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Music’s Top Global Money Makers of 2021

todayDecember 29, 2022

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While 2022 will be remembered as the year that Taylor Swift made history as the first artist to populate the entire top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 with songs from her album Midnights (among other chart records), Billboard’s annual Money Makers ranking of music’s top royalty and box-office earners reveals that she dominated 2021 as well.


Swift, who released two (Taylor’s Version) rerecorded albums, finished the year as the No. 1 earner globally with an estimated $65.8 million in take-home pay. That’s an impressive sum considering she did not tour, which usually constitutes the lion’s share of an act’s annual income, and last year’s runner-up, The Rolling Stones, spent three months on the road last fall concluding their No Filter Tour.

Swift topped the ranking because she owns half of her studio record catalog and because of the strength of her sales and streaming income, $29.8 million and $28.9 million, respectively, in a year that saw her international streams surpass her U.S. streams, 9 billion to 6.8 billion, a 34% increase.

The Stones’ live dates, all of which took place in the United States, resulted in a $44.5 million box-office take. That played the biggest role in boosting the veteran rockers to No. 1 on Billboard’s U.S. Money Makers ranking with a total income of $50.8 million.

But Swift, who finished second in the U.S. ranking — she and the Stones have swapped the top two spots since 2018 — was not far behind with $38.8 million, largely on the strength of her master recording royalties.

Compared side-by-side, the top five earners on the global and U.S. Money Makers rankings are nearly identical, with Harry Styles holding the No. 3 spot on both, $41.3 million and $37 million, respectively; and Drake at No. 5, with $30.7 million and $23.8 million. The big difference can be found at No. 4, where K-pop superstars BTS reside on the global ranking, with a $38.4 million in 2021 take-home pay, and the hard-touring Eagles occupy the U.S. tally, with earnings of $27.3 million.


Money Makers was compiled with 2021 Luminate and Billboard Boxscore data, the RIAA’s physical and digital revenue report for 2021, and IFPI global revenue statistics. All revenue figures cited are Billboard estimates and may not equal the sum of the subcategories due to rounding and the omission of revenue categories. Global sales were extrapolated for 21 artists that ranked highest on the 2020 Money Makers list. Global artist royalties were extrapolated using U.S. revenue totals, minus 30% of international royalties in line with major-label contractual clauses for foreign distribution.

U.S. formulas were used to estimate publishing revenue. Calculating royalties from master-recording performance rights was not possible because those rights do not exist for most uses in the United States. Unless otherwise noted, references to streaming totals consist of combined on-demand audio, video and programmed streams. References to recording-career totals are the sum of an act’s sales, streaming and publishing earnings. Revenue from featured-artist appearances, merchandising, synchronization and sponsorship is not included. Touring revenue, after the manager’s cut, equals 34% of an act’s Boxscore. Sales royalties were calculated based on physical and digital albums and track sales. Streaming royalties consist of on-demand audio and video streams, and estimated royalties from webcasting, SiriusXM and Music Choice.

The following royalty rates were used: album and track sales, 22% of retail revenue; 66% of wholesale if the artist owns his or her masters. On-demand streaming royalties were calculated using blended audio and video rates of, respectively, $0.0053 and $0.0038 per stream, applied against a 37% superstar-artist royalty rate; 50% for heritage artists (acts that have released at a minimum of 10 albums or been active for at least 20 years); and 79% for artist-owned masters. Further, a blended statutory subscription per-stream rate of $0.0024 was applied to programmed streams and per-play estimated rates of 74 cents for Music Choice and $46 for SiriusXM. Royalties for programmed streams were calculated on a similar basis using a 50% base royalty rate; 68% for artists that own some of their masters and 100% for artists that own all their masters, minus 5% for side performers.

Publishing royalties were estimated using statutory mechanical rates for album and track sales. The Copyright Royalty Board streaming formula produced an average rate of 13.4% of streaming revenue, an average of $2.50 per play for hit songs; $1 per play for heritage spins and genre songs that didn’t attain hit status; and per-play publishing rates of 40 cents for Music Choice, $8.33 for SiriusXM and $0.0003 for programmed streams. A 10% manager’s fee and 4% producer’s fee were deducted from the appropriate revenue streams. 

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todayDecember 29, 2022

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