Forbes list of highest-earning musicians

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The highest-earning musicians, also published as the "highest-paid musicians", have been reported annually by Forbes since at least 1987. For measurement, the magazine used pretax earnings—before deducting fees for agents, managers or lawyers.[1] Most of the lists were estimated within a June-to-June scoring period, except for 1999, 2000, and 2021 when a calendar year period was used instead.[2][3][4]

U2 have become the annual highest-earning musicians five times, more than any other act. Michael Jackson is the first musician to earn over $100 million in a year (1989),[5] and has become the top-earning male soloist a record seven times. Dr. Dre currently holds the record for the highest annual earnings for a musician ever, collecting $620 million in 2014.[6]

Madonna is the first woman in music to earn $100 million for a year (2009) and has the most years as the top-earning female musicians (11 times). Taylor Swift is the female artist with the highest-earning ever in a year (first with $170 million in 2016, and $185 million in 2019), breaking previous record-holders Madonna ($125 million in 2013) and Katy Perry ($135 million in 2015).[7][8]

Highest-earning musicians by year[edit]

Key
*
Indicates the musician topping the Forbes Top 40 list of the respective year
^
Indicates the musician topping the Forbes Celebrity 100 list of the respective year
U2 have become the annual highest-earning musicians five times, more than any other act.
Top-earning musicians of the year
Year Musician Nationality Earnings Adjusted earnings
(in 2022 dollar)
Ref.
1987 Bruce Springsteen United States $56 million $134 million [9][10]
1988 Michael Jackson * United States $97 million $222 million [11][12]
1989 Michael Jackson * United States $125 million $273 million [13][14]
1990 Michael Jackson United States $100 million $207 million [15]
1991 New Kids on the Block * United States $115 million $229 million [16][17]
1992 New Kids on the Block United States $62 million $120 million [18]
1993 Guns N' Roses United States $53 million $99 million [19][20]
1994 Pink Floyd United Kingdom $62 million $113 million [21][22]
1995 The Beatles United Kingdom $130 million $231 million [23]
1996 The Beatles United Kingdom $130 million $225 million [24]
1997 The Beatles United Kingdom $98 million $165 million [25]
1998 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $57 million $95 million [26]
1999 Backstreet Boys United States $60 million $98 million [27]
2001 The Beatles United Kingdom $70 million $107 million [28]
2002 U2 Ireland $69 million $104 million [29]
2003 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $66.5 million $98 million [30]
2004 Bruce Springsteen United States $64 million $92 million [31]
2005 Madonna United States $50 million $69 million [32]
2006 U2 Ireland $110 million $148 million [33]
2007 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $110 million $144 million [34]
2008 The Police United Kingdom $115 million $145 million [35]
2009 Madonna United States $110 million $139 million [36]
2010 U2 Ireland $130 million $162 million [37]
2011 U2 Ireland $195 million $235 million [38]
2012 Dr. Dre United States $110 million $130 million [39]
2013 Madonna United States $125 million $145 million [40]
2014 Dr. Dre United States $620 million $710 million [41]
2015 Katy Perry United States $135 million $154 million [42]
2016 Taylor Swift ^ United States $170 million $192 million [43]
2017 Diddy ^ United States $130 million $144 million [44]
2018 U2 Ireland $118 million $127 million [45]
2019 Taylor Swift ^ United States $185 million $196 million [1]
2020 Kanye West United States $170 million $178 million [46]
2021 Bruce Springsteen United States $435 million $435 million [4]

Group[edit]

Top-earning music groups of the year
Year Music group Nationality Earnings Adjusted earnings
(in 2022 dollar)
Ref.
1987 U2 Ireland $37 million $88 million [9][10]
1988 U2 Ireland $42 million $96 million [11][12]
1989 Pink Floyd United Kingdom $56 million $122 million [13][14]
1990 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $88 million $183 million [15]
1991 New Kids on the Block * United States $115 million $229 million [16][17]
1992 New Kids on the Block United States $62 million $120 million [18]
1993 Guns N' Roses United States $53 million $99 million [19][20]
1994 Pink Floyd United Kingdom $62 million $113 million [21][22]
1995 The Beatles United Kingdom $130 million $231 million [23]
1996 The Beatles United Kingdom $130 million $225 million [24]
1997 The Beatles United Kingdom $98 million $165 million [25]
1998 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $57 million $95 million [26]
1999 Backstreet Boys United States $60 million $98 million [27]
2001 The Beatles United Kingdom $70 million $107 million [28]
2002 U2 Ireland $69 million $104 million [29]
2003 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $66.5 million $98 million [30]
2004 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $51 million $73 million [31]
2005 Eagles United States $45 million $62 million [32]
2006 U2 Ireland $110 million $148 million [33]
2007 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $110 million $144 million [34]
2008 The Police United Kingdom $115 million $145 million [35]
2009 Rascal Flatts United States $60 million $76 million [36]
2010 U2 Ireland $130 million $162 million [37]
2011 U2 Ireland $195 million $235 million [38]
2012 U2 Ireland $78 million $92 million [39]
2013 Bon Jovi United States $79 million $92 million [40]
2014 Eagles United States $100 million $114 million [41]
2015 One Direction United Kingdom / Ireland $130 million $149 million [42]
2016 One Direction United Kingdom / Ireland $110 million $124 million [43]
2017 Coldplay United Kingdom $88 million $97 million [44]
2018 U2 Ireland $118 million $127 million [45]
2019 Eagles United States $100 million $106 million [1]
2020 Jonas Brothers United States $68.5 million $72 million [46]
2021 Red Hot Chili Peppers United States $116 million $116 million [4]

Male[edit]

Michael Jackson has become the annual highest-earning male solo artist a record 7 times throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Top-earning male solo musicians of the year
Year Musician Nationality Earnings Adjusted earnings
(in 2022 dollar)
Ref.
1987 Bruce Springsteen United States $56 million $134 million [9][10]
1988 Michael Jackson * United States $97 million $222 million [11]
1989 Michael Jackson * United States $125 million $273 million [13][14]
1990 Michael Jackson United States $100 million $207 million [15]
1991 Michael Jackson United States $60 million $119 million [16][17]
1992 Michael Jackson United States $51 million $98 million [18]
1993 Prince United States $49 million $92 million [19][20]
1994 Garth Brooks United States $41 million $75 million [21][22]
1995 Michael Jackson United States $67 million $119 million [23]
1996 Michael Jackson United States $90 million $155 million [24]
1997 David Bowie United Kingdom $63 million $106 million [25]
1998 Master P United States $56.5 million $94 million [26]
1999 Lou Bega[a] Germany $6 million $10 million [27]
2001 Dr. Dre United States $35 million $54 million [28]
2002 Elton John United Kingdom $30 million $45 million [48]
2003 Paul McCartney United Kingdom $59 million $87 million [30]
2004 Bruce Springsteen United States $64 million $92 million [31]
2005 Prince United States $49.7 million $69 million [32]
2006 Bruce Springsteen United States $55 million $74 million [33]
2007 Elton John United Kingdom $53 million $69 million [34]
2008 Toby Keith United States $48 million $60 million [35]
2009 Bruce Springsteen United States $70 million $88 million [36]
2010 Bruce Springsteen United States $70 million $87 million [37]
2011 Elton John United Kingdom $100 million $120 million [38]
2012 Dr. Dre United States $110 million $130 million [39]
2013 Toby Keith United States $65 million $76 million [40]
2014 Dr. Dre United States $620 million $710 million [41]
2015 Garth Brooks United States $90 million $103 million [42]
2016 Garth Brooks United States $70 million $79 million [49]
2017 Diddy ^ United States $130 million $144 million [44]
2018 Ed Sheeran United Kingdom $110 million $119 million [45]
2019 Kanye West United States $150 million $159 million [1]
2020 Kanye West United States $170 million $178 million [46]
2021 Bruce Springsteen United States $435 million $435 million [4]

Female[edit]

Madonna has become the annual highest-earning female artist a record 11 times across the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.
Top-earning female musicians of the year
Year Musician Nationality Earnings Adjusted earnings
(in 2022 dollar)
Ref.
1987 Madonna United States $47 million $112 million [9][10]
1988 Madonna United States $46 million $105 million [11][12]
1989 Madonna United States $43 million $94 million [13][50]
1990 Madonna United States $62 million $129 million [15]
1991 Madonna United States $63 million $125 million [16][17]
1992 Madonna United States $48 million $93 million [18]
1993 Madonna United States $37 million $69 million [19][20]
1994 Barbra Streisand United States $57 million $104 million [21][22]
1995 Barbra Streisand United States $63 million $112 million [23]
1996 Mariah Carey United States $32 million $55 million [24]
1997 Celine Dion Canada $65 million $110 million [25]
1998 Celine Dion Canada $55.5 million $92 million [26]
1999 Shania Twain Canada $48 million $78 million [27]
2001 Britney Spears United States $38.5 million $59 million [28]
2002 Mariah Carey United States $58 million $87 million [29]
2003 Cher United States $33.1 million $49 million [30]
2004 Celine Dion Canada $28 million $40 million [31]
2005 Madonna United States $50 million $69 million [32]
2006 Celine Dion Canada $40 million $54 million [33]
2007 Madonna United States $72 million $94 million [34]
2008 Beyoncé United States $80 million $101 million [35]
2009 Madonna United States $110 million $139 million [36]
2010 Beyoncé United States $87 million $108 million [37]
2011 Lady Gaga ^ United States $90 million $108 million [38]
2012 Britney Spears United States $58 million $68 million [39]
2013 Madonna United States $125 million $145 million [40]
2014 Beyoncé ^ United States $115 million $132 million [41]
2015 Katy Perry United States $135 million $154 million [42]
2016 Taylor Swift ^ United States $170 million $192 million [43]
2017 Beyoncé United States $105 million $116 million [44]
2018 Katy Perry United States $83 million $90 million [45]
2019 Taylor Swift ^ United States $185 million $196 million [1]
2020 Ariana Grande United States $72 million $75 million [46]
2021 Taylor Swift United States $52 million $52 million [4]

Highest-earning musicians by decade[edit]

2010s[edit]

Dr. Dre became the highest-earning musician of the 2010s decade.
Top 10 highest-earning musicians of the 2010s decade[51]
Rank Musician Nationality Earnings Adjusted earnings
(in 2022 dollar)
1 Dr. Dre United States $950 million $1,007 million
2 Taylor Swift United States $825 million $874 million
3 Beyoncé United States $685 million $726 million
4 U2 Ireland $675 million $715 million
5 Diddy United States $605 million $641 million
6 Elton John United Kingdom $565 million $599 million
7 Jay-Z United States $560 million $594 million
8 Paul McCartney United Kingdom $535 million $567 million
9 Katy Perry United States $530 million $562 million
10 Lady Gaga United States $500 million $530 million

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Male soloists were largely absent in 1999. Lou Bega only reached number 87 on the Celebrity 100 list.[47]

References[edit]

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Print sources[edit]