Music Industry

Who are America’s highest-paid musicians so far this year? And where is their money coming from?

Billboard likes to keep tabs on how much artists earn with periodic rich lists. Its list of the biggest earners so far in 2018 provides some interesting insight into how much the music industry has changed.

U2 is the biggest moneymaker this year, bringing in $54.4 million USD. But look how they made that cash.

Touring: $52.2 million
Music sales: $1.1 million
Publishing: $705,200
Streaming: $624,500

In the Olden Days–i.e. pre-streaming–U2 would have seen the bulk of their earnings come from album sales. Now they make more than fifty times more by being on the road than selling records. Income from publishing and streaming is no more than a rounding error for them.

Garth Brooks comes in second place. His $52.2 million income breaks down like this:

Touring: $46.7 million
Sales: 4.8 million
Publishing: $190.500
Streaming: $596,000

Keep in mind that Garth Brooks is the second best-selling artist in the world behind only The Beatles. But those days were back in the 90s when we were still buying CDs by the boatload.

Metallica is next on the list with a total of $43.2 million.

Touring: $30.7 million
Sales: $8.7 million
Publishing: $1.6 million
Streaming: $2.2 million

It’s all about ticket sales. Chances are the people who come to see these acts already have all the albums they need so they’re not about to buy them again. Younger fans? They’d rather just stream the hits.

The finances of the remaining 47 acts on this list reveal some interesting facts.

  • The majority (29) are the artists are “heritage acts,” a nice way of calling them “superstar acts from the pre-streaming era.”
  • Only two acts made the list without touring: Drake (he made most of his money through streaming) and Taylor Swift (out on the road now, but made $5 million through music sales through the first half of the year.)
  • Rock is the dominant genre, taking 24 of the 50 spots, followed by pop (9), country (9), and hip-hop/R&B (8).

Examine the whole list here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37921 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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