by Alex Cosper (7/20/13)
The highest paid musicians in the music world are usually familiar names that everyone has heard of. U2, Bon Jovi and Elton John were the three top paid artists of 2012, according to Forbes. U2 ranked number one earning $195 million, mainly from touring, which is how most music stars earn their largest revenue streams. Bon Jovi, who has been on top in recent years, came in a distant number two, earning $125 million, while Elton John earned $100 million. Others on the list included Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, The Black Eyed Peas and the Eagles.
Recording is not really as huge of an income stream as the average person may imagine. Carly Simon, whose net worth is in the multi-millions, told Howard Stern back in the nineties that she didn't really earn a lot of money since she didn't tour much. She did, however, inherit a forture from her father Richard Simon, who ran one of the four biggest publishing companies in America. At the time it seemed like a strange revelation that a well known recording artist didn't make a lot of money. But since the music industry began to decline after 1999, many artists have come out of the woodwork to criticize record labels for hogging the money and not giving artists fair deals.
Don Henley, who is one of the top paid artists from touring, has worked hard in the 21st century with his organization called Recording Artists Coalition to pressure labels to let artists win ownership of their recordings after contracts expire. Mick Jagger said in a 2010 BBC interview that the music business only really made money between 1970 through 1997 off of recordings. He claimed that when the Rolling Stones started out they didn't make much money back in the 1960s.
Today the concert industry is what has made the top artists wealthy, but many artists, especially those signed to independent labels, do not make high incomes. The costs of making recordings and going on the road can cut into profits, especially if artists are not doing big shows. At some point it may be possible for new technology to kick in and help artists earn a living, especially since digital downloads are rapidly growing while sales of physical CDs are diminishing. Until that happens, very few artists are getting rich off selling recorded music.
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