Madonna, The Top-Earning Women in Music 2013
In her classic song “Like A Prayer,” Madonna notes that life is a mystery and “everyone must stand alone.” That holds true for the Material Girl herself, at least when it comes to earnings: she’s all by herself atop this year’s list of the highest-paid women in music.
Madonna pulled in $125 million over the past year, making her music’s top earner of any genre or gender and the highest-paid celebrity of any stripe. She augments her income with merchandise sales, her Material Girl clothing line and her Truth or Dare fragrance. But Madge’s millions mostly came from the tail end of her MDNA Tour, which grossed $305 million.
“She has global hits and they span decades and genres and generations,” says entertainment attorney Lori Landew of Fox Rothschild. “Madonna draws her audiences from so many pools and she has connected to so many people through her music that it should be no surprise that her tours are so successful.”
Coming in at number two is Lady Gaga at $80 million. The singer’s ARTPOP album was released after the end of our scoring period this year, but she still raked in plenty from the tail end of an injury-shortened tour. She’s followed by Taylor Swift, who earned $55 million with the help of her latest album, Red, which sold 1.2 million copies in its opening week last year.
Beyoncé claims the fourth spot with $53 million, getting a boost from her Mrs. Carter World Tour, which is grossing $2 million per city. The tour’s title is a nod to husband Jay Z, whom she out-earned once again. Jennifer Lopez rounds out the top five with $45 million, replacing her $12 million American Idol salary with a lucrative world tour.
“I’m a little bit tired now, I’m not going to lie,” she told FORBES last year. “But I feel really in the zone.”
Lopez is one of four names on this list with a connection to American Idol. Carrie Underwood, the only former contestant, ranks ninth with $31 million. She’s come a long way since winning the show in 2005: her latest album, Blown Away, went platinum and she played over 100 shows in our scoring period.
Former judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj close out the list in a tie for tenth place with $29 million. The former earned the bulk of her bucks—$18 million, to be precise—from her Idol gig. The latter pulled in 50% less for her role, but matches Carey’s overall total thanks to heavy touring, steady music sales, endorsement deals with Pepsi and others, as well as Myx, her own Moscato.
“I’m not going to fall back from something because it’s never been done before by a woman,” explained Minaj, the only female among hip-hop’s top 20 earners. “It’s time for a female Jay, a female Puffy.”
Still, despite the fact that the top two earners in all of music–Madonna and Lady Gaga–are women, there are only seven ladies among the top 25 earners overall. Landew attributes this to a number of factors, including the relative dearth of major female legacy acts.
“This may be due to some unspoken double-standard that does not place as much of a premium on how men look on stage in contrast to women who are so often judged on their looks as well as their talent,” she says. “Or it may be due to the fact that women choose to opt out of the musical rat race before men do for personal reasons. Whatever the cause, the result seems to be careers cut short for many women in music who might otherwise go on to influence, entertain and earn.”
To form our list, we looked at income from June 1st, 2012 through June 1st, 2013, using data sources including Pollstar, the RIAA, Nielsen SoundScan, managers and attorneys. We took into account concert ticket sales, royalties for recorded music and publishing, merchandise sales, endorsement deals and other business ventures. Our estimates reflect pretax income before deducting fees for agents, managers and lawyers.
There are plenty of other superstars who made double-digit millions but couldn’t quite crack the top ten, including Celine Dion, Shakira and Britney Spears. Which pop diva who missed this year’s list is most likely to make next year’s? According to rapper 50 Cent, the answer is clear: Miley Cyrus.
“What [people] see from Miley Cyrus, like with the award shows and creating all the controversy, is because they felt like they already knew her and had expectations of her as an artist,” he says. “Just putting her in a box. But everything she did, they would have expected from Madonna right out of the gate.”
Not bad company to be in, particularly given the Material Girl’s placement on this year’s list.