Figures compiled by industry journal Pollstar show the venue climbed one spot from fifth place in 2011.
The increase came in spite of revenues generated by O2 concerts decreasing by 17%, from $50.7m in 2011 to $41.7m as audience figures dropped by 8%, from 670,846 in 2011 to 620,555 last year.
Numbers attending the best-attended arena in the world, the O2 in London, last year declined by 18% to 1.57m.
O2 is ahead of the likes of New York’s Madison Square Garden and London’s Wembley Arena.
The 14,500-capacity O2 is jointly owned by Dublin businessman Harry Crosbie and the Los Angeles-based concert promoter Live Nation, which counts U2, Madonna, and the Rolling Stones amongst its acts.
The Manchester Arena and the Palacio De Los Deportes in Mexico were in second and third places.
A comedian and not a music act was the biggest draw at the O2 last year. Michael McIntyre played to 35,438 fans last November over four sold-out shows, with his gigs netting over $2m.
English comedian John Bishop was also one of the top-grossing acts at $1.75m, with 97% of tickets sold over four nights.
The O2 staged 87 gigs last year compared to 82 in 2011. The top grossing act was Cirque du Soleil, which grossed $2.3m over seven shows.
The two most lucrative concerts were staged by 71-year-old Paul Simon ($2.09m) for two gigs as part of Simon’s 25th Graceland anniversary tour last July.
The gross receipts for all concerts are shared between the promoter, artist, and venue operator — they do not include revenues from merchandise or food and alcohol.
The most lucrative single gig staged by an Irish artist was Van Morrison, who grossed $900,100 from his sold-out night at the O2 last January.
One Direction grossed $356,591 for one gig last January and the band has four sold-out concerts in March.
The Coronas’ December gig grossed $594,713 after 94% of tickets sold, while Snow Patrol’s two, sold-out January gigs grossed $1.3m.
Other sell-out gigs included Robbie Williams who grossed $579,779 in September and Florence and the Machine who grossed $1.32m from two gigs.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds also staged a sell-out gig in February grossing $612,913. Kanye West and Jay-Z grossed $1.7m for their joint gigs over two nights last June.
Acts that disappointed in terms of crowds included Cheryl Cole, whose concert in October was 52% full with the arena reaching 47% capacity for the Guns ‘N’ Roses May gig.
Kelly Clarkson also disappointed, with only a 51% capacity when she played last October.
The most recently-filed accounts for the O2 show it recorded pre-tax profits of €7.4m in 2011.
The main promoters behind the concerts last year were MCD Productions and Aiken Promotions.
The former Point Theatre closed in Aug 2007 to allow for renovations and re- opened as the O2 in Dec 2008. The O2 declined to comment yesterday.