Skip to content

Surprise! Taylor Swift Tops Money Makers List, Beats U2

Taylor Swift (Photo: Kevin Winter/ACMA2011/Getty)

Sometimes it’s nice to think about professional musicians as dedicated artistes regaling us with their melodies for the sheer joy of musical performance. Then the illusion-crushing annual Billboard Money Makers list drops and fans everywhere get to see how filthy rich even the most adorable of their favorite artists really are. This year, based on the amount of money made in 2011, the award for least Occupy Wall Street-friendly musician goes to… Taylor Swift! (She’s shocked, trust us.) The ever-unsuspecting songsmith pulled in over $35.7 million this year, according to Billboard’s calculations, which combine Boxscore numbers (data on tour profits) and album, single, and digital sales from U.S. sources. That, according to Billboard, is a whopping 17 percent more than the top-earning artist of 2010 made, Lady Gaga with $30.5 million. Swift also punked U2, Kenny Chesney, and Lil Wayne this year, who held the Nos. 2, 3, and 5 positions (Gaga was at No. 4, with only a tragic $25.3 million in 2011).

The millions reportedly made by Taylor and her 39 listmates don’t even reflect the profits the artists made via film and TV syncs or branding deals, which makes the list an underestimation at best. Still, the ranking is actually pretty fun in terms of context. For example, now we know that Bob Seger trumped the hell out of Justin Bieber, but sadly, was bested by the Glee cast. We also know that, no matter what he does, Paul McCartney by himself will (probably) never outrun his original band, which hasn’t even pulled Boxscore data in decades, regardless of how few of them are left alive (still, no duh, it’s the Beatles; they bested 16 artists on this list with song and album sales alone). And in another twist, Kanye West still doesn’t have a leg up on Steely Dan, and furthermore should probably be worried about Linkin Park moving into the neighborhood. The one non-comparative thing to be said about the ranking, however, is that the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block, with their 2011 NKOTBSB tour, have shown everyone that the power of nostalgia is not to be messed with — and nor is the power of the aging boy band.

Billboard’s Money Makers Top 25:
1. Taylor Swift – $35,719,902
2. U2 – $32,116,315
3. Kenny Chesney – $29,837,103
4. Lady Gaga – $25,353,039
5. Lil Wayne – $23,178,722
6. Sade – $16,382,809
7. Bon Jovi – $19,813,232
8. Celine Dion – $14,261,515
9. Jason Aldean – $13,409,011
10. Adele – $13,081,909
11. Glee Cast – $12,587,771
12. Journey – $12,313,822
13. Elton John – $11,973,990
14. Katy Perry – $11,969,426
15. Toby Keith – $10,413,127
16. Britney Spears – $10,090,973
17. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – $10,017,031
18. Rascall Flatts – $9,639,270
19. Tim McGraw $9,335,258
20. Michael Bublé – $9,027,177
21. Brad Paisley $8,602,374
22. Rihanna – $7,660,833
23. Enrique Iglesias – $7,448,670
24. The Beatles – $6,743,863
25. Paul McCartney – $6,726,519