Pollstar published the year end top 25 tours for North America and worldwide.
Bands are always ranked in order of total gross ticket sales, but wouldn't it make more sense to rank them in terms of total number of tickets sold? Total gross is largely reflective of how much ticket prices are, and if Celine Dion wants to gouge her fans by charging an average of $166 per ticket then that's more reflective of what the typical Celine fan earns in a year, not how "big" her tour was or how many fans she has. On the North American list, her tour finished 10th in money but only 23rd in total tickets sold.
U2, Taylor Swift, and Kenny Chesney were far and away the top N.A. tour performers in terms of money and tickets sold. But Jason Aldean, Journey, Katy Perry, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra finished 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th in total tickets sold and the top money earners among them were Journey at #15. They have huge fan bases and they made an effort to keep prices affordable. They deserve some credit for that.
Even average gross per show would be better than total gross as an indicator of how "big" a band was in a given year. IOW, did they tour constantly and make their money from playing arenas, or are they big enough to play in the world's largest stadiums? U2 easily topped the chart in that category, earning more than $7M per show, followed by, oddly enough, Dave Matthews Band Caravan jam band traveling circus.
Kanye West and Jay-Z somehow got away with charging more per ticket than anyone except Celine Dion (whose fans are mostly rich white people), Paul McCartney (possibly the biggest legend touring today, who only played nine N.A. shows), and the Dave Matthews Band Caravan (which was a series of three day festivals so it doesn't really compare). Congrats to Kanye and Jay-Z for loving money so much.
Cirque du Soleil have three entries in the N.A. top 25. Really? This made me realize that average tickets and gross are calculated per city, not per show, which is also a bit odd.
Worldwide, U2 are once again the biggest, and there aren't too many surprises except for maybe Foo Fighters. Are they really the 12th biggest band in the world? I wouldn't have guessed (and with one of the lowest average ticket prices on the top 25). Everyone outside of N.A. is probably looking at the list, scratching their heads, and saying "who is Kenny Chesney?" (at #8, he was the highest ranking act who didn't play a concert outside of N.A.).
The Take That reunion tour grossed just $8M less than U2, and played to nearly as many fans. Just, wow. And Elton John, who is no spring chicken, played 110 shows in 2011, more than anyone on the top 25 except for Katy Perry and Cirque du Soleil (which is really a category unto itself).