For the first time in nearly two decades, music industry revenue has increased for two straight years — and that’s good news for the highest earners on Billboard’s annual Money Makers list. In 2016, the 50 top artists in U.S. sales, publishing, streaming and touring took home $890.7 million, a staggering 34 percent increase over the past year’s total. See the full list here.
As usual, touring accounted for the majority of Money Makers income (nearly 75 percent), with take-home pay from live shows adding up to $682.7 million. Royalties from both record sales and publishing also increased (sales more significantly, by nearly 12 percent).
But it’s streaming that has pushed overall growth: Those royalties ballooned five-fold to nearly $90 million, thanks in part to the format’s takeover — combined on-demand audio and video streams grew 39.2 percent in 2016, according to Nielsen Music. Billboard also applied the 50 percent “superstar” rate — major stars get a larger cut of streaming royalties — to more artists in 2016. In addition to heritage artists with older contracts and artists with joint-venture deals, some superstars are commanding higher royalty rates for streaming, from 25 to 50 percent of revenue, according to business managers and label executives. Top acts who lean on streaming are now almost as handsomely rewarded as those who focus on downloads and physical sales.
This year’s list has glaring absences — Taylor Swift, who topped the 2015, 2013 and 2011 lists, didn’t make the cut; neither did many Latin artists (only Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony) or any dance artists. Yet 2016’s top three artists alone give a sense of the industry’s variety: the supernovas, like Beyonce, who place high with each release and tour; the regular touring titans, like Bruce Springsteen; and the wild cards — this year, Guns N’ Roses at No. 2 — who can emerge from left field to rake in the dough.