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Billboard's U.S. Money Makers: The Top Paid Musicians of 2020

A year with minimal touring resulted in top-streaming acts, many of them hip-hop artists, replacing the rock and country acts that fill arena and stadiums on Billboard's annual ranking. Taylor Swift tops the list.

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.

While the pandemic had a disastrous effect on touring revenue, it lifted other royalty streams as music fans listened to more recorded music from the relative safety of their homes, through radio, streaming platforms or the turntable setups they bought with the money they ordinarily would have shelled out for concerts and festivals.

Recorded-music royalties — from sales, streaming and publishing — collectively grew 56% from $197 million in 2019 to $308 million. Individually, artist streaming royalties increased a whopping 82% year to year, from $106 million to $193 million, and accounted for just under 50% of the top 40 Money Makers’ total income. Sales royalties, digital and physical, were also up 39%, from $42 million to $59 million; a trend that continues so far this year.

The list breaks down to 22 contemporary artists and 18 heritage artists. (Only living acts were included on this list.) By genre, rock artists landed the most spots, 13, down one from last year; pop acts accounted for nine entries, down from 14; country, three spots, down from eight; and Latin, two berths, up one from 2019. (As in past rankings, DJs are included on Money Makers because they rarely report their live earnings, which constitute most of their income. In addition, deceased artists are excluded from the rankings. A story looking at how the catalogs of some of those late artists performed in 2020 is scheduled to run next week.)

The genre with the biggest gains is R&B/hip-hop, which is represented by 12 artists this year, up from three in 2019. When touring is in full bloom, heritage rockers, country artists and jam bands dominate Money Makers because of their concert grosses. In 2020, hip-hop came on strong because its artists often have a strong streaming game. On this year’s list, six hip-hop artists who didn’t make the cut for the 2019 list ranked in the top 20. Three of them — Drake, YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Lil Baby — placed in the top 10.

1. Taylor Swift: $23.8 million

JMEnternational for BRIT Awards/Getty Images

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $10.6M
Sales: $10M
Publishing: $3.2M
Touring: $0

For the first time in the history of Money Makers, concert revenue did not determine the No. 1 spot on the list — and because of the pandemic had little influence over the ranking in general. Swift takes the top spot almost solely on revenue earned from the recorded masters of her two 2020 albums, folklore and evermore, which she owns and licenses to Republic for distribution. As a result, Billboard estimates that the pop phenomenon took home 46% of her sales and streaming royalties (after deducting a 4 percentage-point producer’s cut) — compared with the 33% that superstar artists typically earn when they don’t own their masters. In addition to topping the overall ranking, Swift’s ownership position also vaulted her to No. 1 and No. 2 in sales and streaming royalties, respectively. She’s also the No. 1 mover of digital albums (1.06 million), digital tracks (1.09 million) and on-demand audio streams (4.3 billion) for 2020.


2. Post Malone: $23.2M

Last year’s rank: No. 6
Streaming: $8.1M
Sales: $712,500
Publishing: $2M
Touring: $12.4M

Post Malone is one of the handful of artists on this list who was touring prior to the pandemic shutdown. His sold-out show at the Pepsi Center in Denver on March 12, 2020, was one of the last concerts to take place before the live industry went dark, and the $12.4 million he took home from that show and 19 prior dates qualified him for second place and a spot on the Billboard's Global Money Makers list. Other key performance drivers for the beerbongs & bentleys artist include his No. 7 finish in on-demand audio streams (almost 4.2 billion) and No. 5 ranking in overall streaming royalties ($8.1million).


3. Céline Dion: $17.5M

Last year’s rank: —
Streaming: $290
Sales: $215K
Publishing: $2.4K
Touring: $17M

The Queen of Pop grossed $49.8 million in ticket sales from 23 shows on her Courage world tour before the COVID-19 curtain came down. As the No. 1 live touring revenue generator for 2020, that amounts to $17 million in take-home pay, which puts Dion at the top of the concert earnings ranking and accounted for over 98% of her overall 2020 income. Royalties from recorded masters and publishing income made up the difference.


4. Eagles: $16.3M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $2.7M
Sales: $970K
Publishing: $1.2M
Touring: $11.4M

Running down the road for five decades, the Eagles played 10 shows in 2020 that grossed $33 million and netted $11.4 million in income. Fueled by 744 million web radio plays — they were the No. 5 most-played act of 2020— the band also generated nearly $4.9 million in income from its recorded masters, which is almost 30% of the band’s overall earnings.


5. Billie Eilish: $14.7M

Koury Angelo/Getty Images for Apple

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $5.9M
Sales: $2.1M
Publishing: $5.7M
Touring: $1M

Although Eilish played just three 2020 pre-pandemic dates on her Where Do We Go? World Tour (only two of which were reported to Boxscore), she still made a bundle in streaming and publishing income. The $5.7 million that she and her brother, FINNEAS, took home from their publishing royalties was tops in the category. (Billboard counts her sibling’s share as part of the artist’s revenue base.) Her fans’ fascination with her music videos helped her rack up nearly 671 million video streams — putting her at No. 9 in the category for acts on this list — and 465,000 physical album sales and 948,000 track sales, placing her at Nos. 5 and 6 in those categories, respectively. She ranks even higher on the Global Money Makers list because of her strong global performance, particularly in streaming.


6. Drake: $14.2M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $11.7M
Sales: $635K
Publishing: $1.9M
Touring: $0

The late Juice WRLD displaced Drake as the top on-demand audio streaming artist in 2020, but Drizzy remains the No. 1 overall streaming artist (as he was in 2019) with almost 8 billion streams when the on-demand video and web radio streams he amassed last year are included. And though he generated almost 3 billion more streams than Taylor Swift, he takes second place in streaming royalties because Swift owns her masters and is paid more per stream.


7. Queen: $13.2M

Last year’s rank: No. 5
Streaming: $5.5M
Sales: $5.3M
Publishing: $2.4M
Touring: $0

Queen, which owns its masters, ranked second in sales royalties with $5.3 million thanks, in part, to the 2020 rerelease of its $500-plus limited-edition colored vinyl Studio Collection box set of the band’s 15 studio albums. The evergreen rockers ranked No. 4 in physical album sales after moving 517,000 copies of their recordings. They also placed No .7 in publishing royalties ($2.4 million) because the original members wrote all of their songs. And in a notable accomplishment for a rock band, Queen generated 1.2 billion on-demand audio streams in 2020, a feat that other legacy acts on this list — including Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Metallica and AC/DC — have yet to do. They did even better internationally and topped the 2020 Global Money Makers ranking.


8. The Beatles: $12.9M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $5.1M
Sales: $5.2M
Publishing: $2.6M
Touring: $0

The Fab Four, which informed sources say receive royalties at the exceptionally high rate of 50%, make their debut on the Money Makers list after an impressive 2020. The band ranked third in physical sales — selling 671,000 copies of its albums, 78% of which were vinyl reissues that are priced higher than CDs and thus pay higher royalties. The group also generated over 1.8 billion streams, which is impressive for a rock band.


9. YoungBoy Never Broke Again: $11.9M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $10M
Sales: $126K
Publishing: $1.7M
Touring: $129K

YoungBoy Never Broke Again breaks into Money Makers for the first time, due almost entirely to the prodigious number of streams his music generated. The “White Teeth” rapper ranked No. 1 in video streams with over 1.4 billion; No. 5 in audio streams with almost 6.2 billion; and No.3 in overall combined streams with almost 7 billion. The combined royalties from those streams add up to just shy of $10 million, which makes him the fourth top-earner in that category.


10. Lil Baby: $11.7M

Rich Fury/Getty Images for Visible

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $9.1M
Sales: $152K
Publishing: $2.2M
Touring: $253K

Despite putting up strong streaming numbers in 2019, Lil Baby did not make the cut last year because touring royalties played such an outsize role (as they usually do) in determining the top 40. Another strong year in streams, fueled by the rapper’s first Billboard 200 No. 1 album, My Turn, which landed 12 songs simultaneously on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 2020, vaulted him to No. 4 in the top streaming royalties category. Lil Baby generated over 6.2 billion streams, almost 4.6 million of which were audio, for $9.1 million. His touring take came from two concerts.


11. The Weeknd: $10.4M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $7.3M
Sales: $1.5M
Publishing: $1.6M
Touring: $0

Abel Tesfaye’s alter ego may have been snubbed by the Grammys, but he fared exceptionally well when it came to royalties. He ranked at No. 7 in both overall streams (4.8 billion) and streaming royalties ($7.3 million). Unlike most other R&B/hip-hop acts, The Weeknd also generated strong sales royalties. While not enough to make the top 10 in that category, he ranked second in album download sales with 314,000 copies and No. 3 in track downloads with over 1 million.


12. Aventura: $10.2M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $939.5K
Sales: $14.4K
Publishing: $436.3K
Touring: $8.8M

Aventura makes its debut on the Money Makers list, totally on the strength of its box office. The Dominican American bachata group, fronted by Romeo Santos, played 15 pre-pandemic U.S. shows in 2020 — its first tour since breaking up in 2011. The shows grossed close to $25.8 million, giving the band almost $8.8 million in take-home pay. The group’s streaming performance was in line with other Latin heritage acts: Aventura generated 731.8 million in combined streams, which translated to just shy of $1 million in streaming royalties.


13. AC/DC: $10.1M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $4.3M
Sales: $4M
Publishing: $1.8M
Touring: $0

AC/DC, which owns its catalog and receives a higher royalty rate because of that, released its 17th studio album, Power Up, in 2020, and it contributed to physical sales of 427,000 records from its catalog — ranking the Australian headbangers seventh in that category and sixth in sales royalties. Although heritage country and rock acts remain far behind hip-hop and pop when it comes to streaming plays, their numbers are beginning to swell, and AC/DC is an example: The band amassed almost 1.5 billion overall plays.


14. Eminem: $9.7M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $6.6M
Sales: $1.3M
Publishing: $1.8M
Touring: $0

Eminem surprise-released two albums in 2020, Music To Be Murdered By and a deluxe version, Music To Be Murdered By – Side B. The first became his 10th consecutive Billboard 200 No. 1, and the second reached No. 3 (although its “deluxe” status means that it won’t be counted as a separate entry on Billboard’s charts.) Those releases helped Slim Shady reach No. 5 in digital downloads (261,000) for the year and No. 8 in track sales (872,000). Thanks to his penchant for making gripping music videos — such as the one for “Darkness,” which dealt with the mass shooting at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas — he racked up 887.3 million on-demand video streams, good enough for a fourth-place finish in that category and No. 10 in streaming royalties.


15. Lil Uzi Vert: $9.5M

Erika Goldring/FilmMagic

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $7.6M
Sales: $89.3K
Publishing: $1.8M
Touring: $0

Another hip-hop artist who shines in the streaming format, Lil Uzi Vert ranked fifth in both audio streams and combined streams with 4.4 billion and close to 5 billion, respectively, fueled by the March 2020 release of Eternal Atake, which led to him becoming only the third artist to simultaneously chart 20 songs on the Hot 100, 18 of them from the new album. His performance made him the sixth-place finisher in the streaming royalties category, with a $7.6 million payday — a big difference from the $89,300 he made in sales royalties, the sixth-lowest total on this list.


16. Luke Combs: $9.2M

Last year’s rank: No. 35
Streaming: $5.5M
Sales: $874.7K
Publishing: $1.8M
Touring: $1M

Combs is the highest-placing country artist on Money Makers (if you overlook Taylor Swift’s beginnings in the genre and the Eagles’ past categorization as a country-rock band). His streaming numbers are exceptionally strong given his genre: When the deluxe version of his 2019 album, What You See Is What You Get, was released in October 2020, it generated 102.26 million in a single week, breaking Combs’ own record for the largest streaming week for a country album, set when the original release came out. The deluxe set boosted Combs’ total streams for 2020 to almost 4 billion and streaming royalties to $5.5 million. Radio likes Combs as well: He racked up the third-most programmed web radio plays (804.4 million) and finished seventh in terrestrial radio airplay with almost 1.5 million spins.


17. DaBaby: $9.1M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $7.1M
Sales: $160.6K
Publishing: $1.5M
Touring: $313K

Jonathan Lyndale Kirk released his third studio album, Blame It on Baby, in April 2020, which debuted atop the Billboard 200 and produced his highest-charting song, “Rockstar” featuring Roddy Ricch. The single spent seven nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, helping DaBaby rank ninth in combined streams — audio, video and programmed — with almost 4.8 billion and eighth in streaming royalties with $7.1 million. Like other hip-hop artists, he lags in sales royalties, taking home $161,000.


18. Metallica: $9M

Last year’s rank: No. 30
Streaming: $3.9M
Sales: $3.7M
Publishing: $1.4M
Touring: $0

Like AC/DC and Queen, Metallica owns its masters, which means the band’s royalties are calculated at a rate of 78% (from which 4% goes to the producers of its albums). Although the group hasn’t put out a studio album since 2016’s Hardwired... To Self-Destruct, the August 2020 release of the live set S&M2 and digitally remastered versions of its 10-album catalog helped boost it to No. 10 in physical sales with 334,000 copies scanned in 2020 — 47% of those purchases were in the higher-priced vinyl format. As a result, Metallica placed at No. 7 in overall sales royalties with $3.7 million. The rockers also racked up 1.3 billion in combined streams that translated to $3.9 million in royalties.


19. BTS: $8.9M

Last year’s rank: No. 22
Streaming: $3.7M
Sales: $4.3M
Publishing: $967K
Touring: $0

Last year’s Money Makers ranking credited the K-pop boy band phenom with keeping physical formats alive with its total sales of 827,000 albums. This year, the group almost doubled that number. Three 2020 releases — Map of the Soul: 7, Map of the Soul: 7 – The Journey and Be — helped BTS sell almost 1.5 million CDs. They also moved more than 2.6 million digital downloads. Despite these monster numbers, the band finished fifth in the sales royalties category with $4.3 million because the members do not own their masters. Not surprisingly, they ranked much higher on the Global Money Makers list.


20. Pink Floyd: $8.8M

Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $3.2M
Sales: $4.3M
Publishing: $1.3M
Touring: $0

Pink Floyd hasn’t released a studio album since 2014 and it still managed to finish at No. 10 in 2020 physical album sales with 402,000 copies scanned, helped by the deluxe box set rerelease of its concert film and album, Delicate Sound of Thunder. The classic psych-rockers ranked even higher in the sales royalties category — No. 4 with $4.3 million — because they own their masters and reap a higher royalty rate as a result. That dollar total was also boosted by fans’ preference for vinyl copies of the band’s albums, which accounted for 72% of physical sales.


21. Bad Bunny: $8.4M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $6.8M
Sales: $218K
Publishing: $1.4M
Touring: $0

Pandemic-induced isolation led to Bad Bunny’s most successful year yet, yielding three albums, including the best-selling Latin album in the United States and Spotify’s most globally streamed album of 2020, YHLQMDLG. The other two were Las Que No Iban a Salir and his first Billboard 200 No. 1, El Último Tour del Mundo. His prolific output resulted in almost 3.7 billion U.S. audio streams, the 10th-largest in the category, and 4.7 billion combined streams, which netted him $6.8 million in royalties and secured him the No. 9 spot in that category.


22. Future: $8.2M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $6.4M
Sales: $185K
Publishing: $1.6M
Touring: $0

The haunted hip-hop persona of Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn scored his seventh Billboard 200 No. 1 with High Off Life in 2020 and became the artist with the fourth-most Hot 100 entries (110). Future also rereleased three classic mixtapes from the mid-2010s, Beast Mode, 56 Nights and Purple Reign, which contributed to 4.4 billion combined streams that paid $6.4 million in royalties. Like many hip-hop artists, his sales royalties were minimal.


23. Ariana Grande: $7.5M

Last year’s rank: No. 2
Streaming: $6M
Sales: $768K
Publishing: $759K
Touring: $0

Grande was 2019’s No. 2 Money Maker thanks to a world tour, but without any live dates in 2020, her rank was achieved by strong streaming numbers largely due to her fourth-quarter release, positions. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and its title track did the same on both the Hot 100 and Top Streaming Songs charts, contributing to more than 4 billion combined streams and generating $6 million in streaming royalties.


24. Roddy Ricch: $7.4M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $5.7M
Sales: $119K
Publishing: $1.5M
Touring: $91.5K

Billboard’s Top New Artist of 2020 released his debut album, Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial in December 2019, when it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and finished 2020 as the No. 3 title on the year-end Billboard 200 albums chart. The album’s smash single, “The Box,” spent 11 consecutive weeks atop the Hot 100, and Ricch’s feature on DaBaby’s No. 1 Hot 100 hit, “Rockstar,” made him a streaming star, with combined streams of almost 3.9 billion — over 710 million of them video streams — which put him at No. 8 in that category. He also squeezed in seven live shows in early 2020, which amounted to a $91,500 paycheck for those performances.


25. Rod Wave: $7.37M

Tyler Benz*

Streaming: $6M
Sales: $66.4K
Publishing: $1.3M
Touring: $0

Florida’s not-so-sunny hip-hop crooner saw his second album, Pray 4 Love, debut at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 in April and land eight tracks on the Hot 100. Like Roddy Ricch’s, Wave’s video streams were particularly robust — 793.5 million, the fifth-highest in the category. They accounted for close to 20% of his 4.1 billion combined streaming plays. His $66,400 in sales royalties came entirely from digital downloads. Wave had zero physical sales last year.


26. George Strait: $6.9M

Last year’s rank: No. 17
Streaming: $2.1M
Sales: $446.8K
Publishing: $166.3K
Touring: $4.2M

Strait was one of the few artists who made significant touring income before the pandemic. He grossed over $12.3 million in ticket sales for five shows (two at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena) for a $4.2 million payday and seventh place in the touring category. He also performed unusually well, for a country artist, in streaming, generating 595.7 million plays on web radio, which lifted his combined streams to 1.6 billion and revenue of $2.1 million.


27. The Lumineers: $6.8M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $1.3M
Sales: $336.6K
Publishing: $838K
Touring: $4.3M

In a typical touring year, The Lumineers would probably not have made the Money Makers top 40. In 2020, however, they played 20 shows to 215,000 fans behind their 2019 No. 2 Billboard 200 concept album, III. Those concerts grossed $12.6 million, which yielded $4.3 million in take-home pay, and earned them the No. 6 spot in box-office revenue. The group also shot videos for each of the 10 tracks on the addiction-themed album, which contributed to total streaming revenue of $1.3 million.


28. Blake Shelton: $6.7M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $2.2M
Sales: $591.7K
Publishing: $2.9K
Touring: $3.9M

Like George Strait’s, Shelton’s more than 1.6 billion combined streams were strong for a country artist, but his 749,000 track sales were also healthy and just shy of the top 10 for the format. But, also like Strait, Shelton’s box-office appeal earned him his berth on Money Makers. He took home over $3.9 million from 12 shows that grossed $11.5 million in ticket sales, ranking at No. 7 in that revenue category.


29. Fleetwood Mac: $6.6M

Last year’s rank: No. 38
Streaming: $3.2M
Sales: $1.8M
Publishing: $1.6M
Touring: $0

Fleetwood Mac’s place on this list is partly due to the viral Ocean Spray TikTok video set to “Dreams” (and its several homages) that sent the 1977 No. 1 Hot 100 hit to the top 10 of the Streaming Songs chart in October 2020. The Mac amassed 1.8 billion combined streams, including 511 million web radio plays. The band also remains strong in physical album sales: It sold 412,000 copies last year, 272,000 of them on vinyl.


30. Kanye West: $6.3M

Rich Fury/VF20/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $3.9M
Sales: $800K
Publishing: $1.6M
Touring: $0

Despite teasing a July release for a new album named after his mother, Donda, West dropped just one song in 2020, “Nah Nah Nah,” which was tied to his unsuccessful presidential run, and a remix that featured DaBaby and 2 Chainz. Despite the lack of new music, Ye still generated 2.6 billion in combined streams, which yielded a $3.9 million payday. He also picked up a nice chunk of change from 132,000 vinyl album sales in 2020, including the 10th-anniversary three-LP release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.


31. Justin Bieber: $6.22M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $4.7M
Sales: $1.1M
Publishing: $435K
Touring: $0

Changes, Bieber’s first album in more than four years, became his seventh Billboard 200 No. 1 in February 2020, a year in which he also landed five songs in the top 10 of the Hot 100, including his duet with Ariana Grande, “Stuck With U,” which debuted at No.1. He is that rare artist who still sells downloads, and ranked at No. 3 in 2020 digital album sales (295,000 copies) and No. 5 in digital track sales (close to 1 million). Where he really shone, though, was on terrestrial radio: Bieber was the top artist in the category with almost 2.4 million plays.


32. Tool: $6.17M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $823.4K
Sales: $557K
Publishing: $611K
Touring: $4.2M

The art-metal outfit released Fear Inoculum, its first album in 13 years, in late-summer 2019 and played nine 2020 dates behind it before canceling the rest of the tour. Those shows gave Tool almost $4.2 million in take-home pay, the eighth-highest live earnings for the year and the bulk of the act’s income. Despite breaking several Billboard records in 2019, when the group also made its albums available to digital platforms, fans seem to be adapting slowly to streaming: Tool logged just 604 million combined streams for the year.


33. KISS: $6M

Last year’s rank: No. 8
Streaming: $431K
Sales: $348K
Publishing: $194.5K
Touring: $5M

KISS managed to play 20 shows in 2020, generating $14.8 million in ticket sales and $5 million in take-home pay, the sole reason the road warriors made the Money Makers list this year (and last year, too). More than any rock band’s fan base, the KISS Army is very late to the streaming party: Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and company generated just 217 million combined streams.


34. The Rolling Stones: $5.96M

Last year’s rank: No. 1
Streaming: $2.97M
Sales: $1.8M
Publishing: $1.17M
Touring: $0

The Stones, who were 2019’s top Money Maker with $65 million in take-home pay — 92% of it from touring — placed in the bottom 25% of this ranking without playing a single show in 2020 and releasing just two new tracks, “Living in a Ghost Town” and “Scarlet,” a Goats Head Soup-era recording with Jimmy Page on guitar. They made the cut because the band owns about half of its catalog — the rest belongs to the late Allen B. Klein’s label, ABKCO Music & Records — and collects 60% of its streaming royalties and 40% of the royalties it receives for physical sales. As a result, the 1.24 billion combined streams the act generated in 2020 and the 254,000 albums it sold — slightly more than half of which were higher price-point vinyl copies — accounted for the lion’s share of its income.


35. Travis Scott: $5.82M

Burak Cingi/Redferns

Last year’s rank: No. 39
Streaming: $4.96M
Sales: $485K
Publishing: $373K
Touring: $0

Scott moved up four places in the rankings in 2020, even though his take-home pay in 2019 was $15.5 million. Touring accounted for the $9.6 million more he made then, but the hip-hop artist’s April 2020 virtual Fortnite concert, “Astronomical,” which drew 12.3 million concurrent players, boosted his streams by as much as 160% from the day the show was announced (April 20), thanks, in part, to the post-show release of a new single with Kid Cudi, “The Scotts.” The day after the event, digital downloads of his catalog blew up 1,488% — from 2,000 to 34,000.


36. Ed Sheeran: 5.66M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $3.74M
Sales: $394.9K
Publishing: $1.53M
Touring: $0

Sheeran landed on the Hot 100 twice in February 2020. He was featured on Eminem’s “Those Kinda Nights,” which peaked at No. 31, and then charted with his own single, “South of the Border,” featuring Camila Cabello and Cardi B, which hit No. 49. Despite laying low (for Ed Sheeran), he remained a staple of web radio, ranking at No. 8 in that category with 612 million streams, which contributed to a total of almost 2.7 billion combined streams, the equivalent of $3.74 million in streaming royalties.


37. Halsey: 5.55M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $3.48M
Sales: $970.7K
Publishing: $1.1M
Touring: $0

Halsey’s 2020 album, Manic, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, and her biggest hit of the year was “Life’s a Mess” with Juice WRLD, which hit No. 9 on the Hot 100. It was one of five songs she landed on the chart that year: Three were collaborations, with Marshmello (“Be Kind”), Machine Gun Kelly (“Forget Me Too”) and Kelsea Ballerini (“The Other Girl”), while the fourth was her country-flavored solo track, “You Should Be Sad,” which peaked at No. 26. The songs helped give her a nice mix of sales, streaming and publishing revenue. While her 2.37 billion in combined streams is the main reason she made the cut, she also ranked at No. 8 in digital album downloads with 114,000 copies.


38. Harry Styles: 5.51M

Last year’s rank:
Streaming: $3.3M
Sales: $1.84M
Publishing: $398K
Touring: $0

Styles’ 2019 album, Fine Line, peaked at No. 1 at the end of that year and kept on selling and streaming through 2020, as well as delivering two 2020 Hot 100 hits, “Watermelon Sugar,” which topped the chart in August, and “Adore You,” which hit No. 6 in April. Those wins contributed to his Money Makers debut as a solo act. He came close to ranking in the top 10 for sales royalties with 435,000 physical albums scanned that year — 266,000 of them vinyl albums. He was also the beneficiary of almost 1.7 million terrestrial radio spins, which made him the fifth-most-played artist in that format.


39. Billy Joel: $5.49M

Last year’s rank: No. 9
Streaming: $1.7M
Sales: $310K
Publishing: $986K
Touring: $2.5M

The pandemic interrupted Joel’s quasi-monthly residency at Madison Square Garden, cutting the $23.2 million he took home from those shows in 2019 to $2.5 million in 2020. Surprisingly, for a heritage artist, his combined streams for the year were 907 million, which put $1.7 million in his pocket.


40. Aerosmith: $5.35M

Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame

Last year’s rank: No. 26
Streaming: $1.33M
Sales: $564K
Publishing: $840K
Touring: $2.7M

Aerosmith’s plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the band’s formation were cut short by the pandemic, but the group played eight shows during its Deuces Are Wild residency at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas before the curtain fell. That gave the band a $2.7 million touring payday. The act made another $1.33 million from the 785.6 million combined streams it amassed, which is typical for a group whose fans have been slow to adopt streaming.


Methodology

Money Makers was compiled with 2020 U.S.-only MRC Data and Billboard Boxscore statistics. All revenue figures cited are Billboard estimates and, due to rounding, an artist’s total may not equal the sum of the subcategories. Revenue from merchandising, synchronization and sponsorship — and livestream concerts — is not included. Unless otherwise noted, streaming totals consist of combined on-demand audio, video and programmed streams.

Recorded-music totals are the sum of an artist’s sales, streaming and publishing earnings for 2020. Revenue from “featured” artist appearances is credited to the main artists but other recording collaborations — usually denoted as a “duet with,” “+” or “&” or “X” — are generally split evenly by the artists. Tour revenue, after the manager’s cut, equals 34% of an act’s Boxscore.

Sales revenue was calculated based on physical/digital albums and track sales. Streaming royalties consist of on-demand audio and video streams plus estimated royalties from programmed satellite, cable and webcasting services like SiriusXM and Music Choice. The following royalty rates were used: The album and track sales rate is 22% of retail revenue. On-demand streaming royalties were calculated using blended audio and video rates of $0.0053 and $0.0038 per stream, respectively. The video rate is higher than generally used because MRC Data counts official video streams and subscriber-paid streams but not user-generated streams for the United States.

Streaming royalty rates applied were 22% for new hit artists; 33% for superstar artists, 46% for heritage artists and 74% for artists that own their master recordings. For artists like Taylor Swift and The Rolling Stones who own only a portion of their recorded masters catalog, a blended royalty rate was used. All the above sales and streaming royalty rates then had a 4% producers fee deducted.

A subscription per-stream rate of $0.0021 — blended to reflect the different statutory rates for ad-supported and subscription streams — was applied to programmed streams; per-play estimated rates of 74 cents and $46 were applied to Music Choice and SiriusXM plays, respectively. After calculating this revenue and deducting a producer’s fee and the musician’s union cut, acts were credited with a 41% split from the SoundExchange payouts from services like Music Choice and SiriusXM.

Publishing royalties were estimated using the statutory mechanical rates for album and track sales. The Copyright Royalty Board streaming formula produced an average publishing rate of 13.1% for on-demand audio streaming revenue; the blended per-play terrestrial radio rates, according to Massarsky Consulting, were applied, ranging from 82 cents to $4, depending on the genre and whether hit songs triggered bonus payment plans from the songwriter’s performing rights organization. Meanwhile, the per-play publishing rates used for calculating publishing royalties from Music Choice was 43 cents; SiriusXM, $8.33; and programmed streams, $0.0003. Billboard estimated each artist’s songwriter’s share of the recorded music included in these calculations, and publishing royalties were calculated as co-publishing deals, giving the writer 75% of those royalties. A 10% manager’s fee was deducted from artist and publishing recorded-music royalty pools.