As lucrative careers go it's a good time to be a musician—as long as you’re at the top. With multiple profitable income avenues—streaming included—the last two years have shown steady growth. So, how much money are artists actually seeing?
Billboard recently released its Money Makers report, listing the 50 highest paid musicians in 2018. The list ranks the earnings of the top 50 music acts based on their U.S. sales, streaming, publishing, and touring in 2017. The latter makes up the majority (almost 80%) of the total income on the list, and those who had massive tours ranked at the top. 24 rock, nine pop, nine country, and eight R&B/hip-hop acts (including one EDM group) made the list. This year alone, their combined income grew 12.9% to nearly $961 million, up from $851 million.
Did your favorite artist make it to the top? Read on to find out.
Earnings: $9.10 million
Alex Pall and Drew Taggart comprise this Grammy Award-winning EDM-pop duo. After a cringeworthy appearance on “American Idol” in 2014, Pall and Taggart rebuilt their reputation into one of commercial success. The Chainsmokers released “Memories...Do Not Open” in 2017, which saw 3.5 million track downloads by the end of the year.
Earnings: $9.20 million
This English rock band has been pumping out tunes since 1977. Their spot on this list was secured by tour revenue, as well as the reissue of their 1987 album “Hysteria,” which helped push the album copies sold from their catalog to 200,000.
Earnings: $9.30 million
The American singer-songwriter has eclipsed pop-stardom, packing stadiums, and breaking concert attendance records across on her current “Reputation” tour. But that didn't even weigh into the list—Swift earned her spot first for being the top album-seller in 2017, with 2.8 million track downloads.
Earnings: $9.40 million
This American rock band's star is rising—with more than a billion streams in 2017, they've been asked to make their inaugural performance at the American Music Awards. Panic! at the Disco will play "Bohemian Rhapsody" as a tribute to Queen at the AMAs. They're also nominated in the favorite artist/alternative rock category.
Earnings: $9.8 million
Chris Brown has been a fixture on the American pop scene since 2005. He's a quadruple threat when it comes to earnings. In 2017, he saw a combined total of 2.4 billion audio and video streams—the seventh-highest on the list. Too bad video streams pay less than audio, or he probably would have seen even more.
Earnings: $10.70 million
One of country music's most notable new stars, Sam Hunt's debut album “Montevallo” just logged its 200th consecutive week on the Billboard 200, where it debuted at #2 in 2014. In 2017, he was one of three country artists who topped one billion streams.
Earnings: $11 million
When two college friends formed Twenty One Pilots nearly a decade ago, they probably didn’t expect to rank among the highest-paid musicians of their time. In 2017, they earned $11 million in combined revenue.
Earnings: $11.34 million
Even though the legendary pop star hasn’t released an album since 2015’s “Unbreakable,” she still made the list. Jackson spent the year touring, which brought in most of her revenue, and released "Made For Now" with Daddy Yankee.
Earnings: $11.36 million
The sitcom star-turned-pop music icon is new to the list, and one of a handful to surpass one billion streams for the year. She also brought in $9.4 million during her “Dangerous Woman” tour across North America and Europe.
Earnings: $11.40 million
The English singer-songwriter announced his retirement from touring in early 2018, but that didn't keep Elton John from bringing in $11.4 million in 2017. $9.8 million came from his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour. He also ranks formidably in streaming and downloads.
Earnings: $11.61 million
The pop-punk rock band has been around for more than 30 years and is still going strong, with multiple Grammy awards, massive sales, and even a rock musical based on their 2004 album “American Idiot.” Green Day toured in 2017, bringing in $9.2 million.
Earnings: $11.64 million
Electronic music masters Depeche Mode made their mark in 2017 with the “Global Spirit” tour, in support of their 14th studio album, “Spirit.” The 130-show tour was the band's longest, bringing in $10.8 million of the $11.64 million they earned that year.
Earnings: $11.70 million
This American rock band may not have a new album—their last was released in 2011—but they definitely still know how to tour. In 2017, they joined Santana for concerts in the U.S. before heading to Southeast Asia, followed by a full North America tour. The shows accounted for $9.5 million of the $11.7 million Journey earned in 2017.
Earnings: $12.10 million
The actor-turned-rapper made $12.1 million last year—without a tour. He ranks in first place for streaming on the list, earning $8.6 million—$3 million ahead of the runner-up.
Earnings: $12.50 million
The pop-country singer raked it in on the “Soul2Soul” tour she co-headlined with husband Tim McGraw. Part of her $12.5 million income was from the famous couple’s “The Rest of Our Life” LP, released last year.
Earnings: $12.90 million
J. Cole's streaming songs (two billion of them) comprised a large portion of his income last year. His “4 Your Eyez Only” tour, in support of his eponymous album, also brought in $7.8 million.
Earnings: $13.10 million
Georgia native Zac Brown had a record-breaking year in 2017. The band's “Welcome Home” tour saw more than a million fans at more than 40 shows, and sold out venues like Denver's Coors Field and Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Concert revenue accounted for $10 million of the band’s total earnings of $13.1 million.
Earnings: $13.40 million
English rock band Queen teamed up with Adam Lambert for a 25-city North American tour, earning them $8.7 million. Queen also owns its catalog, which brought in another $4.7 million in royalties.
Earnings: $13.48 million
Along his wife, singer Faith Hill, country star Tim McGraw earned $12 million in 2017 from the couple's “Soul2Soul” Tour. Streaming and music downloads brought in the majority of 2018’s income.
Earnings: $13.48 million
The heartthrobs of the 1980s came back in 2017 with a vengeance. The band hit the road with fellow 80s groups Boyz II Men and Paula Abdul, and brought in $13.3 million.
Earnings: $14.1 million
Pop star Britney Spears’s residency at the Park Theater and The Park MGM in Las Vegas will earn her $500,000 per show. She didn't do too badly performing at Planet Hollywood for the last four years, either. In 2017, she earned $13.2 million.
Earnings: $14.40 million
With 1.8 billion streams bringing in $2.2 million, alternative rock band Imagine Dragons had the most streams of any band on the list. They also earned $7.4 million on tour.
Earnings: $15 million
The American rapper set off on his “Nobody Safe” tour in 2017, earning him $7 million—slightly less than what he brought in from record sales, streaming and downloads.
Earnings: $16.2 million
It pays to work in Las Vegas if you’re Canadian superstar Céline Dion. Dion brought in a whopping $15.1 million from her residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, with additional earnings from royalties.
Earnings: $16.2 million
Singer-songwriter John Mayer’s “The Search for The Search for Everything” world tour earned him $13.4 million. He also released “The Search for Everything: Wave One” and “The Search for Everything: Wave Two,” earning $900,000 from track and album sales and more than $1 million from streaming.
Earnings: $16.3 million
Seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra live is a wonder to behold. The laser light and sound spectacle earned the rock band $15.6 million last year, despite the death of lyricist/founder Paul O'Neill in April of 2017.
Earnings: $16.5 million
After wrapping his 50th anniversary tour in 2017, which earned him $14.5 million, Neil Diamond wrapped up 2017 by singing "Sweet Caroline" in Manhattan's Times Square. A few weeks later, he announced his retirement, owing to Parkinson's disease.
Earnings: $17.6 million
The remaining members of the Grateful Dead, along with John Mayer, packed stadiums in 2017 to earn $15.9 million. The rest of the $17.6 million came from the band’s catalog, which is still going strong.
Earnings: $17.90 million
Country music star Chris Stapleton released two albums in 2017, which ranked him fourth from the top in publishing royalties for his genre. He also brought in $13.3 million from his tour.
Earnings: $18.5 million
The Boss hit Broadway in 2017 with “Springsteen on Broadway,” a solo show that runs through December 2018 and airs on Netflix on December 15th. The production earned the renowned singer-songwriter $17.3 million.
Earnings: $19.40 million
The country star saw enormous success from his “Holdin’ My Own” tour, with 61 shows that earned him $16.9 million. Streaming brought in $927,000.
Earnings: $19.8 million
The hip-hop star and business mogul had a banner year in 2017. He became the first artist of his genre to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and released “4:44,” his 13th solo album, which received 776 million streams. He also earned $14 million from touring.
Earnings: $20.90 million
The American country music duo rules when it comes to streaming: they earned $1.6 million, the most of any country act. They found immense success with touring as well, pocketing $17.8 million.
Earnings: $21.6 million
The alternative rock megastars have been mainstays in the music industry for more than 30 years. They are still pounding the pavement on tour as well, which brought in $18.5 million last year.
Earnings: $21.70 million
The rapper continued a wave of momentum in 2017 with the release of “DAMN,” which went double-platinum. Lamar also earned $5.3 million from streaming, ranking him third in that category.
Earnings: $23.3 million
Streaming and touring earned the Canadian rapper the 12th spot on the list, making him the second most successful act in his genre based on earnings. Streaming alone netted him $3.8 million in royalties.
Earnings: $23.4 million
Last year marked the band's 40th anniversary tour. Sadly, lead singer Tom Petty passed away just a few weeks after the final show. The band brought in $19.8 million, and saw a spike in sales following Petty's death to bring their earnings to $23.4 million.
Earnings: $26.5 million
The British rock band’s “Head Full of Dreams” tour was the third-highest grossing world tour ever, according to Billboard. The tour included 114 shows, and brought in $22.3 million.
Earnings: $27.2 million
Roger Waters earned $1.3 million in 2017 from royalties of his own, as well as his share of the Pink Floyd catalog. His “Us + Them” world tour brought in $25.2 million.
Earnings: $27.8 million
The American rock band found success in their “Not in This Lifetime” tour. In 2017, they brought in $25.9 million.
Earnings: $29.2 million
In 2018, Billy Joel became the first musician with a music franchise at New York's Madison Square Garden. His residency at the famed venue began in 2014 and hit 100 shows in July. In 2017, his residency (in addition to other larger shows) earned him $27.4 million in touring revenue.
Earnings: $29.7 million
Always a performer, Lady Gaga had the sixth most profitable tour last year, bringing in $26.5 million. She also earned income from 2.3 million downloads, pushing the total to $29.7 million.
Earnings: $31.30 million
Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" was 2017's hottest track, with "Castle On The Hill" coming in at #40 on the year-end charts. No doubt bolstered by the hype, Sheeran brought in $11.5 million in publishing royalties, and $19.9 million from touring.
Earnings: $40.7 million
The R&B/hip-hop performer set out on his “24K Magic” world tour in March of 2017, and raked in $33.9 million by year-end. He released his album "24K Magic" in 2016, and raked in big bucks from 2.6 billion streams.
Earnings: $43.2 million
The heavy metal band ranked as the #4 live act of 2017, bringing in $30.7 million from their “WorldWired” tour. They also earned $8.7 million from album sales.
Earnings: $52.2 million
If it seems as though this country singer is perpetually on tour, it’s because he is. His “World Tour” logged 390 dates by the end of 2017, earning him $46.7 million for the year.
Earnings: $54.40 million
The “Joshua Tree Tour” celebrated the 30th anniversary of U2’s seminal album, placing the Irish rock band in the top spot for earnings. They brought in $52 million from live shows alone. The tour hit 33 stops, where the band played the album in its entirety.