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.
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.
- 1 20. Luke Bryan – $42.5 million
- 2 19. Jason Aldean – $43.5 million
- 3 18. Michael Buble – $45.5 million
- 4 17. Paul McCartney – $51.5 million
- 5 16. Toby Keith – $53 million
- 6 15. Elton John – $53.5 million
- 7 14. Beyoncé – $54.5 million
- 8 13. Jay-Z – $56 million
- 9 12. Ed Sheeran – $57 million
- 10 11. The Rolling Stones – $57.5 million
- 11 10. Lady Gaga – $59 million
- 12 9. Fleetwood Mac – $59.5 million
- 13 8. Diddy (Sean Combs) – $60 million
- 14 7. Justin Timberlake – $63.5 million
- 15 6. Calvin Harris – $66 million
- 16 5. The Eagles – $73.5 million
- 17 4. Taylor Swift – $80 million
- 18 3. Garth Brooks – $90 million
- 19 2. One Direction – $130 million
- 20 1. Katy Perry – $135 million