Ed Sheeran pulled in a record $432 million from concert sales as changes in the music industry help those at the top get richer
d Sheeran pulled in a record $432 million from concert sales as changes in the music industry help those at the top get richerIAN WEST/PA

A handful of pop stars are dominating global concert sales as never before, led by Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.

Their ascendancy is the latest evidence that changes in the music industry such as the rise of music-streaming services such as Spotify have benefited a small group. Almost two thirds of live music revenue is now made by 1 per cent of performers, a newly published analysis by the late Alan Krueger, a Princeton University economist who served two US presidents, has found.

In 2017 60 per cent of concert ticket revenue worldwide went to the top 1 per cent of performers. In 1982 the top 1 per cent took 26 per cent of the revenue. The top 5 per cent take 85 per cent of concert revenue worldwide, up from 62 per cent about three decades earlier.

Royalties from music sales have plummeted, forcing artists to focus on tours. Only the big stars, however, can charge significantly more for live shows than their predecessors.

Performers now typically make three quarters of their income from tours, compared with about 30 per cent in the 1980s and 1990s. The share of tickets sold by the big stars has remained fairly constant, James Reeves, Dr Krueger’s research assistant, told The Wall Street Journal. What has changed is their ability to leverage their appeal to secure higher prices.

For the first time last year the top ten grossing tours generated more than $2 billion between them.

The industry made $10.4 billion in total, according to Pollstar, a live events trade publication. Sheeran alone pulled in a record $432 million to top the list, selling almost five million concert tickets. Taylor Swift was second with $345 million from almost three million tickets sold, followed by Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z, whose tour of North America and Europe pulled in $254 million.

The rest of the 2018 top ten was made up by P!nk, Bruno Mars, the Eagles, Justin Timberlake, Roger Waters, U2 and the Rolling Stones.