Forbes’ annual ranking of the best-paid women in music is out this week, and the name atop this year’s list is Katy Perry — who pulled in $83 million between June 2017 and July 2018, beating out Taylor Swift (who netted $80 million) and Beyoncé ($60 million), according to pretax earnings sourced from Nielsen, insider interviews and the magazine’s own estimates.
One might assume that this cool stack of cash comes from Perry’s fifth album Witness, which came out in June 2017. But though the album debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200 chart, it dropped to Number 13 within a week and ceded the crown to other albums at a similar pace on other countries’ charts, selling, in the end, around 840,000 copies worldwide. By comparison, Taylor Swift’s Reputation, released in November 2017, has sold 4.5 million copies. So why did Perry make more money?
The bulk of Perry’s earnings actually came from concerts — specifically, Witness: The Tour, which ran for 80 dates and grossed around $1 million a night, according to Forbes. And then there was her spot as a judge on ABC’s reboot of American Idol, which has been estimated to have brought her between $20 million to $25 million. (Not everyone at ABC was happy with the hefty price tag for the addition of her name to the program, particularly the other judges who got “a hell of a lot less” because of it.) The payouts from both of these projects well eclipse the money that Perry made from sales and streams of her actual album.
It’s another insight into how artists today are, increasingly, turning to non-music avenues for money — whether live events, guest appearances on shows, books or brand partnerships — as those avenues prove much more lucrative than recording and releasing songs alone. On the fan side, there’s more than enough demand for it. Forbes notes that most of the dates from Swift’s Reputation stadium tour and Beyoncé’s On the Run II tour with Jay-Z fell outside of the scoring period, meaning we’ll see the bumps from those massive tours in those artists’ numbers next year.
The full list of this year’s highest-earning female artists is below.
1. Katy Perry ($83 million)
2. Taylor Swift ($80 million)
3. Beyoncé ($60 million)
4. Pink ($52 million)
5. Lady Gaga ($50 million)
6. Jennifer Lopez ($47 million)
7. Rihanna ($37.5 million)
8. Helene Fischer ($32 million)
9. Celine Dion ($31 million)
10. Britney Spears ($30 million)