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]

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 [5][6]
1988 Michael Jackson * United States $97 million $222 million [7][8]
1989 Michael Jackson * United States $125 million $273 million [9][10]
1990 Michael Jackson United States $100 million $207 million [11]
1991 New Kids on the Block * United States $115 million $229 million [12][13]
1992 New Kids on the Block United States $62 million $120 million [14]
1993 Guns N' Roses United States $53 million $99 million [15][16]
1994 Pink Floyd United Kingdom $62 million $113 million [17][18]
1995 The Beatles United Kingdom $130 million $231 million [19]
1996 The Beatles United Kingdom $130 million $225 million [20]
1997 The Beatles United Kingdom $98 million $165 million [21]
1998 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $57 million $95 million [22]
1999 Backstreet Boys United States $60 million $98 million [23]
2001 The Beatles United Kingdom $70 million $107 million [24]
2002 U2 Ireland $69 million $104 million [25]
2003 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $66.5 million $98 million [26]
2004 Bruce Springsteen United States $64 million $92 million [27]
2005 Madonna United States $50 million $69 million [28]
2006 U2 Ireland $110 million $148 million [29]
2007 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $110 million $144 million [30]
2008 The Police United Kingdom $115 million $145 million [31]
2009 Madonna United States $110 million $139 million [32]
2010 U2 Ireland $130 million $162 million [33]
2011 U2 Ireland $195 million $235 million [34]
2012 Dr. Dre United States $110 million $130 million [35]
2013 Madonna United States $125 million $145 million [36]
2014 Dr. Dre United States $620 million $710 million [37]
2015 Katy Perry United States $135 million $154 million [38]
2016 Taylor Swift ^ United States $170 million $192 million [39]
2017 Diddy ^ United States $130 million $144 million [40]
2018 U2 Ireland $118 million $127 million [41]
2019 Taylor Swift ^ United States $185 million $196 million [1]
2020 Kanye West United States $170 million $178 million [42]
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 [5][6]
1988 U2 Ireland $42 million $96 million [7][8]
1989 Pink Floyd United Kingdom $56 million $122 million [9][10]
1990 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $88 million $183 million [11]
1991 New Kids on the Block * United States $115 million $229 million [12][13]
1992 New Kids on the Block United States $62 million $120 million [14]
1993 Guns N' Roses United States $53 million $99 million [15][16]
1994 Pink Floyd United Kingdom $62 million $113 million [17][18]
1995 The Beatles United Kingdom $130 million $231 million [19]
1996 The Beatles United Kingdom $130 million $225 million [20]
1997 The Beatles United Kingdom $98 million $165 million [21]
1998 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $57 million $95 million [22]
1999 Backstreet Boys United States $60 million $98 million [23]
2001 The Beatles United Kingdom $70 million $107 million [24]
2002 U2 Ireland $69 million $104 million [25]
2003 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $66.5 million $98 million [26]
2004 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $51 million $73 million [27]
2005 Eagles United States $45 million $62 million [28]
2006 U2 Ireland $110 million $148 million [29]
2007 The Rolling Stones United Kingdom $110 million $144 million [30]
2008 The Police United Kingdom $115 million $145 million [31]
2009 Rascal Flatts United States $60 million $76 million [32]
2010 U2 Ireland $130 million $162 million [33]
2011 U2 Ireland $195 million $235 million [34]
2012 U2 Ireland $78 million $92 million [35]
2013 Bon Jovi United States $79 million $92 million [36]
2014 Eagles United States $100 million $114 million [37]
2015 One Direction United Kingdom / Ireland $130 million $149 million [38]
2016 One Direction United Kingdom / Ireland $110 million $124 million [39]
2017 Coldplay United Kingdom $88 million $97 million [40]
2018 U2 Ireland $118 million $127 million [41]
2019 Eagles United States $100 million $106 million [1]
2020 Jonas Brothers United States $68.5 million $72 million [42]
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 [5][6]
1988 Michael Jackson * United States $97 million $222 million [7]
1989 Michael Jackson * United States $125 million $273 million [9][10]
1990 Michael Jackson United States $100 million $207 million [11]
1991 Michael Jackson United States $60 million $119 million [12][13]
1992 Michael Jackson United States $51 million $98 million [14]
1993 Prince United States $49 million $92 million [15][16]
1994 Garth Brooks United States $41 million $75 million [17][18]
1995 Michael Jackson United States $67 million $119 million [19]
1996 Michael Jackson United States $90 million $155 million [20]
1997 David Bowie United Kingdom $63 million $106 million [21]
1998 Master P United States $56.5 million $94 million [22]
1999 Lou Bega[a] Germany $6 million $10 million [23]
2001 Dr. Dre United States $35 million $54 million [24]
2002 Elton John United Kingdom $30 million $45 million [44]
2003 Paul McCartney United Kingdom $59 million $87 million [26]
2004 Bruce Springsteen United States $64 million $92 million [27]
2005 Prince United States $49.7 million $69 million [28]
2006 Bruce Springsteen United States $55 million $74 million [29]
2007 Elton John United Kingdom $53 million $69 million [30]
2008 Toby Keith United States $48 million $60 million [31]
2009 Bruce Springsteen United States $70 million $88 million [32]
2010 Bruce Springsteen United States $70 million $87 million [33]
2011 Elton John United Kingdom $100 million $120 million [34]
2012 Dr. Dre United States $110 million $130 million [35]
2013 Toby Keith United States $65 million $76 million [36]
2014 Dr. Dre United States $620 million $710 million [37]
2015 Garth Brooks United States $90 million $103 million [38]
2016 Garth Brooks United States $70 million $79 million [45]
2017 Diddy ^ United States $130 million $144 million [40]
2018 Ed Sheeran United Kingdom $110 million $119 million [41]
2019 Kanye West United States $150 million $159 million [1]
2020 Kanye West United States $170 million $178 million [42]
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 [5][6]
1988 Madonna United States $46 million $105 million [7][8]
1989 Madonna United States $43 million $94 million [9][46]
1990 Madonna United States $62 million $129 million [11]
1991 Madonna United States $63 million $125 million [12][13]
1992 Madonna United States $48 million $93 million [14]
1993 Madonna United States $37 million $69 million [15][16]
1994 Barbra Streisand United States $57 million $104 million [17][18]
1995 Barbra Streisand United States $63 million $112 million [19]
1996 Mariah Carey United States $32 million $55 million [20]
1997 Celine Dion Canada $65 million $110 million [21]
1998 Celine Dion Canada $55.5 million $92 million [22]
1999 Shania Twain Canada $48 million $78 million [23]
2001 Britney Spears United States $38.5 million $59 million [24]
2002 Mariah Carey United States $58 million $87 million [25]
2003 Cher United States $33.1 million $49 million [26]
2004 Celine Dion Canada $28 million $40 million [27]
2005 Madonna United States $50 million $69 million [28]
2006 Celine Dion Canada $40 million $54 million [29]
2007 Madonna United States $72 million $94 million [30]
2008 Beyoncé United States $80 million $101 million [31]
2009 Madonna United States $110 million $139 million [32]
2010 Beyoncé United States $87 million $108 million [33]
2011 Lady Gaga ^ United States $90 million $108 million [34]
2012 Britney Spears United States $58 million $68 million [35]
2013 Madonna United States $125 million $145 million [36]
2014 Beyoncé ^ United States $115 million $132 million [37]
2015 Katy Perry United States $135 million $154 million [38]
2016 Taylor Swift ^ United States $170 million $192 million [39]
2017 Beyoncé United States $105 million $116 million [40]
2018 Katy Perry United States $83 million $90 million [41]
2019 Taylor Swift ^ United States $185 million $196 million [1]
2020 Ariana Grande United States $72 million $75 million [42]
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[47]
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

Historical achievements[edit]

Michael Jackson is the first musician to earn over $100 million in a year (1989).[48] He also has the most appearances in the top among male musicians, with 7 during his life, followed by Bruce Springsteen with 6 as of 2021. In 2016, the Michael Jackson Estate earned at $825 million, the largest annual gain for an entertainer, living or dead.[49] In 2020, Forbes recognized Jackson as the top-earning dead celebrity each year since his death except 2012.[50][51]

Madonna is the first female musician to earn $100 million in a year (2009), as well the first to earn it twice (2009 and 2013) followed by Beyoncé (2014 and 2017) and Taylor Swift (2016 and 2019). Madonna also has the most years at the top (11 times), and the only one among woman in various consecutives years (1987–1993) as well decades (1980s–2010s).

As of 2019, 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).[52][53]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Male soloists were largely absent in 1999. Lou Bega only reached number 87 on the Celebrity 100 list.[43]

References[edit]

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Print sources[edit]