What did a year with no live gigs do to the fortunes of pop’s biggest stars? Well, they definitely took a hit, but for a lucky few, the money kept rolling in thanks to streaming royalties and physical sales of their music.
The queen of all that was Taylor Swift, who returned to the number-one spot on Billboard’s ranking of the highest-paid musicians of 2020 in the U.S., even though her income in 2020 dropped to “only” $23.8 million. By comparison, the last time she was on the list, in 2018, her income was $99.6 million.
Taylor topped the chart based almost solely on sales of her albums folklore and evermore — physical and digital sales, plus streaming. Billboard notes that because Taylor owns her masters, she gets 46% of the money they generate, compared with the 33% a top artist usually earns.
Post Malone is number two on the list, just behind Taylor with $23.2 million. Unlike her, he actually had some touring income in the early part of 2020 that boosted his overall paycheck, which was added to his streaming sales for hits like “Circles.”
Celine Dion comes in at number three because, she was able to tour before the pandemic hit, raking in some $17 million. Royalties from her recordings and publishing made up the rest of her $17.5 million paycheck.
Billie Eilish was in the top five thanks to three pre-pandemic concerts she performed, but she made the bulk of her $14.7 million in streaming and publishing, as well as physical album sales.
Here’s how some other big stars did in terms of their U.S. paychecks:
11. The Weeknd, $10.4 million
19. BTS, $8.9 million
23. Ariana Grande, $7.5 million
31. Justin Bieber, $6.22 million
36. Ed Sheeran, $5.66 million
37. Halsey, $5.55 million
38. Harry Styles, $5.51 million
Globally, Taylor slides to number two, Billie rises to number three, and rock legends Queen are ranked number one.
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