8 of the Biggest Benefit Concerts of All Time and How Much They Really Made

How much money did All is One Orlando Unity Concert, Live 8 and Live Aid really make?

By Meg Swertlow May 31, 2017 9:34 PMTags

Ariana Grande just announced a star-studded benefit concert June 4 to raise money for the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack last week. The benefit concert, One Love Manchester, will occur at the Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground on June 4.

Grande has enlisted A-listers Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Miley Cyrus, Niall Horan, Katy Perry, Take That, Usher and Pharrell Williams to perform at the concert that will benefit the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, set up by the Manchester City Council in partnership with the British Red Cross.

While this concert will certainly draw attention and hopefully funds to the victims of the attack, the concept of the celebrity benefit concert is certainly not new. Celebrity benefit concerts have been happening since the early '70s with varies degrees of success and failures. Some concerts have been plagued with problems, making very little money as a result of expenses, while other big shows rake in the big bucks for worthy causes.

We're going through 8 of the biggest benefit concerts of all time and seeing who was there and how much they really made...

Do-Gooder Gallery
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The Concert For Bangladesh in 1971:

What? Organized by Beatles legend George Harrison and Norah Jones' father, Ravi Shankar, the two concerts were held at Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 1, 1971. According to Yahoo Music, the events were created to raise money and awareness for East Pakistan refugees, who were struggling to become Bangladesh at the time. Packed with an all-star line up, The Concert for Bangladesh was the first benefit concert of its kind. The concerts were attended by a total of 40,000 people. This concert set the stage for mega-watt benefit concerts that pulled in various big-name artists for one common cause.

Who? Performers included Harrison, Shankar, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, Jim Keltner, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, Badfinger, Ali Akbar Khan, and Bob Dylan.

How Much? At the time the concerts raised close to $250,000 for Bangladesh relief, which was administered by UNICEF. Due to money raised through the Concert for Bangladesh live album and film, an estimated $12 million had been sent to relief in Bangladesh by 1985.

AP Photo/Joe Schaber

Live Aid in 1985:

Who? Sir Bob Geldof's famed concert for the starving in Africa, which was held on July 13, 1985, was at Wembley Stadium in London and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.

Who? Performers included Phil Collins, Sade, Bryan Ferry, U2, Queen, David Bowie, the Who, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, the Pretenders, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Mick Jagger, and Bob Dylan.

How Much? The Live Aid concert raised $38 million.

Kevin Mazur Archive/WireImage

A Concert for Life: The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness in 1992:

What? The concert was held at London's Wembley Stadium. The concert acted as both a tribute to the late Queen singer, and a benefit for AIDS research. The was an audience of 72,000 and broadcast live on television and radio to 76 countries around the world. There was believed to be an audience of up to one billion people. The money raised was intended to go to "AIDS projects worldwide."

Who? Performers included the surviving members of Queen, Metallica, Def Leppard, U2, Guns N' Roses, Seal, David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Elton John, George Michael, Annie Lennox, and Robert Plant.

How Much? Initial reports claimed that the event raised $35 million, but later Entertainment Weekly reported that the figure was inflated due to the exorbitant price of putting up performers. 

America: A Tribute To Heroes in 2001:

What? The event, organized by Joel Gallen and George Clooney, was put on just 10 days after the September 11 attacks. The concerts were recorded in New York City, Los Angeles, and London and aired on all the major networks.

Who? Performers included Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, U2, Faith Hill, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Wyclef Jean, Alicia Keys, Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready, the Dixie Chicks, Mariah Carey, and Willie Nelson.

How Much? The money raised amounted to over $200 million, and was given to the United Way's September 11 Telethon Fund.

Mick Hutson/Redferns

Live 8 in 2005:

What? The concerts were a series of "8" concerts that took place during the 20th Anniversary of Live Aid. The events were held to raise money for Make Poverty History campaign and the Global Call for Action Against Poverty. The locations (which were more than eight) include Tokyo, Rome, Philadelphia, Paris, Moscow, London, Johannesburg, Edinburgh, Cornwall, Berlin and Barrie.

Who? Performers included Neil Young, Tragically Hip with Dan Aykroyd, Dido, Annie Lennox, Neneh Cherry, Elton John, R.E.M., Snoop Dogg, Pet Shop Boys, Muse, the Cure, Def Leppard, Kanye West, Duran Duran, Bjork, and Do As Infinity.

How Much? Leaders pledged to increase aid to developing countries by $50 billion overall by 2010, including an increase of $25 billion in aid for Africa.

Mike Kline/ZUMAPress.com

Live Earth in 2007:

Al Gore approved an event to combat climate change and this concert was the result. On July 7, 2007, more than 150 musical acts performed in 11 locations, including South Africa, Brazil, Japan, China, Australia, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Antarctica, and the U.S.A. The concerts were broadcast to a global audience through televisions and computers.

Who: Cameron Diaz and other celebrities made appearances. Performers included The Police, Bon Jovi, Alicia Keys, Smashing Pumpkins, Akon, Beastie Boys, Spinal Tap, Madonna, Garth Brooks, Wolfmother, Xzibit, Bonnie Pin, Macy Gray, Pharrell, and Lenny Kravitz.

Joey Foley/WireImage
Dan Higgins for Hard Rock International via AP images

Indiana State Fair Remembrance in 2011:

What? Following the deadly stage collapse at Sugarland's concert at the Indiana State Fair in August 2011, the duo returned to Indiana to put on a free concert for victims of the tragic incident as promised. Seven people died and more than 40 were injured as a result of the accident that occurred Aug. 13 at the Indiana State Fair, after heavy winds blew over a stage rigging just before the band was set to hit the stage.

Who? The night's star attraction was Sugarland, who made good on a promise to perform.

How Much? Concertgoers were encouraged to donate $10 to the Indiana State Fair Remembrance Fund. At the time of the concert, the fund had had raised $900,000.

All is One Orlando Unity Concert in 2016:

What? The event, held at the Hard Rock Live, was for the victims, families, and survivors affected by the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Who? The performers were Imagine Dragons, Nate Ruess and Samantha Ronson.

How Much? The concert reportedly raised over $700,000. OneOrlando received 100% of all proceeds