Forbes’ Top Earning Musicians: A Numerical Analysis


Fresh off of crowning the 100 most powerful celebrities, Forbes has published a shorter, more objective list: The year’s top-earning musicians. For those of us with some interest in the future of the music industry, it’s an interesting read, with older acts (whose fans still buy CDs and have hundreds of dollars to throw down on pricey concert tickets) topping the list and generally out-earning just about every Next Big Thing the pop world has to offer. After the jump, check out the top 10 (which, because of a tie for 10th place, is actually the top 12), peruse photos of their devoted fans, and follow along as we overanalyze the results.

Fans mob Bono. Photo credit: Wilson Dias/ABrThe list: 1. U2 – $130 million 2. AC/DC – $114 million 3. Beyoncé – $87 million 4. Bruce Springsteen – $70 million 5. Britney Spears – $64 million 6. Jay-Z – $63 million 7. Lady Gaga – $62 million 8. Madonna – $58 million 9. Kenny Chesney – $50 million 10. Black Eyed Peas (Tie) – $48 million 10. Coldplay (Tie) -$48 million 10. Toby Keith (Tie) – $48 million

Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters. Photo by Liz Stanley.By genre: Pop — 5 Rock — 4 Hip-hop — 1 Country — 2

Springsteen fans tailgate. Photo credit: William Perlman. Image via gender: Male — 7 Female — 4 Mixed — 1 (Black-Eyed Peas)

AC/DC fans. Image via Frantik Mag.By race: White — 9 Black — 2 Mixed — 1 (Black-Eyed Peas)

Beyoncé signs autographs. Image via BET. By age: Under 30 — 3 30-50 — 5 Over 50 — 4

Some observations: 1. Is rock ‘n roll dying as a popular medium? All of the rock acts on the list (Bruce Springsteen, U2, AC/DC, and Coldplay) are comprised of members over 30. In fact, all but Coldplay fall into the 50+ age group. 2. Then again, is rock really dying? The top two artists on the list, U2 and AC/DC, were the only bands to bring in over $100 million. 3. Are musical genres really this depressingly gendered? All of the women on the list are pop stars; none of the men are. 4. Then again, maybe women are the future of popular music: All three acts under 30 (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Britney Spears) are gals. 5. Of course, maybe it’s just that we privilege youth and beauty in ladies. Madonna is the only woman over 30 on the list, aside from Fergie of the Black-Eyed Peas, who’s 35. 6. There’s only one hip-hop artist on the list and, of course, it’s Jay-Z… unless you count the Black-Eyed Peas. But, despite how they bill themselves, we’re grouping them with pop. 7. Is the golden age of pop country, marked by Shania Twain’s runaway crossover success, over? The country singer who ranks highest is Kenny Chesney (#9). Toby Keith is tied for 10th place.