Musicians don’t make money out of selling records or streaming downloads anymore – the big bucks come from live shows.
Millions of dollars can come from a world tour and selling ‘merch’ – merchandise like T-shirts, books and clothing – on the door.
The list of the biggest earners is not necessarily the same as you would expect from eyeing the charts and lists of the most popular downloads.
Most of the highest earners are ‘oldies but goldies’, according to American music mag Billboard.
The magazine has published a list of the top 50 earners (with an American slant) and a few are almost unheard of outside country music circles in the States.
U2 top high earners list
Top of the pops is rock group U2 taking $54.4 million in the past years – with $52 million coming from live shows. Only $1.1 million came from record sales with $652,000 from streaming downloads and $705,000 from music publishing.
Second was country singer Garth Brooks on $52.2 million, with monsters of rock Metallica third, taking $43.2 million. Bruno Mars was fourth with earnings of $40.7.
Ed Sheeran was the highest-placed young act on the list and the most played on terrestrial radio. Sheeran grossed $31.3 million.
Top-earning female artist was Lady Gaga, pulling in $29.7 million.
Aging rockers Billy Joel ($29.2 million), Guns n’ Roses ($27.8 million) and Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd ($27.2 million), took the next three places, while the band many love to hate, Coldplay, grabbed 10thplace with earnings of $26.5 million).
Online heroes fail to make the grade
Legendary singer Bob Dylan failed to make the cut even though he has been on tour since the late 1980s and has a huge publishing back catalogue of memorable tunes.
Many critics have observed that stacking up millions of downloads does not mean that an artist can sell out a music venue of any size.
Most of the stadium acts listed in the chart have plied their trade for decades and have huge back catalogues, while modern artists who are YouTube or streaming stars have little offline following.
For instance, Jake Paul is massive online, but few would recognise him in the street or would struggle to name one of his songs.