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Musicians – The World’s Highest Earners

Gone are the days when the number of albums(LPs), extended plays(EPs) or singles contributed the most to a musician’s earnings; even CDs, DVDs and videos have now paled into insignificance, largely as a consequence of the availability on-line of almost any release, most at effectively knock-down prices, and even free. Music writing has also fallen by the wayside in terms of earning capacity – well, at some point the scripts need to be turned into actual music, and then … read above!

So, how do modern musicians build their net worth? In some ways, the music world has gone back to square one – before the modern era of electronics, the only way musicians could earn their money was by personal appearance, in front of a live audience, and so it is today. Of course TV appearances also contribute somewhat, but the majority of a musician’s income now is from concert tours or, for a few, lengthy contracts in such places as a Las Vegas casino, but those artists tend to be performers who have been around for some time and are well regarded by public and promoters alike. One other big contributor is endorsements: a wide variety of companies now use high-flying musicians to boost their sales, probably boosting the artist too by increased exposure.

Musicians and Money1

The following is a list of the top 20 musicians, by income, over the most recent year for which figures are available – mid-2014 to mid-2015. Maybe you can guess who is at the top of the list, but possibly not – as always, there are a few surprises when such lists are compiled, in this one because there are several ‘oldies-but-goodies’ in there – age is certainly no barrier if you are still good enough! Worth noting is that last year’s No 1., Dr. Dre is at No 30 this year – not even he could repeat the sale of Beats, which brought him $620 million in one hit(!). All artists are American unless identified otherwise.

The count includes gross income from all sources – concerts, album and single sales, publishing, endorsements, and any other business ventures as mentioned below, before any deductions.

20. Luke Bryan – $42.5 million

Luke Bryan
“I See You” and “Roller Coaster” both made No. 1 on the Country Airplay Charts during the scoring period – most songs being self-written helps his bank balance too. Bryan’s income also encompasses earnings from touring, and through endorsement agreements with outdoors merchandising brand Cabela’s, and Miller Lite.

19. Jason Aldean – $43.5 million

Musician Jason Aldean arrives at the 2014 CMT Music Awards in Nashville
The 38-year-old’s rock-heavy live shows contributed most to his bank balance this year, accumulating much more than supposedly higher-ranking stars such as Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, but he was also the only country singer to achieve platinum-sales status with an album in 2014. He also has an interest in Tidal, Jay Z’s new streaming service, which may prove beneficial.

18. Michael Buble – $45.5 million

Michael Buble1
The Italian-Canadian confirms that appearances are paramount, his 71 shows during his To Be Loved tour being the major contributor to his earnings for the year. Appearances on TV also contributed, including on the perennial Sesame Street, and hosting his 4th Annual Christmas Special for NBC

17. Paul McCartney – $51.5 million

Paul McCartney1
One of two knights – ‘sirs’ – on the list, the number of concert performances by Sir Paul over the year shows that age – he is now 73 years-old – is no barrier to continued success for this British music legend. Clearly enjoying collaborations with such artists as Kanye West and Rihanna – “FourFiveSeconds”, these contribute to both live and recorded exposure for the legendary original Beatle. Additionally, he has many business interests, including in Apple, a music catalogue of 25,000 songs, and others through his holding company MPL Communications.

16. Toby Keith – $53 million

Oklahoma Twister Relief Concert To Benefit United Way Of Central Oklahoma May Tornadoes Relief Fund - Show
I Love This Bar & Grill, Wild Shot Mezcal and an enduring endorsement deal with the Ford motor company confirm the importance of widespread business activity for musicians these days. The previous year’s cash king of country performed just 29 shows in the period, but still earned more than any other country musician except Garth Brooks. Of course founding his own record label also helps!

15. Elton John – $53.5 million

Elton John
The slightly higher-ranked ‘Sir’ – but slightly younger (68 years) – played 94 shows, and obviously loves performing around the world still, with ticket sales plus on-going royalties from his work as a solo artist and composer maintaining his earnings. Written theatrical productions such as “The Lion King’ also keep audiences happily contributing to his net worth.

14. Beyoncé – $54.5 million

Beyonce
The success of the previous year’s “Drunk In Love” wasn’t quite repeated, but winning three Grammy awards helped maintain the singer’s earnings at a very respectable level, boosted by the summer’s 19-show On The Run tour with husband Jay Z, which raked in over $100 million. Endorsements with companies including Pepsi and Tommy Hilfiger also contribute to her earnings and overall net worth.

13. Jay-Z – $56 million

Jay Z
Playing a total of 22 shows with wife Beyoncé helped the multi-faceted musician’s earnings considerably, but so did a wide range of other successful ventures, including Armand de Brignac champagne, and more importantly his entertainment company Roc Nation. His new streaming service, Tidal, may also yet prove a winner.

12. Ed Sheeran – $57 million

Ed Sheeran
This British singer-songwriter is one of a few artists who still earns significantly from recorded music, however, he performed in 154 shows in the period – seven times more than The Rolling Stones, below – the most of any musician on the list. His collaborations with other artists including Taylor Swift also did his image and earning capacity no harm.Launching his own record label was a little late to be included in the survey period.

11. The Rolling Stones – $57.5 million

The Rolling Stones
Their Zip Codes tour of just 22 shows contributed hugely to The Stones success this year, mainly because of the capacity of the venues. Still, that the group continues to attract such audiences after more than 50 years ‘on the road’ is a tribute their popularity, maintaining their status as a top-earning act after a half-century together thanks to their on-going appeal which apparently crosses any generation divide.

10. Lady Gaga – $59 million

Lady Gaga1
The last decade has disappeared, somewhere – that is how long the Queen Monster has been at the top of the music industry, partly due to what have been described as ‘over-the-top’ performances, plus somewhat spectacular fashion statements on stage. Gaga performed 66 shows over the period, but also continues to profit from her own Fame fragrance, and from contracts with Versace and MAC.

9. Fleetwood Mac – $59.5 million

Fleetwood Mac4
The UK-American group endures after more than 40 years together at the top, their popularity evidenced by out-scoring all other artists with ticket prices of over $300 – reputedly the highest of any music act during the survey period – during their 2015 On With The Show tour of 86 concerts, but a sell-out at all venues. Despite their supposed peak of popularity being 20 years ago, Fleetwood Mac still has audiences rocking – and are clearly still making millions.

8. Diddy (Sean Combs) – $60 million

Sean Combs
Diddy is one of the artists who doesn’t favour touring, live performances very much, but who demonstrates the value of having considerable interests in other businesses. These include a hugely lucrative deal with Diageo’s Ciroc vodka that makes up a considerable proportion of his income, TV network Revolt, water brand Aquahydrate, clothing line Sean John, and DeLeon tequila.

7. Justin Timberlake – $63.5 million

Justin Timberlake 3
Timberlake is now an actor, but as a solo singer he accumulated a significant amount from 59 tour dates, a far cry from his time with NSYNC. However, he is also one of those artists wise enough not to have all his eggs in one basket – or maybe anticipating a future beyond entertainment – and now earns considerable amounts from endorsements with Sony, Bud Light, and from his own Sauza tequila.

6. Calvin Harris – $66 million

Z100's Jingle Ball 2014 Presented By Goldfish Puffs
DJ fees of over $100,000, plus contracts with such as Giorgio Armani, have ensured the Scottish-born DJ’s position on the list. Of course, being linked with Taylor Swift also made headlines – they are now rated the highest-paid couple in the business, but Calvin still has to continue to produce the goods as part of the relationship!

5. The Eagles – $73.5 million

The Eagles3
The passing of founding member and power behind the iconic group Glenn Frey may see the end of the road for this classic rock band, but The Eagles were very much alive, and constantly touring during the survey period. They performed 57 shows on their History of the Eagles tour, which certainly helped keep them in the top five earning musicians, ahead of younger, but maybe less proficient competition.

4. Taylor Swift – $80 million

Z100 Artist Gift Lounge Presented By Pop Tarts At Z100's Jingle Ball 2012 - Gifting Lounge
Earning over $4 million per city on her 1989 Tour goes a long way to explaining Taylor’s ranking, but her single – 1989 – is still selling and heading towards four million in less than a year. She also has a chart-topper with her follow-up single “Wildest Dreams”, so clearly she doesn’t rest on her laurels. We may well see her a spot or three higher on our next list, with or without the assistance of Calvin Harris, but continuing to collaborate with the likes of Paul McCartney and Madonna should certainly help, as should endorsements with companies which have included Target, WalMart, AirAsia, Qantas and Diet Coke.

3. Garth Brooks – $90 million

Garth Brooks2
Another artist who loves touring – he came out of supposed retirement to embark on his latest – Garth’s earnings from his country music concerts have been topping well over $1 million in every city, many needing two concerts per venue such is his continued popularity and the demand for tickets. He shows no signs of another ‘retirement’ yet, so may well make another appearance on this list as well, next survey period. Ghost Tunes, his on-line music store, also helps contribute to his regular earnings.

2. One Direction – $130 million

One Direction2
Somewhat surprisingly, the boy band is the top-earning band of any sort during this survey period. Of course, they performed 74 dates during our scoring period, more than three times the number of The Stones for just over double the income. However, they are yet to embark on significant endorsement contracts, or other ventures outside the music industry, so their potential in that area is still untouched; stand-by for updates!

1. Katy Perry – $135 million

Katy Perry2
Of ‘celebrities’, only boxers Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao earned more than the “Roar” singer over the period. Katy is clearly the highest-paid musician of the past year – solo at that – pulling-in over $2 million per venue during her Prismatic World Tour. She is also reputed to draw more followers on Twitter than any other artist; apparently sex-appeal also has something to do with that, plus a series of perfume releases!

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