Madonna crowned top music earner in 2012 due to world tour

Singer Madonna performs at Staples Center as part of her MDNA world tour in Los Angeles. Credit: Reuters
Singer Madonna performs at Staples Center as part of her MDNA world tour in Los Angeles.
Credit: Reuters

Madonna was named the biggest money maker in music in 2012 on Friday, with a world tour helping her take home up to $34.6 million and highlighting the earning power of live performances as the industry increasingly goes digital.

The 54-year-old Material Girl topped Billboard Magazine’s annual list of 40 top money makers for the second time after earning an estimated $32 million – 93.5 percent of her revenue – from her 88-date “MDNA” tour, 2012′s biggest tour.

Madonna, who also led the list in 2008 due to tour income, was the only woman in the top 10 with last year’s winner, Taylor Swift, who fell to 15th place as she did not tour in 2012.

In second place in the music magazine’s list was Bruce Springsteen whose $33.4 million revenue was also primarily driven by touring, playing to sold-out stadiums and arenas.

Springsteen, who also released a No. 1 album, “Wrecking Ball,” last year, earned 92 percent of his revenue from live shows where strong merchandise sales also boosted takings.

Roger Waters, founder of Pink Floyd, came a distant third with earnings of $21 million largely from “The Wall Live” tour and Van Halen was fourth with $20 million after touring in support of their album “A Different Kind of Truth”.

“When it comes to making the biggest score, the most money always comes from high-paying live performances,” Billboard’s editorial analyst Glenn Peoples wrote in explaining the list.

“Ironically, the most popular touring artists are usually well past their peaks on the album sales charts.”

Country music veteran Kenny Chesney, the Dave Matthews Band, country’s Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean, and British band Coldplay came next on the list.

Canadian teen sensation Justin Bieber was 10th, earning almost $16 million of which about $10 million came from his sold-out “Believe” arena tour.

“The entire top 10 averaged 84.2 percent of their income from concerts, and the number would have been higher, if not for Justin Bieber’s mere 60.1 percent share at No. 10 dragging down the average,” said Billboard.

However touring was not vital for every act on the list such as Swift and Britain’s Adele.

Swift earned $12.7 million after selling the most digital tracks in 2012. She sold more than 3 million digital albums and 15.6 million digital tracks driven by her hit “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”.

Adele took the year out after having a baby but still earned nearly $14 million, putting her 11th in the rankings, due to continuing strong physical and digital sales for her album “21″.

Maroon 5, ranked 33rd in the list, took the highest share of streaming revenue which made 3.5 percent of its $7.2 million.

Billboard said streaming music online to paying customers has not caught on with older generations and was small in percentage terms but growing.

“Yet even in the coming years, as streaming services become a more important revenue source, possibly replacing digital downloads and CD sales, one thing is unlikely to change: concerts will have the greatest influence of top earners’ overall earnings,” said Peoples.

The list was compiled by Billboard editors using data for Boxscore archives of U.S. concert gross figures, Nielsen SoundScan data for sales, YouTube, and Nielsen BDS data.


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