2021 wasn’t necessarily a great year for the music industry. With so many concerts and music festivals either canceled or postponed, it meant a huge loss of income for many artists who make most of their money on tour. And with the backdrop of controversial royalty rates for streaming and CD sales at the forefront, you might think that no one made any serious money in 2021. As it turns out, however, there are some pretty big exceptions.
Rolling Stone magazine recently released its annual list of the highest-paid artists over the past 12 months and the list has a few surprises in store.
For starters, Bruce Springsteen appears at the top of the list, with revenues estimated by the publication at a whopping $590 million. The Boss owes this top spot thanks to the sale of his music rights to Sony for half a billion dollars. He also raked in millions from the return of his one-man show on Broadway and his podcast and book collaboration with Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, Jay-Z follows Springsteen in second place with estimated earnings of $470. The rapper amassed a small fortune by selling half of his shares in the Armand de Brignac champagne house to Moët Hennessy.
Catalogue sales also put Paul Simon on the list (at No. 3 with $260 million) as well as Ryan Tedder (No. 5, $200 million), Red Hot Chili Peppers (No. 6, $145 million), Lindsey Buckingham (No. 7, $100 million), Mötley Crüe (No. 8, $95 million) and Blake Shelton (No. 9, $83 million).
“These are almost like pieces of art," founder and CEO of music publishing company Round Hill Music Josh Gruss told the magazine about the high-profile purchases dominating the list.
"There's a finite number of real, super-high-quality hit songs from the past — and there's this sort of all-out grab to own those rights.
"It's a very steady stream of revenue that's there, and that makes it very attractive for investment.”
Here is the list of the top ten highest-earning musicians in 2021, according to Rolling Stone:
10. Taylor Swift ($80 million)
9. Blake Shelton ($83 million)
8. Mötley Crüe ($95 million)
7. Lindsey Buckingham ($100 million)
6. Red Hot Chili Peppers ($145 million)
5. Ryan Tedder ($200 million)
4. Kanye West ($250 million)
3. Paul Simon ($260 million)
2. Jay-Z ($470 million)
1. Bruce Springsteen ($590 million)
Finally, it’s worth noting that Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Taylor Swift are the only musicians on the list that didn't earn the lion's share of those numbers by selling the rights to their music. If we took the catalog sales out of the equation, Swift would end up significantly higher on the list, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that she doesn't own the rights of her own albums released before 2018.