Ed Sheeran is doing something he rarely does: taking a break. “This is my last gig for probably 18 months,” Sheeran said Monday night (Aug. 26) on the final stop of his record-setting “Divide Tour” at Ipswich’s Chantry Park in his home county of Sussex, England. He called the moment “bittersweet” before leaving the stage. This came after a marathon-like 893 days and 255 shows with a staggering 8.9 million tickets sold (more precisely 8,880,927) and a massive gross of $775.6 million ($775,591,676) – the most ever by any tour.
On average, Sheeran played a stadium or arena twice a week for two and a half years. From Pala Alpitour in Turin, Italy, on March 16, 2017, to his Chantry Park finale, Team Ed was in constant touring mode – a perpetual ballet of ceaseless travel, set-ups, teardowns, planning the ones ahead, staying on point with promotions, production, transportation, vendors, ticketing, and of course, the performances. All of which begs the question: Why?
“If your business is music and you want to entertain people then you want as many people as possible to hear your music,” says Stuart Camp, Ed Sheeran’s longtime manager. “That’s always been an overarching motto.” When we speak it is late July and Team Sheeran is a few days out from surpassing U2’s record-setting gross of $735.3 million from its “360 Tour.”
But for Camp, who uncoincidentally says his favorite band is U2, notes it was never a goal to break revenue records. “It was never a driver for us,” he says. “Bums in seats was always quite special to me because I was always very aware of what that record was. When we knew we were going into the third year Jon [Ollier, of CAA, Sheeran’s longtime agent outside of North America] and I started adding it up and realized, ‘Okay, we’re actually going to do this.’”
“This” happened on Aug. 2 at Messegelände, a fairgrounds and outdoor exhibition area in Hannover, Germany, where the “Divide Tour” reached $736.8 million and surpassed U2’s eight-year record gross of $735.3 million on the “360 Tour,” which ran from February 2009 through July 2011.
“All props to them, it’s a great accomplishment,” said a gracious Arthur Fogel, chairman of Live Nation Global Music and the promoter for U2’s “360 Tour.” “Well, you know, fucking Babe Ruth, right? Records get broken. And it’s a good thing. It’s certainly not a bad thing. So props to Ed Sheeran. It’s a great achievement.” This he says acknowledging that comparing the two tours is somewhat like “apples to oranges.”