Dr. Dre hasn’t released an album since 2015 and hasn’t gone on tour since the turn of the millennium. His last production credit on a No. 1 hit was in 2009, when he worked the boards on Eminem’s “Crack a Bottle.” But the hip-hop superproducer still topped all other music stars in earnings this decade, pulling in an estimated $950 million thanks mostly to his roughly 20% stake in Beats, the bass-heavy headphone maker Apple bought for $3 billion in 2014. Top-Earning Musicians Of The Decade
Other stars had more traditional ways of making money. Taylor Swift was the decade’s second-biggest earner with $825 million followed by Beyoncé with $685 million, both profiting from multiple centimillion-dollar tours, several multiplatinum albums and a slew of multimillion-dollar sponsor partnerships with brands from Adidas to AT&T.
Forbes measures the industry’s top-earning musicians annually for the Celebrity 100 by looking at touring data from Pollstar, music consumption numbers from Nielsen and interviews with managers, agents and many of the stars themselves. The list doesn’t include behind-the-scenes earners such as agents, managers and promoters, nor does it deduct living expenses or taxes. Top-Earning Musicians Of The Decade
Our ranking doesn’t extend beyond the grave; if postmortem earnings were counted, Michael Jackson would be No. 1. His staggering $2.37 billion total for the decade by our count is higher than his estate’s recently filed estimate of $1.7 billion because we counted reinvested royalties from his half of the Sony/ATV publishing catalog (his estate sold the asset for $750 million in 2016). He easily tops his living peers by either measure.
The list features a diverse group—there are only three white male acts in the top ten. Hip-hop has produced three of the moguls who’ve done the best job growing their considerable wealth, including Dre, Diddy (No. 5, $605 million) the genre’s first billionaire, Jay-Z (No. 7, $560 million). The latter two are worth more than their decade-long earnings totals thanks to investing wisely and starting their own companies. Top-Earning Musicians Of The Decade
“Great melodies have a lot in common with great ideas,” explained Bono, frontman of U2 (No. 4, $675 million), to Forbes in 2017. “They’re instantly memorable. There’s a certain inevitability. There’s a sort of beautiful arc. Whether it’s a song or business or a solution to a problem facing the world’s poor, I see what I do as the same thing.”
Dr. Dre, who parlayed his early success as a member of gangsta rap group NWA into a lucrative producing and branding career that transformed him into the world’s richest hip-hop mogul, raked in $950 million to lead the Forbes magazine list of the decade’s top-earning musicians.
Dre’s massive income throughout the 2010s was fueled by his 20 percent stake in Beats, the popular headphone maker that Apple bought for $3 billion in 2014. Forbes notes that Dre hasn’t released a studio album since 2015’s Compton, produced a No. 1 hit since Eminem’s “Crack a Bottle” topped the charts in 2009, or gone on tour since the turn of the millennium.
10. LADY GAGA ($500 MILLION)
Despite some pauses to pursue film and TV projects, Gaga’s live music prowess and wildly successful albums landed her on our list.
9. KATY PERRY ($530 MILLION)
The 2015 Forbes cover star hit the road aggressively over the past decade, with two separate tours grossing nine figures.
8. PAUL MCCARTNEY ($535 MILLION)
No Beatles, no problem: McCartney continued an epic solo run, selling out stadiums and even getting his first No. 1 album since 1982.
7. JAY-Z ($560 MILLION)
Music’s first billionaire made his fortune by building companies, but the last ten years of touring—recently with Beyoncé—sure didn’t hurt.
6. ELTON JOHN ($565 MILLION)
The Rocketman is blasting off on his last tour having fueled up his bank account with a decade of stadium shows and Vegas residency dates.
5. DIDDY ($605 MILLION)
He’s had more name changes than anyone on the list, but his earnings remained strong thanks mostly to his Ciroc vodka pact with Diageo.
4. U2 ($675 MILLION)
The group’s 360 Tour wrapped in 2011, grossing over $700 million—its inflation-adjusted $800 million-plus tour tally is the highest ever.
3. BEYONCÉ ($685 MILLION)
Queen Bey began the decade newly graduated from Destiny’s Child, quickly establishing her business bona fides in the studio and on the road.
2. TAYLOR SWIFT ($825 MILLION)
Not old enough to buy a beer at the decade’s outset, Swift became a stadium-packing superstar—and music’s highest-paid woman of the 2010s.
1. DR. DRE ($950 MILLION)
The superproducer released one album this decade and barely toured, but had music’s top business achievement: Apple’s $3B buyout of Beats.