20 Top Paid U.S. Musicians of 2020

A year with minimal touring resulted in top-streaming acts, many of the hip-hop artists, replacing the rock and country acts that fill arena and stadiums on Billboard’s annual ranking. Taylor Swift tops the list.

Taylor Swift’s return to No. 1 on Billboard’s 2020 Money Makers list is one of the few unsurprising results of a ranking that holds many surprises. A year with little touring resulted in many of rock and country music’s regular road warriors giving up their spots to artists with strong 2020 streaming and physical sales performances — many of them hip-hop acts.

It’s also no surprise that the dearth of live revenue led to a precipitous decline in the paychecks of music’s top earners, who collectively took home $387 million in 2020, down from $969 million in 2019. Even Swift, that rare artist with strong sales, streaming and touring numbers, saw her take-home pay drop from $99.6 million in 2018 — the last time she was on the list — to $23.8 million.

Looking at revenue streams, touring income, based on Billboard Boxscore data, fell tenfold, from $779 million in 2019 to $79 million and accounted for just 20% of artists’ collective 2020 take-home pay. In previous years, it has made up 75% to 80% of the top 40 Money Makers’ income.

While the pandemic had a disastrous effect on touring revenue, it lifted other royalty streams as music fans listened to more recorded music from the relative safety of their homes, through radio, streaming platforms or the turntable setups they bought with the money they ordinarily would have shelled out for concerts and festivals.

Recorded music royalties — from sales, streaming and publishing — collectively grew 56% from $197 million in 2019 to $308 million. Individually, artist streaming royalties increased a whopping 82% year to year, from $106 million to $193 million, and accounted for just under 50% of the top 40 Money Makers’ total income. Sales royalties, digital and physical, were also up 39%, from $42 million to $59 million; a trend that continues so far this year.

The list breaks down to 22 contemporary artists and 18 heritage artists. (Only living acts were included on this list.) By genre, rock artists landed the most spots, 13, down one from last year; pop acts accounted for nine entries, down from 14; country, three spots, down from eight; and Latin, two berths, up one from 2019. (As in past rankings, DJs are included on Money Makers because they rarely report their live earnings, which constitute most of their income. In addition, deceased artists are excluded from the rankings. A story looking at how the catalogues of some of those late artists performed in 2020 is scheduled to run next week.)

The genre with the biggest gains is R&B/hip-hop, which is represented by 12 artists this year, up from three in 2019. When touring is in full bloom, heritage rockers, country artists and jam bands dominate Money Makers because of their concert grosses. In 2020, hip-hop came on strong because its artists often have a strong streaming game. On this year’s list, six hip-hop artists who didn’t make the cut for the 2019 list ranked in the top 20. Three of them — Drake, YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Lil Baby — placed in the top 10.

1. Taylor Swift: $23.8 million

Streaming: $10.6M
Sales: $10M
Publishing: $3.2M
Touring: $0

2. Post Malone: $23.2M

Last year’s rank: No. 6
Streaming: $8.1M
Sales: $712,500
Publishing: $2M
Touring: $12.4M

3. Céline Dion: $17.5M

Last year’s rank: —
Streaming: $290
Sales: $215K
Publishing: $2.4K
Touring: $17M

4. Eagles: $16.3M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $2.7M
Sales: $970K
Publishing: $1.2M
Touring: $11.4M

5. Billie Eilish: $14.7M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $5.9M
Sales: $2.1M
Publishing: $5.7M
Touring: $1M

6. Drake: $14.2M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $11.7M
Sales: $635K
Publishing: $1.9M
Touring: $0

7. Queen: $13.2M

Last year’s rank: No. 5
Streaming: $5.5M
Sales: $5.3M
Publishing: $2.4M
Touring: $0

8. The Beatles: $12.9M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $5.1M
Sales: $5.2M
Publishing: $2.6M
Touring: $0

9. YoungBoy Never Broke Again: $11.9M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $10M
Sales: $126K
Publishing: $1.7M
Touring: $129K

10. Lil Baby: $11.7M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $9.1M
Sales: $152K
Publishing: $2.2M
Touring: $253K

11. The Weeknd: $10.4M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $7.3M
Sales: $1.5M
Publishing: $1.6M
Touring: $0

12. Aventura: $10.2M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $939.5K
Sales: $14.4K
Publishing: $436.3K
Touring: $8.8M

13. AC/DC: $10.1M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $4.3M
Sales: $4M
Publishing: $1.8M
Touring: $0

14. Eminem: $9.7M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $6.6M
Sales: $1.3M
Publishing: $1.8M
Touring: $0

15. Lil Uzi Vert: $9.5M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $7.6M
Sales: $89.3K
Publishing: $1.8M
Touring: $0

16. Luke Combs: $9.2M

Last year’s rank: No. 35
Streaming: $5.5M
Sales: $874.7K
Publishing: $1.8M
Touring: $1M

17. DaBaby: $9.1M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $7.1M
Sales: $160.6K
Publishing: $1.5M
Touring: $313K

18. Metallica: $9M

Last year’s rank: No. 30
Streaming: $3.9M
Sales: $3.7M
Publishing: $1.4M
Touring: $0

19. BTS: $8.9M

Last year’s rank: No. 22
Streaming: $3.7M
Sales: $4.3M
Publishing: $967K
Touring: $0

20. Pink Floyd: $8.8M

Last year’s rank: 
Streaming: $3.2M
Sales: $4.3M
Publishing: $1.3M
Touring: $0

Access the full list from here Billboard’s U.S. Money Makers: The Top Paid Musicians of 2020


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