When Madonna hits the road later this year for her career-spanning Celebration Tour, she’ll be taking a global victory lap, further cementing her legacy as the Queen of Pop. She’ll also be taking home big money — upwards of $100 million, by the way Billboard‘s estimate.
The parade of concerts will feature Madonna’s greatest hits from across her 40-year career, a rare straightforward ambition for one of the world’s most enigmatic artists. With 38 top 10 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 and 23 top 10 albums on the Billboard 200, the tour stands to continue her streak as the highest-grossing solo female artist in Billboard Boxscore history (provided she can fend off Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras tour ). How high will it go?
Madonna’s touring career began in earnest with 1985’s The Virgin Tour, averaging more than 10,000 tickets and $100,000 per night, according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore. (The average ticket price on that tour was $14.74, a distant whiff of what her — and all artists’ — arena concert tickets cost in the 2020s. In today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation, that skimpy price would translate to $29.56.)
Already a sell-out force, Madonna’s next trek, 1987’s Who’s That Girl World Tour, tripled her draw and nearly quintupled her selling power in just two years, pacing 35,000 tickets and $756,000 per show in a mix of arenas and stadiums that year.
Both of those figures were just the beginning. They were followed by 1990’s Blond Ambition Tour, 1993’s The Girlie Show and seven tours in the 21st century that have grossed at least $50 million each.
Madonna’s highest-grossing tour thus far is the 85-date Sticky & Sweet Tour in 2008-09, playing stadiums around the world to the tune of $407.7 million and 3.5 million tickets. Fifteen years later, it remains the highest-grossing tour by a woman ever. (Her next trek, 2012’s MDNA Tour – her longest tour by number of shows at 88 – played a mix of stadiums and arenas, and became her second-highest grossing run, with $305.2 million.)
The Celebration Tour was announced on Tuesday (Jan. 17) with 26 shows in North America and 12 in Europe. Throughout this week, that route expanded to 41 and 20, respectively. Madonna begins the trek on July 15 in Vancouver and is scheduled to wrap Dec. 2 in Amsterdam. So far, no dates outside the US, Canada and western Europe have been announced.
To gauge the tour’s financial prospects, it would be unfair to simply reflect on Madonna’s most recent tour. That was the 2019-20 Madame X Tour, an experiment that placed the Queen of Pop in intimate theater-based mini-residencies in major markets on both sides of the Atlantic. The 75-show run sold itself out at 179,000 tickets and $51.5 million, but it’s an outlier in a career comprised of (much) larger venues.
A more apt comparison would be the Rebel Heart Tour of 2015-16, a string of 82 arena shows after the stadium madness of her previous two treks. That tour grossed $169.8 million and sold 1.05 million tickets worldwide, including quick stints in Asia and Oceania. On the Rebel Heart Tour, more relevant to the Celebration routing, Madonna averaged $1.8 million and 12,500 tickets in the US and Canada, and $1.7 million and 14,600 tickets in Europe. Given her current 61-show routing for The Celebration Tour, maintaining those averages would put the entire run on track to gross $106.9 million and sell 802,000 tickets.
But ticket prices have risen since Madonna was charging $15-and-under in the ’80s, including a significant spike in the last five years. Platinum ticketing and dynamic pricing have blown out arena and stadium grosses in the post-pandemic era, with Bad Bunny, Harry Styles, The Rolling Stones and more approaching $200 averages on tour last year.
For example, on Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, his average arena ticket in North America jumped from $139 in 2018 to $181 in 2022. That’s a 30% increase, which would bolster Madonna’s projected gross to $140.6 million. But the surge in prices has not been as great in Europe, which could soften our prediction back towards the $130 million mark.
Furthermore, Madonna has long been a global icon. So far, The Celebration Tour spans two continents, while she has frequently hit South America, Asia and Oceania throughout her career. An expansion of the tour — which seems like a natural idea based on the marketability of an all-hits show — would drastically change what is realistic for the 2023 trek. And as noted above, Madonna already increased the number of North American shows for the tour by more than 50% before The Celebration Tour’s general on-sale began on Jan. 20. Demand could dictate further additions.
Today’s on-sale generated over 600,000 tickets sold, with 35 sold-out shows and more to become available next week.
Over nearly 40 years, Madonna has grossed a reported $1.376 billion and sold 11.7 million tickets across 575 shows. That makes her the most successful female act in Boxscore history. The Celebration Tour will nudge her closer to the $1.5 billion mark. Among all acts, only four have grossed more in Boxscore history.