Madonna's Sticky and Sweet show was the highest-earning tour of 2008, taking $281.6m (£193m) worldwide, according to music trade publication Pollstar.
The lavish show, based around her Hard Candy album, featured a Ukrainian gypsy band, a vintage racing car and a "virtual" duet with Justin Timberlake.
It also became the eighth highest-grossing tour of all time in North America, Pollstar said.
Celine Dion's gigs were 2008's second-biggest earner, taking $236.6m (£162m).
The Canadian balladeer's Taking Chances show visited 24 countries - compared to Madonna's 17 - and marked her first world tour for eight years.
Both singers' concerts were directed by choreographer Jamie King, who was also responsible for the Spice Girls' reunion tour.
Madonna also broke her own record for the biggest selling tour by a solo artist, topping 2006's Confessions concerts, which took $193.7m (£127.5m).
This year marks the first time that Pollstar has compiled foreign data on concert earnings.
It placed Bon Jovi as the third-highest earner, on $176m (£121m).
Bruce Springsteen was fourth, with $166m (£114m), and last year's top earners, The Police, came fifth, with $120.6m (£83m).
TOP 10 TOURS OF 2008
1. Madonna - £193m
2. Celine Dion - £162m
3. Bon Jovi - £121m
4. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (pictured) - £114m
5. The Police - £83m
6. Neil Diamond - £65m
7. Eagles - £61m
8. Andre Rieu - £53m
9. Kenny Chesney - £49.7m
10. Coldplay - £49.5m
The publication said fewer people went to concerts in North America during 2008, and those who ventured out were prepared to pay higher prices for their tickets than ever before.
The average ticket price in the US rose by 8% to $66.90 (£46). Top-tier tickets for Madonna's show cost $350 (£240).
"We've had a better year than we really should have expected, given the economic environment," said Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni.
Timing played a part, he added, with acts that hit the road earlier in the year escaping the effects of the financial crisis.
"A-list" artists were also fairly recession-proof, Mr Bongiovanni added, and tickets have sold briskly for Britney Spears' comeback tour, which begins in March.
He also predicted strong sales for as-yet-unannounced shows by U2 and Springsteen, both of whom have new albums out this year.