- Taylor Swift became the first artist in history to claim the top ten spots on the Billboard Hot 100 song list.
- The Rolling Stones banked $98 million from belting out their hits and celebrating 60 years together on their European Sixty tour last year.
- Box-office stars have had a tougher go of it. The only ones in the top 10 are Tyler Perry and Brad Pitt, both of who made most of their income off-screen.
These top-earning celebrities, musicians and creators made more than $1.3 billion last year. After releasing her tenth studio album, Midnights, in October 2022, Taylor Swift became the first artist in history to claim the top ten spots on the Billboard Hot 100 song list.
Taylor swift midnight’s success
A month later, 14 million loyal fans tried to buy tickets to the 12- time Grammy winner’s 2023 Eras Tour, overwhelming Ticketmaster and prompting a massive backlash against the ticket site, with the Department of Justice reportedly opening an antitrust investigation.
Despite the success of Midnights and the anticipation for Eras (which hints at an even better 2023), the pop icon scored most of her $92 million in earnings from music she’d released in years past.
The 33-year-old’s back catalog made up an estimated 70% of her pay, including profits from streaming and album sales.
(Universal Music Group, which gets 3% of its revenue from Swift, sold $50 million worth of physical albums in 2022, per a JPMorgan analyst report).
It was enough to place the musician at No. 9 among the top 10 earning entertainers; it’s the sixth time she’s made the cut—and she ranked No. 1 in 2019.
Year of Rockstar’s
As good as Swift’s year was, it was even better for several aging rock stars. The Rolling Stones banked $98 million from belting out their hits and celebrating 60 years together on their European Sixty tour last year.
Genesis and Sting did even better. Although not at the eye-popping valuations seen in Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen’s landmark $500 million deals—both sold their life’s work for $300 million apiece, showing that investors still see popular music with deep libraries as a safe bet.
Genesis was deemed that valuable despite the fact that the deal excludes the work of onetime member Peter Gabriel.
Genesis even beat out the former Police front man (whom younger fans may know better from his cameo in Hulu’s Only Murders In The Building, alongside Selena Gomez), thanks to an estimated $27 million infusion from touring—enough to earn the top spot on the list for the first time ever.
There are plenty of other signs that the entertainment industry likes certain things. Thirty-four years after The Simpsons first aired, two creators of America’s favorite yellow family debuted at No. 5, thanks to a 2019 streaming deal that migrated all 30 seasons to Disney+ and put a previously unreported $105 million in their pockets annually.
And James Cameron, the director you “never bet against,” is back in the top 10 after a dozen years away.
His Avatar sequel, The Way of Water, and its blue-skinned beings have breathed some much-needed life back into the box office.
Still in theaters, it has grossed over $2.1 billion to date since its December release.
Box-office stars have had a tougher go of it. The only ones in the top 10 are Tyler Perry and Brad Pitt, both of who made most of their income off-screen.
Pitt, who last appeared among the top 10 in 2009, sold a majority stake in his production company, Plan B, to European media conglomerate Mediawan in a December deal that valued the business at $300 million.
His roles in Bullet Train, Babylon and The Lost City accounted for an estimated third of his income.
Newcomers in the list
The only true newcomer to this year’s list: Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, who sold $400 million worth of tickets to his two tours—the first in the spring in the U.S., the second in the fall across the States plus Latin America—according to concert tracker Pollstar.
His second tour, dubbed The World’s Hottest, was an expensive affair. It took 35 to 40 trucks to cart gear and crew from venue to venue across the U.S. and then used three planes—including a 747 cargo jet—to transport everything for the Latin American leg, according to sources with knowledge of the tour.
That kind of spectacle may have helped sales but meant fewer dollars in the star’s pocket. Including endorsements, Bad Bunny earned $88 million.
Altogether this year’s biggest earners hauled in $1.35 billion, half as much as last year’s top 10 that included Jay-Z, Kanye “Ye” West and Bruce Springsteen. Only two appeared on both lists: Tyler Perry and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
10 Highest Paid entertainers
Genesis • $230 M
The pioneers of progressive rock topped 2022 with a $300 million music rights sale to Concord Music Group in September.
The deal comprised publishing rights and a selection of recorded music income streams from the group, as well as solo income streams from Phil Collins (including hit song “In The Air Tonight”) and bandmates Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. Touring and recorded music royalties rounded out their income.
Sting • $210 M
The 17-time Grammy winner and former Police frontman—known for hits including “Every Breath You Take” and “Roxanne”—pocketed $300 million before fees by selling his entire musical output, both solo and with The Police, to Universal Music Group in February.
“It’s a good catalog,” says one longtime industry attorney on the British singer’s work. “Wouldn’t mind owning it.”
Tyler Perry • $175 M
Just call multi-hyphenate Perry a modern Renaissance man. The actor-director-writer-studio mogul had another lucrative year thanks to simultaneous income streams from film, his BET TV shows and the sprawling production backlot he outright owns in Atlanta.
In his second year among Forbes’ top 10 highest-paid entertainers, Perry is the list’s sole billionaire with an estimated $1 billion fortune.
Trey Parker & Matt Stone • $160 M
The devilish duo behind South Park had another banner year, thanks to earnings from a legacy HBO Max deal and Book of Mormon, their comedic musical (and skewering) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The majority comes from their Paramount deal, signed in 2021 and guaranteeing the pair $935 million over six years.
James L. Brooks & Matt Groening • $105 M
America’s favorite yellow cartoon family, The Simpsons, migrated all 30 seasons to Disney+ from FX in an April 2019 streaming deal made after Disney’s previous acquisition of Fox for some $52 billion.
Series co-creators Brooks and Groening aren’t having a cow, man, having earned a previously unreported $105 million annually after fees, according to sources familiar with the deal.
Brad Pitt • $100 M
Pitt’s majority sale of his Plan B production company in December earned the actor an estimated $113 million after fees.
The deal also had Hollywood chattering. “It’s definitely become a brand,” says one lawyer, adding that Plan B in addition to producing Oscar winners Moonlight, 12 Years A Slave and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, likely owns back ends and has a development slate that would increase its value. Others weren’t sold.
“It doesn’t really have assets,” says a second attorney, pointing out that the company simply produces projects, rather than owning them. Pitt earned an additional estimated $30 million from roles in Bullet Train, Babylon and The Lost City.
Rolling Stones • $98 M
If Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and company can’t get (no) satisfaction from a $136 million grossing tour and record royalties, then perhaps they should paint their coffers black.
The OG British rockers pocketed over $8.5 million per night on a 15-city tour across Europe last summer, according to concert tracker Pollstar.
James Cameron • $95 M
His wallet will go on: The smash success of Avatar: The Way of Water made Cameron the director of three of the highest-grossing movies of all time, alongside the first Avatar (2009) and Titanic (1997).
His second outing to Pandora netted him at least $95 million, according to industry insiders, in a deal that’s said to be back-end-heavy with bonuses for crossing certain box office thresholds.
Taylor Swift • $92 M
Combined income streams from physical record sales, streaming on platforms like Spotify, digital downloads, licensing and sync make up Swift’s earnings.
It begs the question: What can’t the 33-year-old superstar (and her loyal fanbase, the Swifties) accomplish?
Crashing Ticketmaster with unbelievable demand for her Midnights tour in November suggests an even bigger 2023 for her, as she’ll be on the road for 52 nights across the U.S. with a potential nine-figure payout as a result.
Bad Bunny • $88 M
The Puerto Rican rapper, best known for combining reggaeton (a mix of Caribbean reggae and mainland rap) with Latin trap (a hip-hop subgenre with roots in the southern U.S.) charmed millions around the world as he flew on a palm tree on tour, appeared alongside Brad Pitt in Bullet Train and challenged machismo with genderfluid style.
The lion’s share of his income came from two tours: El Último Tour Del Mundo, performed in arenas, and The World’s Hottest Tour, his first time playing in the biggest possible stadiums. Endorsements with the likes of Corona, Cheetos and Adidas were icing on the cake.
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