Music's Top 40 Money Makers 2012
As the concert business rebounded in 2011, touring remained the biggest source of income for the top earners in the U.S. music business. Billboard's sixth annual Money Makers ranking includes veteran road warriors U2, Kenny Chesney and Bon Jovi, as well as other artists emerging in recent years as A-list arena headliners, from Taylor Swift to Lady Gaga. But not all of the 40 artists on the Money Makers list relied heavily, if at all, on touring income.
Thanks to the breathtaking sales of sophomore album "21," Adele made a top 10 showing despite vocal cord problems limiting her ability to perform publicly before she was forced to cancel 10 sold-out U.S. dates in the fall. Sales of the Beatles' classic catalog-powered by impressive digital album sales at iTunes-enabled the Fab Four to make their Money Makers debut. And who says kids don't buy music these days? Justin Bieber enjoyed such robust album and digital track sales that even his absence from the U.S. touring market didn't keep him from making the cut.
Country artists had another banner year, occupying 11 of the 40 slots on the list, with Swift surpassing all with U.S. earnings of $35.7 million, 17% more than the take-home pay of last year's top-earner, Lady Gaga. Conspicuously absent are dance artists, despite the genre's recent commercial resurgence. That's due, in part, to the fact that even the most prominent dance acts can't match the recorded-music sales of mainstream pop, rock and country artists. Moreover, touring itineraries of most star DJs not named Tiësto include multiple club dates, and venue capacities are simply too small to generate the financial returns of an arena tour.
40. Linkin Park
Linkin Park spent the majority of last year touring the globe to promote its 2010 album, A Thousand Suns, which was also the group's best-selling 2011 title with U.S. sales of 208,000. The set debuted at No. 1 in September 2010 with 241,000 first-week copies sold. Linkin Park sold a total of 657,000 albums and 3.7 million digital tracks in 2011. Live, the group performed throughout Australia, Europe and Asia, grossing $7 million alone from 10 U.S. arena shows. Overall, Linkin Park's take in 2011 came out to $5.2 million.
39. Kanye West
The rapper's November 2010 release, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, rocked through all of 2011 as he leveraged its success by releasing collaborative album Watch the Throne with Jay-Z. West reaped the multiplying power from both projects, as well as earlier hits, by moving 1.1 million albums (physical and digital) and 3.4 million digital tracks. Right after releasing Throne, the two rappers ventured out on a U.S. tour that grossed $29.3 million. Now working on a G.O.O.D. Music compilation and prepping a new album, West is sitting pretty on last year's net earnings of $5.4 million.
38. Mötley Crüe
Three decades after forming, Los Angeles hard rock icon Mötley Crüe is still blazing a trail. On the road is where the Crüe did the majority of its business in 2011, grossing nearly $14.2 million from 28 dates and playing for 255,182 headbangers during its June-August arena/amphitheater run with supporting acts Poison and the New York Dolls. Famed for its outrageous concert production, on this tour drummer Tommy Lee's kit was outfitted with a roller-coaster loop he actually rode on while playing-and one lucky fan also got strapped in for the ride almost every night. During the year, Mötley Crüe sold more than 700,000 digital tracks and 183,000-plus copies of its various albums.
37. Steely Dan
Steely Dan hasn't released a new studio album since Everything Must Go in 2003, but it's remained active in the touring space during the past decade despite the slow drip of studio recordings. In 2011, the act's album and digital track sales earnings were nominal compared with its touring revenue. The group sold 141,000 albums and 438,000 tracks last year. With plenty of catalog material from the '70s to fill up set lists, Steely Dan grossed $14.7 million from 50 U.S. theater and amphitheater dates. Highlights from that trek included a seven-night run at New York's Beacon Theatre in September.
36. New Kids On The Block
Like tour mates Backstreet Boys (No. 33), the re-formed New Kids on the Block earned quite a bit in 2011 thanks to the co-headlining NKOTBSB tour. The bill was the 17th-most successful tour last year. Traveling across North America, Europe and Australia, the New Kids performed their hits onstage with BSB (and vice versa), and this year the tour is playing overseas. While the group hasn't recorded an album of new material since 2008, a compilation of both groups' greatest hits, a pair of joint recordings and a mashup pushed NKOTB's album sales to nearly 83,000 units in 2011.
35. Justin Bieber
A break from touring the United States pushed Justin Bieber lower in the rankings, but don't feel bad for him-he still closed out 2011 at No. 9 on Billboard's year-end Top Artists chart, thanks to what appears to be an unending appetite for his music. Under the Mistletoe (his first Christmas collection) and dance mix compilation Never Say Never: The Remixes both debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Mistletoe sold 1.3 million copies while Remixes sold 824,000. In total, Bieber sold 3.4 million albums and 6.9 million digital tracks in 2011, despite the fact that he didn't tour domestically.
For star country duo Sugarland, last year was marred by a stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in August, a tragedy that resulted in seven deaths. (A lawsuit brought by fair-goers and their families cites the group's negligence in preparing to go on, despite the high winds.) But the ongoing support of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush by loyal fans can be measured by sales in 2011 of 2010's The Incredible Machine (324,000) and total album sales of more than 550,000 units. Enthusiasm for the pair's live shows never waned, either-Sugarland earned more than $4 million from an extensive 2011 tour that continued through the end of the year.
33. Backstreet Boys
Ranking a few notches above tour mates New Kids on the Block (No. 36), Backstreet Boys grossed $15.8 million last year, mostly from the combination NKOTBSB tour. The show, which features BSB and New Kids performing their hits together, kicked off in May with more than 50 North American dates, and continues with overseas dates through this spring. The Boys came off their own tour just a few months before hitting the road with NKOTB, which could explain their higher rank on the Money Makers list. In 2011 the two groups released a compilation of their combined greatest hits, two new joint recordings and a mashup. Total album sales for BSB came in at 120,000 units for the year.
The Canadian prog-rock power trio remains a mighty draw on the road, thanks to the band's deep catalog of anthems like "Tom Sawyer," "Closer to the Heart" and "The Spirit of Radio," and the chops of bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart. The band's Time Machine tour continued through the first half of 2011, grossing $14.1 million in the United States and netting $4.8 million. Rush also made noise at retail, generating U.S. album sales of 431,000 units. Adding to the revenue mix: a concert recording titled "Time Machine: Live in Cleveland 2011" debuted and peaked at No. 54 on the Billboard 200 in November, with the live show kicking off a new deal with Roadrunner Records.
Last April, Foo Fighters scored their first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with the aggressive Wasting Light, the band's seventh full-length set. The Dave Grohl-led Foos solidified their credibility among rock fans by tapping producer Butch Vig, who helmed Nirvana's Nevermind, to record the set on analog tape in Grohl's home garage. Wasting Light debuted with 235,000 copies sold in its first week, helping push the group's overall album sales to 986,000 in 2011, along with 1.6 million digital tracks last year. A stellar live act, the Foos' primary source of revenue in 2011 came from touring arenas. The five-piece grossed $10.6 million from just 18 U.S. concerts that drew close to 219,000 people.
With his OMG tour spending nearly the entire first half of 2011 on the road, Usher visited Europe, Asia and Australia, then returned in April for a second North America run. His 73-show trek finished seventh on Billboard's annual Top 25 Tours tally last year, with Boxscore tallying OMG's domestic revenue at $14 million, and Usher's personal take at $4.7 million. The tour, which kicked off in November 2010, was mounted in support of Usher's sixth studio album, Raymond v. Raymond. Last year's other highlights included the October release of the "OMG Tour: Live From London" DVD and his performance saluting late R&B songwriting legends Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford on CBS' "Grammy Nominations Concert."
29. Rod Stewart
A 13-city tour with Stevie Nicks and a Las Vegas residency were the primary earners for Rod Stewart in 2011, even as he pursued other projects including a new album deal with Universal and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as lead singer of the Faces. His Heart & Soul tour (paired with Nicks) and 18 greatest-hits shows at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace pushed Stewart's U.S. concert grosses to $16.6 million, with his take coming in at $5.6 million. Album sales, driven by 2010 release Fly Me to the Moon (72,000) and last year's The Best Of . . . The Great American Songbook (69,000), reached 350,000, while digital track sales reached 825,000.
28. Zac Brown Band
From its namesake singer's distinctive beanie cap to the group's emphasis on providing great gourmet eats for fans at live shows, Zac Brown Band has always approached country music from a decidedly different angle. The result: a loyal and growing fan base that trusts the group's ability to deliver quality goods, ranging from tasty pulled pork sandwiches to digital tracks (5.3 million of them in 2011) or a couple of deep albums (1.3 million, including 360,000 digital copies), and top-notch performances as a bona fide amphitheater (and sometimes even stadium-level) headliner. Zac Brown Band has proved an excellent brand-builder, bringing a Dave Matthews Band-style fan-centric ethos to country music-and the act is just getting started.
27. Keith Urban
Get Closer wasn't just the name of Keith Urban's November 2010 album and subsequent summer tour. It was also a promotional tag line that played out in real life, thanks to Samsung's sponsorship/endorsement deal that gave hundreds of fans personal time with the country singer at meet-and-greets. The full tour yielded $15.7 million in grosses, with Urban taking home $5.3 million. Album sales totaled 330,000 copies, while digital track sales topped out at more than 2 million. As a result, Urban pocketed $6.6 million in 2011.
26. Lady Antebellum
Lady Antebellum's success continued to transcend the country genre in 2011. The group began last year by collecting five Grammy Awards, including record of the year for multiformat smash Need You Now. The hits kept coming with "Just a Kiss," the debut single from third album Own the Night. The group sold nearly 2.2 million albums last year, and digital track sales exceeded 5.3 million. The Own the Night tour was among the year's top country treks, raking in more than $3,209,000. Thus far, 2012 is shaping up to be another banner year for Lady A, with Own the Night earning a Grammy for best country album and the trio already selling a half-million tickets for this year's trek.
25. Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney lands on the Money Makers tally the same way he appeared on the 2010 list: on the strength of just a few U.S. concerts. The stateside leg of his On the Run tour lasted all of six shows in four cities-New York, Detroit, Chicago and Cincinnati. Promoted by AEG Live, the concerts played to sellout crowds in major-league ballparks, grossing $18.6 million in ticket sales and netting McCartney an estimated $6.2 million. The $10.9 million combined gross from the two shows at Chicago's Wrigley Field were the highest concert gross by a single artist at that point in the year. McCartney's catalog sold a modest 144,000 albums and 422,000 tracks. Of course, this tally doesn't take into account his healthy percentage (plus publishing) from his recorded work with the Beatles.
24. The Beatles
On Nov. 16, 2010, seven years after iTunes opened its virtual doors, the Beatles' catalog finally became available on the digital music service, offering all 13 remastered studio albums at $12.99 each for individual releases and $19.99 for each double-album or anthology. Also up for sale: a $150 downloadable digital boxed set of the entire catalog, a mini-documentary on each set and a bonus video of the complete 1964 Washington Coliseum concert. The Beatles sold 1.2 million albums during the year, with their best seller being 2000 hits set 1 (280,000). Overall, the group sold 4.7 million individual tracks in 2011; "Here Comes the Sun" moved the most downloads (270,000).
23. Enrique Iglesias
Iglesias enters the list thanks to his most successful year in nearly a decade. It began with the mid-2010 release of his bilingual breakthrough album, Euphoria. The set generated hit after hit, including 2011's "Tonight (I'm Loving You)," which topped Billboard's Mainstream Top 40 chart in March, and "Dirty Dancer," which debuted in the top 10 on the digital singles chart with 125,000 copies sold. Ultimately, the album helped propel digital downloads of Iglesias' singles past the 4 million mark. Euphoria also became the top Latin title of 2010 with 225,000 copies sold, and bolstered Iglesias' catalog by moving nearly 200,000 units of his other albums in 2011. As part of his world tour, Iglesias played 20 U.S. arena dates in 2011-some featuring Pitbull and Prince Royce-that grossed nearly $18 million and made a net profit of $6 million. After playing 65 shows around the world, he's preparing an even broader global trek in 2012 that'll include U.S. dates.
Though Rihanna's sixth studio album, Talk That Talk, lagged in its first week compared with previous release Loud, which bowed at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with 207,000 units sold in December 2010 (Talk That Talk came in at No. 3 on the Nov. 30, 2011, chart with 197,000), together the two projects gave Rihanna a strong 2011. Thanks to a slate of hits-including Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s "What's My Name?," "S&M" and "We Found Love"-she sold 14 million digital tracks and 1.5 million albums. On the road, Rihanna's exposure to the domestic market was limited: Of the shows reported to Boxscore (11), she grossed $7.1 million and sold 111,704 tickets.
21. Brad Paisley
Buoyed by a hot new album, a successful tour and a book, 2011 was a productive year for Brad Paisley. This Is Country Music, an ambitious 15-song set that featured guests including Don Henley and Clint Eastwood, debuted atop Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. The project spawned four hit singles, including the chart-topping "Old Alabama." Selling more than 1 million albums last year (more than 181,000 of them downloads), his digital tracks tally tops 4 million. In 2011, Paisley played to 1 million-plus fans in 52 markets, including five stadium shows and eight European dates. His H20 II: Wetter & Wilder tour raked in more than $16.9 million, and his current Virtual Reality tour has sold out its first 12 dates.
20. Michael Bublé
It was a very merry holiday season for Michael Bublé, whose Christmas album quickly became the No. 2 best-selling album of 2011, moving 2.4 million copies in its first five weeks. That hot streak, coupled with continued strong action with his catalog (particularly 2009's Crazy Love), helped him sell nearly 3 million albums total and an additional 1.3 million tracks during the entire year. A June swing through North America made up the bulk of his 2011 touring, with grosses of $11.1 million, of which Bublé netted $3.7 million. Endorsement deals with Beringer Vineyards and Target, a prime-time NBC Christmas special and high-profile appearances on "Saturday Night Live," "Today" and "60 Minutes" all helped further promote the Canadian artist.
19. Tim McGraw
It's highly unlikely Tim McGraw will release new music through longtime label home Curb Music, since he recently won a court decision that effectively closed any obligations to the label. But he sure moved a lot of music on his way out the door. The delayed release of Emotional Traffic, out in January, was offset by a wealth of compilations in the marketplace, and McGraw sold more than 770,000 albums (mostly physical units) in 2011. His touring clout has also been trending upward, which helps direct interest to his catalog of hits, the result being 2.5 million digital track downloads last year. These days, McGraw is a branding/merchandising powerhouse and, lest we forget, a multifaceted artist who also has a healthy film career.
18. Rascal Flatts
Rascal Flatts switched labels and management companies but continued to post stellar numbers in 2011. Nothing Like This, the band's first album for Big Machine Records after a decade with now-defunct Lyric Street Records, was released Nov. 16, 2010, and sold 499,000 units and 1.8 million tracks in the following year. The album's second single, "I Won't Let Go," spent 22 weeks on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and peaked at No. 2. "Easy," featuring Natasha Bedingfield, peaked at No. 3 on Hot Country Songs after a 25-week stay. The Nothing Like This tour continued into 2011 and was followed in the summer by the Flatts Fest trek, with the back-to-back outings helping Rascal Flatts gross $21.8 million in ticket sales.
17. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
Recent Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Bob Seger earned the majority of his revenue in 2011 on the road, but the legendary artist made a significant leap into the digital music space by allowing some of the band's live and greatest-hits albums to be sold on iTunes. The September announcement of Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band's iTunes debut coincided with the group announcing dates for the second leg of its 2011 tour, which no doubt helped raise awareness of the trek. Grossing $25.4 million from 32 U.S. arena concerts and attracting more than 354,000 fans, Seger sold 70,000 albums digitally and 630,000 overall in 2011. His Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets, released last November, sold 185,000 copies, but his biggest seller last year was a 1994 greatest-hits album (191,000). The latter is one of the top-selling hits sets of the Nielsen SoundScan era.
16. Britney Spears
While Britney Spears' seventh album, the chart-topping Femme Fatale, was released in March 2011, she spent the latter half of the year earning most of her millions. The Live Nation-sponsored Femme Fatale tour, her first concert endeavor in nearly two years, kicked off stateside in June, with Nicki Minaj in tow for North American dates. The elaborately staged trek wrapped six months later, after visiting four continents for nearly 80 shows and culminating with revenue of $21.7 million. While Spears earned $7.3 million for her half-year on the road, her 2011 album sales of 883,000 were fueled by three Femme Fatale singles, including the No. 1 "Hold It Against Me."
15. Toby Keith
Country music mega-star Toby Keith secured a spot on the Money Makers list with his Locked & Loaded tour that grossed more than $24 million. Sponsored by Ford, it included dates in 40-plus U.S. cities and a European leg that wrapped in Berlin last November. During a year that saw the singer lauded as both artist of the decade by the American Country Music Awards and the highest-paid country star by Forbes, Keith released Clancy's Tavern, which topped Billboard's country albums chart. Tavern has sold more than 336,000 copies, with the album's singles including country chart-topper "Made in America" and "Red Solo Cup," the latter crossing over and reaching No. 17 on the pop chart-Keith's biggest hit to date on the Billboard Hot 100.
14. Katy Perry
In 2011, Katy Perry tied Michael Jackson's record by scoring five No. 1 singles from one album, 2010's Teenage Dream, with such songs as "E.T." and "Firework." Not surprisingly, the radio ruler's digital track sales soared above her fellow pop phenoms: With 15.2 million units moved, Perry bested Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Rihanna in the category. Meanwhile, the singer's California Dreams world tour kept Perry on the road for most of 2011, grossing $19.5 million domestically and netting her $6.6 million. Perry also raised her visibility at the multiplex (with a voice spot in "The Smurfs"), on the small screen (with appearances on "How I Met Your Mother" and "American Idol") and at awards ceremonies (with a performance at the 2011 Grammy Awards and a video of the year win at MTV's Video Music Awards). Perry has already started off strong in 2012: "Part of Me," the lead single to her Teenage Dream reissue (due March 27), became the 20th song to debut atop the Hot 100 in the chart's history.
13. Elton John
Elton John returned to Las Vegas in 2011 and performed 16 of his "Million Dollar Piano" shows before heading to Russia and Australia. His Colosseum at Caesars Palace residency accounted for a third of his concert grosses, which hit $32.5 million and a personal take of $11 million. A summer tour of Europe, scattered U.S. dates and the soundtrack to his animated "Gnomeo & Juliet" dominated John's activity prior to setting up shop in Vegas, while "The Union," Cameron Crowe's documentary about John's collaboration with Leon Russell, debuted in April at the Tribeca Film Festival. Concert income was significant for John in 2011 as sales of his recordings dipped: Physical album sales were 254,000 units, while digital album and single track sales were 148,000 each. John also contributed music to "Billy Elliot: The Musical," and though the Broadway stand ended in January 2012, road versions continued in other territories around the world.
Through the revival of 1981 anthem "Don't Stop Believin'" on "Glee" and "Big Brother," combined with the arrival of vocalist Arnel Pineda, 2011 proved another stellar year as Journey toured Latin and South America and played 50 shows in the United States. The latter concerts represented a step up in venue size to include arenas and the Hollywood Bowl along with the traditional amphitheaters, fairgrounds and casinos. Touring in support of Eclipse, the band netted $9.9 million from domestic dates while continuing to be a significant player at retail with sales of 703,000 physical albums. Recognizing the group's longevity on the concert stage, band founder Neal Schon and longtime members Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory and Deen Castronovo were honored with the Legend of Live Award at the Billboard Touring Awards in November.
11. "Glee" Cast
The cast of Fox's "Glee" won't tour this year, but the TV musical troupe made a splash in 2011, grossing nearly $22 million from 23 U.S. arena concerts that attracted nearly 266,000 fans. That number helped the Glee Live! In Concert! outing rank 16th on Billboard's top 25 highest-grossing tours of 2011. The "Glee" cast also scored at retail, selling 2.1 million albums during the year. The cast released six albums in 2011; the biggest of them all (Glee: The Music, Volume 5) sold 318,000 copies. In February 2011, the show's cast reached another milestone by beating the record set by Elvis Presley for the most singles simultaneously appearing on the Billboard Hot 100. Online, the "Glee" cast sold 13.6 million downloads in 2011.
Even an extreme medical emergency couldn't interfere with Adele's success in 2011. From the moment sophomore album 21 stormed in atop the Billboard 200 in March 2011, the singer/songwriter has been setting-and demolishing-a seemingly endless array of retail and radio feats. Before her latest achievement-spending 23 weeks atop the chart to notch the longest-running No. 1 album in Nielsen SoundScan's history-Adele racked up numerous other milestones. Her single "Rolling in the Deep" became the most widely crossed-over song of the past 25 years, topping rock, pop, AC, R&B/hip-hop, dance and Latin charts. In addition, she became one of only four female artists to spend at least 13 weeks at the peak of the Billboard 200, joining Judy Garland, Carole King and Whitney Houston. Adele then capped the year by winning six Grammy Awards, including album of the year. Although throat surgery sidelined her touring schedule last October, her album sales continued to soar to the tune of 6.7 million in 2011.
9. Jason Aldean
Contrary to the third-time-lucky rule, it was Jason Aldean's fourth album for Broken Bow Records, My Kinda Party, that turned him into a legitimate country superstar. Released in November 2010, Party sold 1.6 million units and 5 million tracks last year, moving 2.4 million albums and 6.6 million tracks through mid-February of this year. "Don't You Wanna Stay," a duet with Kelly Clarkson, peaked atop Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in March 2011 and sold 1.5 million tracks last year. "Stay" was quickly followed by the country-rap hybrid "Dirt Road Anthem," which reached No. 1 in July. Aldean also matured into one of country's most successful live acts. The My Kinda Party tour sold out arenas and amphitheaters across the country, grossed $27 million in 2011 and netted Aldean an estimated $9.1 million. His rapid ascent to the concert industry's upper echelon helped him win the Breakthrough honor at the 2011 Billboard Touring Awards.
8. Celine Dion
Celine Dion sure knows how to make a comeback. After her historic five-year residency at Las Vegas' Colosseum at Caesars Palace ended in late 2007, the Canadian singer took a well-deserved break, then returned to the 4,000-seat venue in March 2011 for yet another stand. She grossed $40.1 million from 57 performances last year that drew nearly a quarter-million fans and booked additional Vegas dates through this August. Though Dion's last studio album was 2007's Taking Chances, she sold 331,000 albums in 2011, the biggest catalog item being 1997's Let's Talk About Love (75,000 copies). The singer also sold 956,000 digital tracks last year, with the top seller still being "My Heart Will Go On," from 1997's blockbuster film "Titanic" (167,000 downloads).
7. Bon Jovi
Guided by the business acumen and savvy musical instincts of charismatic frontman Jon Bon Jovi, the New Jersey rock phenom has been a brand and a band on fire for much of the past decade. The Circle tour, marking the most ambitious trek in the band's 30-year history, wrapped last summer with a final tally of $265 million, the sixth-largest-grossing tour of all time. Aside from its prized catalog of hits, the band releases chart-topping new material as well: During the most recent round of live gigs, Bon Jovi put out its first greatest-hits package and new studio album The Circle, each cross-marketed on the AEG Live-produced tour directed by BJM's Paul Korzilius. Bon Jovi moved more than 320,000 physical CDs last year, 1.6 million digital tracks and two new DVD titles in addition to tons of branded merch, maximizing its highly familiar image and sound decades after its humble beginnings.
Just as fans clamored for a return to the recording studio in 2010-causing her Soldier of Love to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 502,000 units sold-followers of the sultry singer and her smooth jazz band also lined up last year for Sade's first North American tour since 2001. The 59-date, Live Nation-produced arena trek claimed 10th place on Billboard's Top 25 Tours listing. With John Legend opening all U.S. dates, the tour ultimately posted $45.7 million in revenue that resulted in a cool $15.4 million take for the group. Longtime collaborator Sophie Muller served as creative director and Baz Halpin (Pink!, Tina Turner) handled production and lighting design for the critically acclaimed live shows, which featured a massive LED screen showing videos and dazzling images behind the band. While an official release date hasn't yet been announced, Muller stayed busy last year editing a film version of the tour that may appear on cable and DVD soon.
5. Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne's first full year back in the market after serving eight months for attempted gun possession in New York proved a lucrative stretch. For the week ending Sept. 6, ninth studio set Tha Carter IV debuted atop the Billboard 200, racking up the year's second-biggest sales week with 964,000 units sold. The tally also gave Wayne the best sales week by a male artist since his own Carter III topped the charts with 1 million units in June 2008 and accounted for nearly a third of his total 2.7 million sales for that year. (Only Lady Gaga's Born This Way, offered at a special 99 cent price for two days at AmazonMP3 during its first week, had a better debut than IV in 2011.) Wayne also moved 12.3 million digital tracks, driven by Hot 100 top 10s like "6 Foot, 7 Foot" and "She Will," and continued to prove himself on the road. His I Am Still Music tour grossed $44.7 million from 67 shows and 695,291 tickets sold. Then there's the fortune he earned as founder of Young Money Entertainment, label home of Nicki Minaj, Drake, Tyga and others, but that's a different list.
4. Lady Gaga
Topping the Money Makers list in 2011, the theatrical chanteuse enjoyed a near-repeat of her previous stellar year. Defined by the May launch of yet another full-length opus, Born This Way, the album sold 1.1 million units during its first week, marking the biggest single sales frame for an album release in 2011. Combined with her previous sets The Fame and The Fame Monster, Gaga moved 2.8 million albums last year. Meanwhile, Born This Way spawned four singles that all reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and helped the singer move 12.7 million digital tracks. Despite holding off on another traditional tour when her 19-month Monster Ball trek wrapped last May, Gaga's Boxscore revenue equaled $51.4 million in 2011, after reaping $70.4 million the year before. Expect Born This Way to keep delivering in 2012, with the Born This Way Ball ready to roll overseas in April.
3. Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney rejuvenated himself by taking time off from touring in 2010, and fans responded by turning out in record numbers to see him last year. Promoted nationally by TMG/AEG Live, Chesney captured his sixth top package honor at the 2011 Billboard Touring Awards for his Goin' Coastal concert swing, his eighth consecutive tour to sell more than 1 million tickets. As with most leading country live acts, Chesney also sells a healthy amount of recordings while touring: more than 650,000 physical album units (buoyed by hit-laden 2010 album Hemingway's Whiskey) and 4.3 million-plus digital tracks. Chesney's fans worship his romantic, hard-drinking lifestyle, so he derives additional revenue streams from various merchandise, a laid-back clothing line, ringtones, DVDs and even a sponsorship deal with the beverage firm that makes Corona. (No surprise, given that Chesney wrote the No. 1 country hit "Beer in Mexico.")
U2's monumental 360° tour finally wrapped in 2011 with a $91.5 million Boxscore for the year, including a return trek through North America originally scheduled for 2010 but postponed due to Bono's back surgery. Fewer than 10% of the tickets had to be refunded, and those returns were quickly scooped up. The total Boxscore tally of $736 million stands as an amazing record, and the attendance of 7.3 million concert-goers (another record) led to merchandise sales approaching $50 million, according to Billboard estimates (but not included in calculating the Money Makers tally). Merch sales and fan club revenue were maximized under synergies created through the band's long-term, multirights deal with Live Nation, and the 360° tour marked an impressive testament to the ability of both sides to deliver. U2 also sold a significant amount of recorded content, including 1.4 million digital tracks, since the tour drew fans' attention to catalog favorites. Combining digital and physical units, however, U2 moved the least number of albums among the top 10 Money Makers. Today's music business is all about the live thing, and U2 stands high on the mountaintop in that regard.
1. Taylor Swift
After wrapping the final leg of her Fearless tour, Taylor Swift's blockbuster success two years ago left music industry observers wondering what she could possibly do for an encore. The pop-country superstar answered them with her smash Speak Now album and accompanying tour, which jetted through Asia and Europe in addition to making its way across North America. Grossing $88.5 million in the U.S. alone, the tour netted Swift a remarkable $29.8 million. Honored as Billboard's Woman of the Year in December, she racked up U.S. album sales of 1.8 million units last year-led by booming business for late 2010's Speak Now, which sold 967,000 units and digital single track sales of 7.8 million. Songwriting royalties were another highly beneficial source of income, given that Swift wrote all 14 Speak Now tunes herself.