We all envy the greatest musicians that seem to bring in millions of dollars and live in elegant mansions. The truth is…

…they do.

Now, what’s interesting is that the reported amounts from these musicians were actually captured and written in an article by Forbes Magazine. These musicians aren’t technically required to release their earnings, but their record labels are because they are publicly traded.

This gives us an insight into how much famous musicians make – before taxes, of course – and keep us pining after the dream of being famous musicians ourselves.

The figures below were the total gross reported income of the musicians below in 2018, and the highest paid that year:

U2 – $118,000,000

The Irish band U2 brought in almost $120 million dollars in 2018, and was the highest-grossing band in the world. It’s funny, though, because you don’t seem to hear as much about U2 as you do with other artists like Rihanna and Taylor Swift, but here’s the kicker:

U2 does a lot of touring. Like, a LOT.

Going on tour is the most profitable way for a band to make money. You can’t expect to make a lot of money just releasing records out of a recording studio. You have to get out there and actually perform for your fans if you want to make it to the big leagues.

Coldplay – $115,500,000

Viva La Vida wasn’t just one of the most famous songs released by Coldplay, it launched their career into world-wide stardom.

Many times bands will be a one-hit wonder and fall into obscurity, but like U2, Coldplay still does a LOT of touring. They’re still a favorite band for many fans around the world and keep releasing new albums and singles by collaborating with other artists and getting those sweet, sweet royalty checks.

Ed Sheeran – $110,000,000

Not surprisingly, Mr. Ed Sheeran is closely following these two bands because – guess what – ED DOES A LOT OF TOURING.

Getting the picture here?

I once had the privilege of creating a promotional video for a company that sold a back-stage communication system to Ed’s lighting team, and they conducted an interview with the lighting director Matt Jones.

Those folks, let me tell you, work VERY hard to make sure Ed’s concerts are an absolute success. It’s no wonder he made so much money in 2018.

Bruno Mars – $100,000,000

Believe it or not, Bruno Mars is falling behind the British superstar above. You’d think with all his flashiness, sexual innuendos, and upbeat music that he’d be doing better than any of these groups, but the numbers don’t lie.

Bruno Mars isn’t the highest-paid musician in the world, although it’s still a sexy figure to have in his bank account.

Katy Perry – $83,000,000

Alright, so we’ve dropped about $17 million with Ms. Perry. Here’s the thing, ladies – Katy was, last year, the highest-paid female musical artist of 2018. What’s not to love about that?

I mean, except for the fact that she makes more than any of us combined.

Regardless, female artist success stories are on the rise, and so are their incomes. Women have helped to move the music industry forward as both artists, composers, and even engineers more and more.

Gotta love Katy for keeping it real and motivating female musicians around the world!

Taylor Swift – $80,000,000

Alright, so apparently singing about your exes is a great way to make millions of dollars. Once again, a female artist topped the charts last year…

…but it’s Taylor freakin’ Swift.

She’s going to be making hits for a few more years to come and tour until she doesn’t feel like it anymore. Why did she make this much money, aside from being signed to a major record label?

Well, her tickets are expensive as hell. Her merchandise is worn by millions of fans all over the United States (and other countries, of course), and she has billions of streams every year.

She’s become a household name, and that’s pretty much worth millions of dollars right there.

Jay-Z – $76,500,000

Ah, finally a rapper, you think to yourself. Or maybe not. It doesn’t matter; Jay-Z is competing with some awesome talent in the rap game, but yet he is one of the only rappers on this list. Why?

Well, although rap is being listened to by hundreds of millions of human beings on the planet right at this very moment, much of those artists are simply studio rappers.

They don’t tour.

They don’t sell merch.

They just sign up for a DistroKid account and hope for the best on Spotify.

Jay-Z does tours most of the year, every year, and he’s made history doing so. He’s established himself as one of the most popular rappers, although he may not be the best rapper in the game according to many fans (talking to you, diehard “Eminemers”).

Plus, this guy’s got a record deal. Kind of sets him up for success, you know? So much for hustling anymore.

Rolling Stones – $39,000,000

Alright, so I jumped a bit on this one. There are artists in between, those who made MUCH less than this and still made the charts, and many who made between this amount and Jay-Z.

The point is here that Rolling Stones has a magazine and isn’t at the top of the income charts. But they’re still touring and making lots of money, so that’s good for them.

Every famous musician or group has their career peaks, and end up falling into obscurity. Usually, to keep the ball rolling they have to keep touring. If you don’t stay as present as possible then you’re never going to even have the possibility of making millions as a musician.


There are famous musicians all around the world, but the majority of them never make it to the six-figure mark. Celebrity musicians like the ones in this article have reached what is considered “ultimate success” in terms of income and their careers.

Paul Cassarly
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