Although British men have posted the top touring numbers so far in 2023, American women appear likely to dominate the rest of the year.
Billboard’s midyear Boxscore charts have been published, with Harry Styles’ Love on Tour as the highest-grossing and best-selling concert run of the ’23 tracking period so far. He ever-so-narrowly outpaced Elton John on the Top Tours chart, defeating him by 0.3%. Similarly spaced, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran follow with the third and fourth-highest-grossing tours, the former beating the latter by just 1%.
Those four artists rank among the top five on Top Ticket Sales, as they did on both year-end rankings for 2022, securing an extended near-monopoly atop the Boxscore charts for British male acts in the post-pandemic era. Beyond the confines of the United Kingdom, no women-identifying artists crack the top 10 of either midyear chart, while Dua Lipa was the only woman-identifying artist to crack 2022’s year-end attendance tally at No. 9.
But as the spring rolls into summer and the bigger picture of 2023’s year in touring comes into focus, a slew of the biggest names in pop — many of them women — will be filling stadiums and arenas and likely shaking up the year-end Boxscore charts.
Midyear Boxscore charts are based on figures reported to Billboard Boxscore. Eligible shows played between Nov. 1, 2022, and April 30, 2023.
While the stadium circuit has historically been dominated by white male rock bands, solo pop artists have been increasingly chipping away at that precedent. In 2000, Tina Turner became the first Black artist and the first female artist to crown Billboard’s year-end Top Tours chart.
Among women, Madonna followed, hitting No. 1 on the Top Tours chart in 2004 and again in 2012. The queen of pop is back on stage this year, properly touring the world for the first time since 2016 (the Madame X Tour played extended residencies at a small swath of North American and European theaters in 2019-20).
The next (and only other) women to follow atop the year-end rankings were Taylor Swift in 2015 and Beyoncé in 2016, staging back-to-back wins for contemporary pop acts in competition with all-time leaders like Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, The Rolling Stones and U2.
Like Madonna, Swift and Beyoncé are back this year, maintaining the stadium status they assumed in the mid-2010s. All three are expected to post nine-figure grosses, with Swift and Beyoncé likely soaring to personal highs beyond $300 million.
Only four other women have ever placed in the year-end Top Tours’ top three, two of whom are also touring this year. Four years after finishing at No. 2 on Top Tours, P!nk scales to North American stadiums for the first time, headlining the Summer Carnival Tour. And 20 years after ranking No. 3 in 2003, Shania Twain launched the Queen of Me Tour, mixing arenas and amphitheaters in the U.S., Canada and Europe. (Another previous year-end top-three earner, Celine Dion, was scheduled to tour this year but canceled for health reasons. The other, Cher, is off-cycle.)
Further, Janet Jackson began the party early, narrowly missing the top 10 on April’s Top Tours recap after kicking off the Together Again Tour midway through that month. With a full schedule in May and June, Jackson will add to an initial $11.8 million take, quickly rising to the top of the year’s R&B/hip-hop slate of tours amid expanding totals for Lizzo and SZA, all passing (male) midyear leaders New Edition and Chris Brown.
Beyond this slate of women with decades-deep chart histories, the stadium concert business continues to expand beyond not only classic rock, but outward from the center of mainstream English-language pop, making Swift look more like Paul McCartney. BLACKPINK and Karol G will play their first North American stadiums later this summer, each evolving from arena tours last fall and helping to break further ground for all acts in K-Pop and Latin music, respectively.
Last year, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish plotted extensive arena tours, while Lady Gaga left Las Vegas for a relatively brief stadium run. But overall, it was relatively dry for women on the big stage. In contrast, 2023 sees the post-pandemic return of some of the biggest female touring acts of all time. One part coincidence of timing and another part natural evolution for more genre-diverse artists scaling their touring business, Swift, Beyoncé, and many more will balance the gender scale on Billboard’s forthcoming Boxscore charts throughout the rest of 2023.