The Richest Artists In the World Make 75%+ of Their Money from Touring

Despite the surge in streaming, top artists still make most of their money from touring.

Music streaming has helped major labels post record-breaking revenue.  In its Q1 report, WMG posted over $1 billion.  During the same period, Sony Music reported $1.2 billion.  UMG alone earns $4.5 million a day from streaming.  But despite the rise of streaming in the music industry, the richest artists still make the majority of their cash from touring.

Last week, Billboard published their list of the highest-paid artists in the music industry.  Taking a look through the list, one key fact emerges: the richest artists make over 75% of their money from concerts.

Beyonce: 88%

Beyonce took the top crown as the highest-grossing artist of 2016.  She earned a whopping $62.1 million.  From sales alone, she earned $4.3 million. $1.9 million came in from streaming. Another $1.3 million from publishing.  From touring, however, Beyonce earned $54.7 million. This accounts for slightly over 88% of the total amount that she made in 2016.

The breakdown is even more impressive.  In support of her sixth album, Lemonade, her ‘Formation World Tour’ sold 1.2 million tickets in North America.  Across 32 North American stops, the concert grossed $161 million.  She also made $6.2 million from royalties.  According to Nielsen Music, Lemonade earned 2.2 million equivalent album units in 2016.

Guns N’ Roses: 96%

In second place, Guns N’ Roses earned $670,800 from steaming.  In total sales, the legendary hard rock group earned $771.7 thousand and $499,600 in publishing.  From touring, the group made $40.4 million.  This accounted for nearly 96% of the group’s $42.3 million earned last year.

Bruce Springsteen: 97%

Bruce Springsteen earned just $100,000 less than Guns N’ Roses.  In third place with $42.2 million, Springsteen earned nearly 97% from touring alone.  Bruce Springsteen had 2016’s second highest-grossing tour with $40.9 million brought in.

Drake: 37%

Landing in fourth place, and unlike the first three, Drake didn’t earn the bulk of his money from touring.  The Canadian-born rapper earned a total amount of $37.3 million in 2017.  However, the artist earned millions mostly from audio and video streams, bringing in $23.7 million with royalties included.  Thanks to summer concerts with Future, Drake brought in $13.6 million last year from touring.

Live + Streaming = 73% of Earnings

Billboard’s list continues with Adele, Coldplay, and Justin Bieber, among many other artist and groups.  While streaming leads the way in helping major labels earn record revenue, artists continue making most of their cash through concerts.  In fact, Billboard’s highest-paid artist list confirms a study shared with Digital Music News.  That study showed that live concerts, along with streaming, make up 73% of revenue that the entire music industry earns.


Image by Aapo Haapanen (CC by 2.0)

5 Responses

  1. anon

    Hasn’t this always been true for most artists throughout the last 100 years of pop music history?

    • Versus

      Not so sure about that….pre-Internetapocalypse, there surely seemed to be many artists making a living from recordings. Not just superstars, but plenty of “middle-class” artists as well.

      Here’s one analysis (with graphs!), though it only goes back to 1980, and once again only focuses on the superstars.

    • Anon 2

      No. Thanks to piracy, we now live in an era where for the first time in the history of recorded music, artists depend more on touring money to make a living. This is what happens when a whole generation breaks the law at the same time.

  2. Versus

    Thank you for this.

    Regarding the label revenues, do those figures include the income from 360 deals (i.e. touring, merchandise, etc)? That factor would change the assessment of their “record-breaking” year since their income is not only coming from streaming and sales. A breakdown of the label income would be very helpful in analyzing the trends.