Adele’s 25 sold a record-smashing 3.38 million copies the week after its November 20th release—but even if her launch had fallen within our scoring period, she wouldn’t have been among music’s top earners. Touring is now the industry’s main moneymaker, and perhaps nobody better exemplifies this that this year’s highest paid musician of 2015 Katy Perry.
The Super Bowl halftime star pulled in $135 million over the past year, making her not only the highest-paid musician of the past year, but the highest paid musician of 2015 celebrity on the planet after Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. She grossed more than $2 million per city over the course of her Prismatic World Tour, and pads her coffers with other deals from Claire’s, Coty and Covergirl.
“Music has changed,” she told FORBES in an interview for this year’s Celebrity 100 cover story. “The record is that launching pad for all kinds of other creative branches.”
Perry played 126 shows in our scoring period, the most of any act among the top ten—nine of whom performed in at least 20 concerts over those 12 months. She’s immediately followed in the rankings by two other road warriors: One Direction ($130 million) and Garth Brooks ($90 million).
The former is the highest paid musician of 2015 in the world and the top-earning group of any sort, playing 74 dates during our scoring period—and generating seven-figure grosses at every stop—giving One Direction a payday twice as big as the Rolling Stones. Brooks, meanwhile, came back from semi-retirement to gross over $1 million per show, often with back-to-back shows in the same arena in one night.
Taylor Swift rounds out the top four with $80 million, boosted by the launch of 1989, the top release of 2014 with over 3.6 million copies sold. But again, the real money is on the road. Her 1989 Tour is grossing some $4 million per city, making her a top contender for the No. 1 spot on our list next year.
“It’s a stadium tour, it’s enormous,” said Gary Bongiovanni, chief of concert data outfit Pollstar. “I would imagine that she’s going to dwarf what everybody else does.”
To form our list of highest paid musician of 2015, we looked at pretax income from June 2014-June 2015 from concerts, record sales, publishing, endorsements and other business ventures. As usual, we did not deduct fees for managers, agents and lawyers. We used data from Nielsen SoundScan, Pollstar and RIAA, and information from industry sources including some of the artists themselves.
Though there are two women in the top four and four in the top ten, the list reveals a troubling pay gap in the music business: there are only six females in the top 30, and that’s if you count both women of Fleetwood Mac. For some, that creates an added motivation to succeed—and to take pride in the fruits of their labor, as Katy Perrynoted on Instagram earlier this year.
There is, however, a decent amount of diversity on the list when it comes to age (from the youngsters of One Direction to 73-year-old Paul McCartney, who ranks No. 17 with $51.5 million) and genre (with Brooks leading the way in county, Diddy taking hip-hop’s cash crown with $60 million at No. 9, and Calvin Harris pacing all DJs with $66 million at No. 6).
Surprisingly, the top-earning couple on the list is not Jay Z and Beyoncé, who ranked No. 13 and 14 with $56 million and $54.5 million, respectively. That honor goes to Swift and Harris, who combined to earn $146 million, thanks mostly to endorsements and live shows.
Other highlights include Dr. Dre (No. 30, $33 million)—who fell from the top spot last year with a Beats-generated $620 million, the largest annual payday of any musician in history—and Ed Sheeran (No. 12, $57 million). The latter played 154 shows in our scoring period, more than any musician on this year’s list.
Adele seems to have taken heed: she’s already plotting her next tour, with 40 dates planned through the end of May. That could well land her toward the top of next year’s rankings.
“Her huge first week is a result of the perfect storm of an artist having built up demand, a timeless and universally appealing style, great songs, likability, self-awareness and the most majestic voice in music,” said Will Griggs, a 30 Under 30 alum who cofounded Cantora Records. “There isn’t a formula or shortcut you can take in creating that sort of demand.”