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Madonna, Lady Gaga are World’s Highest-Paid Musicians in 2013: Forbes

Looks like the public rivalry between two generations of pop diva superstars has paid off for both. According to Forbes’ annual list of the World’s Highest-Paid Musicians, Madonna and Lady Gaga took the two top slots for 2013.

The “Material Girl,” who spent the better part of last year stirring pots with her controversial MDNA Tour, topped the list by a wide margin, pulling in a whopping $125 million. Gaga, whose new record ARTPOP just debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, pulled in a paltry $80 million for 2013—but give the girl a little slack. Had she not been forced off the road with a hip injury, she might have made a lot more. This fact actually shines a light on an interesting dynamic in today’s music industry: the significance of live touring on an artist’s income. With few exceptions, the major artists who conducted recent major tours made lots of money.

This dynamic explains a few “surprises” on the list. For example, Bon Jovi took the No. 3 slot ($79 million) on the strength of their “Because We Can” tour. And Coldplay, who actually began a three-year touring hiatus in 2013, still managed to draw enough income from 2012’s tour dates (along with a live concert film) to grab the No. 5 slot with $64 million. Even Roger Waters of Pink Floyd cashed in on touring this year, adding ticket receipts from a mere 29 live shows to merchandise and residual royalties to come in at No. 16 ($44 million).

Musicians who ventured into business ventures and corporate endorsements also fared well. This explains the appearance of Diddy on the list (No. 12, $50 million), who made most of his money last year selling Ciroc Vodka (not to mention his ongoing ventures including a record label, Sean Jean clothing line and the recent launch of Revolt TV). Business also gave a boost to country artist Toby Keith (No. 4, $65 million), who supplements his touring income with a hugely successful restaurant chain; as well as to Taylor Swift (No. 8, $55 million), whose income stream blends huge record sales and live show revenue with endorsement deals from Covergirl, Sony and Diet Coke.

There are, of course, plenty of expected and familiar names on the list. We fully expect to see names like Katy Perry (23), Rihanna (17), and Justin Bieber (7) among annual top earners. Perhaps more unexpected is the addition of names like Calvin Harris, the world’s highest paid DJ, whose $46 million in earnings last year are a clear sign of the emergence of electronic and EDM as a global force in the music market. And of course, there are those families who benefit from both spouses being high earners; Beyoncé and her husband Jay Z both made the list (No. 10 and No. 19, respectively), although their combined earnings were still no match for Madonna.

The ultimate irony found Forbes’ list of the World’s Highest-Paid Musicians, though, is who failed to make the list on a technicality. Michael Jackson out-earned Madonna last year by $35 million, but you have to be a living musician to be included on the list.

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About the Author


David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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