Live & Touring

Catalog dealmakers top 2021’s 10 highest paid musicians list

Zack O’Malley Greenburg and Rolling Stone have shared the former Forbes editor’s respected annual list of the highest paid musicians of 2021.

White males dominated the list in a year when touring revenue was mostly non-existent and music catalog sales dominated. Thanks to those catalog deals, the 10 highest-paid musicians earned a combined $2.3 billion, more than double that of the years just before Covid-19.

#1 on the list, Bruce Springsteen also earned millions from his Broadway run but even he was propelled to the top by the $550 million sale of his catalog to Sony. In the Top 10 only three – Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Taylor Swift – made the list without catalog sales.

Why is this catalog income boom happening now?

“There are a lot of different reasons,” Josh Gruss, chief of Round Hill Music which has spent $1.3 billion buying catalogs told O’Malley Greenburg. “At the end of the day, music is something that people need in their lives … the way [artists] get paid is a lot more like a utility than it was before streaming, when it was just a one-time purchase.”

Here is this years Top 10 via Rolling Stone

1. Bruce Springsteen: $550 million
2. Jay-Z: $470 million
3. Paul Simon: $260 million
4. Kanye West: $250 million
5. Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic): $200 million
6. Red Hot Chili Peppers: $145 million
7. Lindsey Buckingham: $100 million
8. Motley Crue: $95 million
9. Blake Shelton: $83 million
10. Taylor Swift: $80 million

O’Malley Greenburg now covers the music business on Substack. You can find his work including the highest earners 11-15 here


Bruce Houghton is Founder and Editor of Hypebot and MusicThinkTank and serves as a Senior Advisor to Bandsintown which acquired both publications in 2019. He is the Founder and President of the Skyline Artists Agency and a professor for the Berklee College Of Music.

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