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U2 Top Rock's Richest List

Lady Gaga, Beyonce, AC/DC also make biggest paydays

July 16, 2010 5:15 PM ET

U2's massive 360° Tour has helped propel the band to Number One on Forbes' annual report on top-earning musicians. Bono and Co. scored the top spot on the list by netting $130 million in the past 12 months. They're followed by AC/DC — who just wrapped their 108-city Black Ice world tour on June 28th — with $114 million. Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen and Britney Spears round out the Top Five.

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Forbes calculates rockers' earnings based on net income from ticket sales, record sales and endorsement deals between June 2009 and June 2010. Unsurprisingly, album sales didn't drive most artists to the top of the list — giant tours and strategic corporate team-ups were responsible for most of the profits. Lady Gaga is the youngest performer in the Top 10, bringing in $62 million to score her first-ever appearance on the list thanks partially to partnerships with Polaroid, Virgin Mobile and Monster, who puts out her Heartbeats ear buds. Gaga just edged out Madonna, who has made the countdown for the past four years and raked in major cash last year on her giant Sticky & Sweet Tour.

Power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z both appear in the Top 10 individually, although Beyoncé out-earned her husband by $24 million last year. Kenny Chesney is the highest-ranked country musician on the list at Number Nine, earning $50 million dollars.

U2's 360° Tour requires $750,000 a day in overhead, but the giant show earned the band $311 million in gross box office receipts in 2009 alone. The band was recently forced to postpone the summer leg of the trek to spring 2011 due to Bono's back injury, which required surgery. Other touring woes may have an effect on the list next year considering this summer has been especially cruel on live acts. "In today's world artists have to tour to make money," Pollstar editor Gary Bongiovanni told Forbes. "They can't just sit at home and collect their royalties and expect to make their mortgage payments."

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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