It goes without saying that the world of music is big business –and a lucrative one at that. But when it comes to the highest-paid musician of 2020 – Kanye West – the man found most of his fortune outside of music. Despite being a household name with one of the most iconic back catalogues of music to his name, Kanye West achieved most of his earnings through his Yeezy sneaker deal with Adidas. Bringing in $170 million USD, it seems West brings new meaning to the phrase “the money is in the merch” as his fashion escapades continue to sell out in a frenzy.
According to Forbes, live shows drove career-best income for some of the biggest names in the industry. Ed Sheeran’s Drive Tour saw the artist amass 8.9 million fans at his shows, grossing $776 million USD over two-plus years. In doing so, Sheeran surpassed U2’s all-time record for a single tour. In saying this, it will be interesting to note just how significant the impact of Covid-19 is on the income of top-earners. Already, up-and-coming musicians have found themselves in a vulnerable position as forced closure of venues and social distancing restrictions mean they can’t perform or do live shows. And now, even stars like Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney have had to cancel their tours as a result of the pandemic.
As Forbes notes, the rankings are determined by a consideration of income from touring, music, and outside business ventures with help from Pollstar, Nielsen Music and interviews with industry insiders, including the stars themselves. The earnings are listed as pre-tax however, and doesn’t include the deductions required for agents, managers or lawyers.
Interestingly, unlike sport’s top earners who only served to highlight the gender pay gap that continues to remain prevalent in the world of professional sport, a number of female artists rounded out the top 20. Ariana Grande was the third highest-paid musician of 2020, while other names like Taylor Swift, Pink, Rihanna and Billie Eilish also made the cut. Even so, the list still skews towards males.
Here are the top-earning musicians for 2020, with the full list of musicians available on the Forbes website.
Kanye West: $170 million
Elton John: $81 million
Ariana Grande: $72 million
Jonas Brothers: $68.5 million
Chainsmokers: $68 million
Ed Sheeran: $64 million
Taylor Swift: $63.5 million
Post Malone: $60 million
Rolling Stones: $59 million
Marshmello: $56 million