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Highest Paid Musicians of 2021: Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z High Earners

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Highest Paid Musicians of 2021: Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z High Earners


Of all of the supposedly “pandemic-proof” jobs on the market, right here’s a stunning one: rock star. The world’s 10 highest-paid musicians of 2021 raked in a mixed $2.3 billion, greater than double what they have been making on an annual foundation within the years proper earlier than Covid-19.

The coronavirus has decimated touring, with brutal results for artists who depend on gigs as a main supply of earnings. However up within the stratosphere, icons from Bruce Springsteen to Paul Simon discovered different methods to money in — particularly by offloading their catalogs for nine-figure sums.

“These are nearly like items of artwork — there’s a finite variety of actual, super-high-quality hit songs from the previous — and there’s this form of all-out seize to personal these rights,” says Josh Gruss, founder and CEO of Spherical Hill Music, which has spent $1.3 billion on music copyrights over the previous decade. “It’s a really regular stream of income that’s there, and that makes it very enticing for funding.”

Solely Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Taylor Swift made the lower with no huge catalog sale (scroll all the way down to see the total rating). The remaining seven of music’s 10 high earners banked the majority of their bucks by promoting copyrights. Underscoring the business’s persistent pay hole, they’re all white males (Stevie Nicks offered her catalog for $100 million in December 2020, simply lacking our cutoff).

This unlucky actuality has roots as outdated because the music enterprise itself, significantly in terms of gender disparity. For each Springsteen signed to a document deal, what number of feminine rockers have been ignored? For each Dylan given freedom to jot down his songs — and accumulate mental property — what number of ladies acquired pigeonholed as simply singers? For each Simon who maintained or negotiated the return of his rights a long time in the past, what number of feminine icons have been denied that respect? And so it goes for therefore many underrepresented demographics within the business.

There are no less than few youthful names amongst all of the septuagenarian centimillionaires. Among the greater catalog gross sales, like Ryan Tedder’s $200 million deal, have already been reported. Others, together with Blake Shelton’s $50 million-plus rights sale, haven’t. Regardless, it’s clear traders are lastly seeing the worth of music within the streaming age — for higher or worse.

“There’s nice irony in the truth that whereas Wall Avenue takes observe of songs’ worth, the digital platforms typically don’t,” says Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of Common Music Publishing Group. “Which implies we should proceed to combat for our songwriters each by way of the worth of what they create and by way of the treating songs as artwork, not as property.”

So, for music’s one-percenters, what’s the inducement to promote? There’s a variety of things, a few of them arcane and missed, like tax charges: The sale of a catalog is often handled as a capital achieve, and subsequently taxed at a a lot decrease fee than a royalty verify.

Then there’s the truth that music consumption continues to soar, with international on-demand spins surging 26.3% year-over-year. That determine acquired a significant increase from again catalog streaming, which spiked 19.3% this yr and accounted for 69.8% of general listening.

On high of that, low rates of interest world wide imply megabuyers like private-equity agency KKR and Merck Mercuriadis’ Hipgnosis Songs Fund can afford to borrow cheaply, spurring them to pay greater multiples and write bigger checks.

However many insiders really feel these situations are prone to shift within the not-so-distant future. Some anticipate to see tax-code adjustments, whereas others fear rising inflation might result in greater rates of interest.

“That has to trigger some form of adjustment within the multiples being paid,” says Gruss, who believes the music-rights market is nearing its peak, no less than on the excessive finish. “However I’ve been unsuitable earlier than — yearly after I assume it’s maxed out, it retains going.”

Learn on to see the total rating of the world’s top-earning musicians. The checklist measures pretax earnings for calendar yr 2021 earlier than deducting charges for brokers, managers, attorneys, dwelling bills, and so forth. Estimates are generated by scouring public paperwork and interviewing people with direct information of main offers.

After a decade at Forbes, Zack O’Malley Greenburg covers the enterprise of music at Substack — discover his work, together with high earners No. 11-15, here. He’s the creator of 4 music books, together with the Jay-Z biography Empire State of Mind. His tales have additionally appeared in The New York Instances, Washington Put up, and Vainness Truthful.

Picture Illustrations by Sean McCabe for Rolling Stone. Images in illustrations by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP (Swift); Jason Kempin/ACMA2021/Getty Photos (Shelton); Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP (Motley Crüe); Lauren Dukoff (Buckingham); Gus Van Zant (Pink Scorching Chili Peppers); Hubert Boesl/picture-alliance/dpa/AP (Tedder); David Livingston/Getty Photos (West); Dave Kotinsky/Getty Photos (Simon); Xavier Collin/Picture Press Company/Sipa USA/AP (Jay-Z); Danny Clinch (Springsteen)





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