Rolling Stone has unveiled its list of the 10 highest-earning music artists for 2021, and the tally is made up mostly up veteran acts who sold the rights to their music catalogs last year.
Topping the list is Bruce Springsteen, who earned a whopping $590 million last year, $550 million of which came from the sale of his publishing copyrights and master recordings to Sony, the parent company of his longtime label. The Boss’ 2021 earnings also included money he made from his Springsteen on Broadway performances, the Spotify podcast he did with Barack Obama, and the book that emerged from the podcast.
Landing at #3 on the tally was Paul Simon, who enjoyed a $260 million payday in 2021. Simon also sold his entire music catalog to Sony Music Publishing last year, including his solo compositions and those he wrote for Simon & Garfunkel.
Also in the top 10 of the list were The Red Hot Chili Peppers at #6 with $145 million in earnings, Lindsey Buckingham at #7 with $100 million and Mötley Crüe at #8 with $95 million in income. All three acts sold the rights to their music publishing and/or master recordings in 2021.
Discussing the wave of music catalog acquisitions that’s been taking place recently, Josh Gruss, CEO of Round Hill Music, notes, “These are almost like pieces of art — there’s a finite number of real, super-high-quality hit songs from the past — and there’s this sort of all-out grab to own those rights…It’s a very steady stream of revenue that’s there.”
Only three artists in the top 10 didn’t sell their music rights last year — Jay-Z, Kanye West and Taylor Swift.
Here are the 10 artists who made the most money in 2021
1. Bruce Springsteen — $590 million
2. Jay-Z — $470 million
3. Paul Simon — $260 million
4. Kanye West — $250 million
5. Ryan Tedder — $200 million
6. Red Hot Chili Peppers — $145 million
7. Lindsey Buckingham — $100 million
8. Mötley Crüe — $95 million
9. Blake Shelton — $83 million
10. Taylor Swift — $80 million
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