’m With You world tour will see them touring the country headlining the Big Day Out Festival in January, followed by two shows in Africa and four more shows in Mexico and Guatemala before the entire tour is wrapped up. With the inclusion of Africa, this world tour will have travelled to every continent aside from Antarctica, with a total of 131 shows. It’s the first tour with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, and while the album I’m With You hasn’t performed so well, the Chili’s still manage to be one of the biggest concert draws on the planet.
Lady Antebellum ($38 million)
Seriously, never underestimate the power of country music. Lady Antebellum are a country-pop band from Nashville, Tennessee. They’ve won multiple Grammy awards, and their Own The Night tour saw them hit Aussie shores for seven dates in September. They’ve also just released their first Christmas album, called On This Winter’s Night .
Jason Aldean ($39 million)
Who? He’s another country music singer, and country is huge in America, hence why Keith Urban is a host on American Idol. Anyway, Aldean played a bunch of stadiums during his My Kinda Party tour and his fans obviously dug it because the tour garnered him a place on the list.
Barbra Streisand ($40 million)
Coming in at number twelve with a tour featuring only twelve shows, is Barbra Streisand. People must have paid through the hilt to see Babs play eight shows in the States and four shows in Canada. Bloody interesting stuff, right?
Dave Matthews Band ($41 million)
While DMB can’t boast a massive fanbase in Australia, they manage to bank every American summer thanks to the flock of ‘bros’ who attend their stadium shows across the US. Their 2012 summer tour was no different, and managed to secure the band a hefty wad of cash ahead of releasing their newest album Away from the World in September.
Andre Rieu ($46 million)
The middle-aged violin player is regarded by many a-housewife to be the definition of cool. So if you define cool as shooting lasers out of an orchestra pit (yes, he seriously does this), then jump on board Rieu’s next tour.
Jay-Z & Kanye West ($46 million)
The highest grossing hip-hop tour of 2012 started back in October last year in support of Jay-Z and Kanye’s collaboration album. Originally planned for just 23 shows in the United States, the tour was expanded to 57 shows across the US, Canada and Europe. The tour brought together songs from their joint record as well as some of the pair’s classics, from ’99 Problems’ to ‘Jesus Walks’, ‘Empire State of Mind’ to ‘Runaway’. The real highlight of the set came when the pair would launch into ‘Niggas in Paris’, which they’d perform multiple times. It began with three rounds of the song, and reached a record of eleven when they performed it in Paris. Go figure.
Van Halen ($54 million)
Despite almost half of the shows being cancelled without too much word as to why, Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth tour still managed to be one of 2012’s biggest money makers. The tour came on the back of Van Halen’s first album since 1998, and first album with singer David Lee Roth since 1984; so it’s little wonder people flocked in droves to see them. The band also managed to cripple Aussie spirits, promising shows here in October before quickly reneging on them. Nice one boys!
Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw ($96 million)
The two American country superstars joined forces for a mere 22 dates across the American South, and still managed to be one of the highest grossing concert draws in the world. With hits like ‘Keg In The Closet’ and ‘She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy’, who could possibly resist?
Lady Gaga ($124 million)
Her Born This Way Ball world tour managed to hit every continent on Earth except Antarctica, with Gaga dressing up as an alien, sonically simulating giving birth before busting out of an inflatable vagina, and being lowered into a meat grinder; you know, art. It went over well in Australia too with Gaga managing to sell out Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne five times over; her Aussie leg banking a cool $24 million. The shows were met with critical praise as well, with many critics claiming that the true highlights were when Gaga dropped the spectacle and played songs unaccompanied on the piano.
Coldplay ($147 million)
Despite the Australian leg of their Mylo Xyloto tour being overshadowed by the parallel world tour of Radiohead (leading Chris Martin to admit that Coldplay have long resigned themselves to being a “shit Radiohead”), we’re sure that earning $23 million from just four Aussie shows makes that resignation much easier. The band wraps up the 86-show strong world tour in New York on New Year’s Eve with Jay Z. Having banked $147 million on the back of the tour, it seems as good a time as any to announce a hiatus with the group announcing they’re taking a three year break starting 2013.
Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour by Cirque Du Soleil ($147 million)
The King of Pop may no longer be around, but thanks to a collaboration between Cirque Du Soleil and The Michael Jackson Company, his legacy (and earning power) live on. Built by a slew of choreographers who worked with Jackson, the show combines over forty of his songs (not including numerous samples) with dancing and y’know, circus stuff. No Australian dates have been announced, but with the tour earning this much money without MJ even being present, you can count on it visiting our shores sometime soon.
Roger Waters ($186 million)
It’s lucky that Roger Waters’ tour of Pink Floyd’s art-rock masterpiece The Wall has been so successful; it cost approximately $60 million to stage. With school choirs, actors, inflatable schoolmaster puppets and all kinds of pyrotechnics, the tour managed 15 stadium dates in Australia and New Zealand alone, with over 200 other worldwide dates on top of it stretching from September 2010 right through to the same time next year. Waters managed to walk away from the Australian leg of this tour having grossed $17 million from his eleven Aussie shows. That’s a lot of bricks for one big wall.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band ($199 million)
With his seventeenth studio album Wrecking Ball being declared by Rolling Stone Magazine as the best of the year, it should come as no surprise that The Boss’ subsequent world tour would be one for the ages. It was named the most attended tour of 2012 by Billboard, and with shows averaging 3 ½ hours long, it could also rank as the tour with the most value for money. With nine Australian dates in March next year already sold out, here’s hoping you’re lucky enough to have snatched up tickets. As the keynote speaker at this year’s SXSW festival, Springsteen’s advice to young bands was simple, “learn to bring it live. If you do that every night, people will remember you.” It’s a mantra Springsteen has built his career on, and even at 63 years old, bringing it live is exactly what The Boss does.
Madonna ($228 million)
Though riddled with controversy, and despite Madge pushing 55 years old, her MDNA tour was the highest grossing tour of 2012. French crowds booed her for playing for a meagre 45 minutes; Russian authorities slammed her support of punk band Pussy Riot; Denver fans were pissed off that she waved a gun around at her show shortly after the Colorado shootings. Madonna asserted that freedom of speech was paramount and she’d rather cancel shows than censor her art. We don’t know what censorship Aussie fans were pleading for, but her Australian leg of the tour was cancelled, which is the same that can be said of her last five world tours. As it stands, Madonna hasn’t toured Australia in over twenty years. Damn.

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