U2 released Joshua Tree more than three decades ago, planting lasting roots. The immortal Irishmen played the album in its entirety at every show on their recent Joshua Tree Tour—and grossed $316 million as some 2.7 million fans turned out to make it last year’s most lucrative tour.
The tail end of that outing and the beginning of U2’s next tour combined to help the band earn an estimated $118 million in our scoring period, making U2 the world’s highest-paid musical act yet again. In the midst of all the time on the road, the group also managed to release its 14th studio album, Songs Of Experience. For frontman Bono, these elements go together.
“I’ve never had that clichéd view of commerce and culture being different,” he said. “I always remember Björk saying to me that her songs, she feels, are like carpentry. Like her friends in Iceland, one of them designs a chair. Is that more beautiful or useful than a song? Well, it depends on the chair. Or the song.”
U2 isn’t the only act from the British Isles to pull in nine figures—Ireland and the U.K. monopolize this year’s top three. Coldplay claims the No. 2 spot with $115.5 million; its A Head Full Of Dreams Tour grossed more than half a billion dollars in its two-year, five-continent run. Ed Sheeran, at just 27 years old, rounds out the trio with $110 million. His billions of streams helped make him the highest-paid solo act on our list.
All in all, the 10 highest-paid musicians pulled in $886 million, about the same as last year’s combined tally. But this year’s list is more top-heavy, featuring four centimillion-dollar paychecks (the aforementioned names as well as Bruno Mars) as opposed to last year’s two (Diddy and Beyoncé).
Mars has grossed over a quarter-billion dollars (and counting) on his 24K Magic World Tour and keeps more of it than many acts due to his savvy management arrangement. It’s a long way from where he was when he cowrote “Billionaire,” in which he imagined a life that didn’t involve fretting over finances.
I wouldn’t have to worry about, you know, ‘I can’t afford to get breakfast, so I’ll wait until lunchtime to eat,’” Mars explained.“If I was a billionaire, none of that would matter. I’d be eating diamond cereal.”
Though the first four names on this year’s list can all be broadly defined as pop, the rest offer a wide range of genres. There’s hip-hop (Jay-Z, No. 7, $76.5 million), country (Luke Bryan, No. 16, $52 million), electronic (Calvin Harris, No. 20, $48 million) and even heavy metal (Metallica, No. 25, $46 million).
There is not, however, much gender balance: Just 6 of the top 30 are women, led by Katy Perry (No. 5, $83 million). One of the hardest-working names in our rankings, she played 80 dates during our scoring period, grossing over $1 million per night. She’s followed closely by Taylor Swift (No. 6, $80 million), who started her Reputation Stadium Tour at the tail end of our 12-month range.
There were quite a few well-known near misses as well. Rihanna, J. Cole, Dr. Dre and Nas all earned over $30 million, but not quite enough to crack our top 30. And some on the list could have ranked higher under a different classification system: Jay-Z and Beyoncé both made the cut as solo acts while touring and releasing a joint album; together, the Carters earned $136.5 million, more than any single act on our list.
Figures are for pretax earnings from June 1, 2017, through June 1, 2018, before deducting fees for agents, managers and lawyers. Sources include Nielsen SoundScan, NPD BookScan, insider interviews and Forbesestimates. Additional reporting by Natalie Robehmed and Rebecca Lerner.
Full List: The World’s Highest-Paid Musicians 2018
1. U2 ($118 million)
2. Coldplay ($115.5 million)
3. Ed Sheeran ($110 million)
4. Bruno Mars ($100 million)
5. Katy Perry ($83 million)
6. Taylor Swift ($80 million)
7. Jay-Z ($76.5 million)
8. Guns N’ Roses ($71 million)
9. Roger Waters ($68 million)
10. Diddy ($64 million)
11. Beyoncé ($60 million)
12. Kendrick Lamar ($58 million)
13. The Weeknd ($57 million)
14. The Eagles ($56 million)
15. Depeche Mode ($53 million)
16. Pink ($52 million, tie)
17. Luke Bryan ($52 million, tie)
18. Jimmy Buffett ($51 million)
19. Lady Gaga ($50 million)
20. Calvin Harris ($48 million)
21. Paul McCartney ($47.5 million)
22. Drake ($47 million, tie)
22. Jennifer Lopez ($47 million, tie)
22. Foo Fighters ($47 million, tie)
25. Elton John ($46 million, tie)
25. Metallica ($46 million, tie)
27. Garth Brooks ($45.5 million, tie)
27. The Chainsmokers ($45.5 million, tie)
29. Billy Joel ($43.5 million)
30. Rolling Stones ($39 million)