Taylor Swift’s return to No. 1 on Billboard’s 2020 Money Makers list is one of the few unsurprising results of a ranking that holds many surprises. A year with little touring resulted in many of rock and country music’s regular road warriors giving up their spots to artists with strong 2020 streaming and physical sales performances — many of them hip-hop acts.
It’s also no surprise that the dearth of live revenue led to a precipitous decline in the paychecks of music’s top earners, who collectively took home $387 million in 2020, down from $969 million in 2019. Even Swift, that rare artist with strong sales, streaming and touring numbers, saw her take-home pay drop from $99.6 million in 2018 — the last time she was on the list — to $23.8 million.
Looking at revenue streams, touring income, based on Billboard Boxscore data, fell tenfold, from $779 million in 2019 to $79 million and accounted for just 20% of artists’ collective 2020 take-home pay. In previous years, it has made up 75% to 80% of the top 40 Money Makers’ income.