US dollars money

Longtime music earnings analyst Zack O’Malley Greenburg has just published his annual ‘music money list’ across Rolling Stone and his own newsletter.

The topline finding: the 10 highest paid musicians of 2021 collectively earned $2.3bn, which he estimates is “more than double what they were making on an annual basis in the years right before Covid-19.”

Wait what? Well, this isn’t just earnings from streams, sales and whatever live revenue was possible amid a global pandemic.

No, seven of those top 10 artists were involved in catalogue acquisitions last year, from top-ranked Bruce Springsteen ($590m of estimated 2021 earnings) through Paul Simon ($260m), Ryan Tedder ($200m), the Red Hot Chili Peppers ($145m), Lindsey Buckingham ($100m), Mötley Crüe ($95m) and Blake Shelton ($83m).

Meanwhile, second-placed Jay-Z made a big chunk of his $470m from sales of stakes in his champagne brand and in streaming service Tidal; fourth-placed Kanye West ($250m) is selling shedloads of sneakers; and tenth-placed Taylor Swift ($80m)… well, she has brand deals, but appears to be the only one of the top 10 who made most of her money directly from music.

Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that she’s also the only woman in the top 10: something that Greenburg didn’t avoid in his analysis.

“For every Springsteen signed to a record deal, how many female rockers were ignored? For every Dylan given freedom to write his songs — and accumulate intellectual property — how many women got pigeonholed as just singers?” he wrote.

“For every Simon who maintained or negotiated the return of his rights decades ago, how many female icons were denied that respect? And so it goes for so many underrepresented demographics in the industry.”

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