It’s been a transformative few months for SZA. The R&B superstar released SOS, her second studio album, in December to universal critical acclaim and blockbuster business. The set earned 318,000 album equivalent units in its first week of release, kicking off a non-consecutive 10-week run atop the Billboard 200. And in the middle of that chart-topping stretch, she kicked off the aptly titled SOS Tour.
The 18-date stint ran from Feb. 21 through March 23, giving SZA her first taste of headlining arenas on her own. According to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore, the SOS Tour grossed $34.5 million and sold 238,000 tickets.
Spread across its month of action, SOS shows averaged $1.9 million and 12,812 tickets per night. Returns were remarkably consistent, only dipping below 11,000 at the (relatively) low-capacity Viejas Arena in San Diego. The SoCal arena sold 8,700 tickets, but fostered the tour’s second-highest ticket price, at $174.69. Otherwise, attendance swung between 11,069 (Atlanta) and 14,383 (Toronto) on a nightly basis.
New York and Los Angeles were the two markets, perhaps unsurprisingly, with double-headers. SZA played two shows at Madison Square Garden on March 4-5, and the run’s final two dates at Kia Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on March 22-23. Logically, these were the highest grosses and attendance counts, hitting $4.7 million and 27,000 tickets at the East Coast arena, and $3.9 million and 25,000 on the West.
Reporting is limited for SZA’s pre-pandemic concerts, with a small handful of figures for 2017’s Ctrl the Tour and subsequent 2019 Australian shows. But matching up her shows market-by-market, her growth over the last six years is undeniable.
SZA played at Austin’s Emo’s on Oct. 1, 2017, earning $31,000 from a sold-out audience of 1,550. She returned to the city on March 9 at the newly minted Moody Center. She spun that attendance and its average $20 ticket seven times over, amounting to a show gross 55 times the total of her previous market play ($1.7 million).
In New York, it’s a similar – but bigger – story. SZA grossed $45,000 and sold 1,800 tickets at Brooklyn Steel on Dec. 10, 2017. Returning to Madison Square Garden last month, she earned $4.7 million and sold 27,000 tickets. That represents a jump of 1,376% in attendance and more than 10,000% in revenue.
The caveat in NYC is that SZA also played an un-reported show at Manhattan’s Irving Plaza the night after her Brooklyn date in 2017. But even if the 1,100-capacity club sold out at the same average ticket price, her growth in New York would still be nearly 6,500%.
SZA got some arena experience during her first album cycle, snagging co-headline billing on Top Dawg Entertainment’s Champions Tour in between Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. But even that stacked bill played only one show in New York, selling fewer tickets (12,500) than SZA did on either of her solo ’23 shows at the same venue.
Much of that upward trajectory can be attributed to the slow-burn success of 2017’s CTRL. While peaking at No. 3 and spending “just” a handful of weeks in the Billboard 200’s top 10, it has accumulated more than 300 weeks on the chart. One of its five frames in the top 10 was in June 2022, after a five-year-anniversary deluxe edition hit streaming services.
After letting that album breathe for more than five years, SZA’s timing was sharp. The SOS Tour was announced days after its namesake album was released, with tickets going on sale a few days after that. The set’s massive opening week backed up the feverish hype surrounding her long-awaited comeback, and its subsequent ticket on-sale capitalized on that momentum without missing a beat.
The SOS Tour helped complete SZA’s transformation from slow-burn R&B wunderkind to genre-bending arena powerhouse. She is represented by Wasserman Music and promoted by Live Nation. The tour featured direct support act Omar Apollo.