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Katy Perry Overcomes Mediocre Album to Become Music’s Highest-Paid Woman

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - OCTOBER 18: Katy Perry attends the amfAR Gala Los Angeles 2018 at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on October 18, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)

Katy Perry was the highest paid woman in music during 2018, pulling in $83 million before taxes, according to Forbes. This unnecessarily gendered ranking comes with a caveat—Forbes actually tabulated income from June 2017 to June 2018—but is nonetheless surprising. You may recall that Perry released her fifth studio album Witness last June, or you may not, since it was the biggest commercial disappointment of Perry’s career. It also wasn’t very good.

Perry entered the album cycle with nine No. 1 singles. Witness, which Perry went to elaborate and bizarre lengths to promote, including half-hearted beef with Taylor Swift and whatever this was, mustered just one Top 40 hit: “Chained to the Rhythm,” produced by Max Martin and Ali Payami, with a writing contribution from Sia, peaked at No. 4. The album debuted at No. 1, prevailing over Swift, who cheekily put her discography back on Spotify the same week as Witness‘s release, but it never took off and remains uncertified by the RIAA.

So how did Perry make so much money? She worked hard, playing 80 dates on her Witness world tour during Forbes‘s timeframe, reportedly earning over $1 million per night. During a year when scheduled tours for Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and Future were dogged by reports of low ticket sales, Perry’s success on the road is certainly evidence of her resilient staying power. A massive check from American Idol helped. For judging the show’s 16th season alongside Luke Brian and Lionel Ritchie, Perry was paid a record $25 million, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Semantics helped, too. Taylor Swift ranked second and Beyoncé ranked third on Forbes‘s list at $80 million and $60 million, respectively. The former’s tour behind Reputation—which became the first full-length since Adele‘s 25 to move over 2 million units in the U.S.—only logged six dates before Forbes‘s cut-off date of June 1, while Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s joint stadium tour behind Everything Is Love started on June 6. U2, if you were wondering, ranked highest among musicians, earning a reported $118 million.