Dr. Dre leads the pack this year with $110 million, thanks largely to his Beats headphone line. He collected $100 million pretax when handset maker HTC paid $300 million for a 51% stake in the company last year, at the beginning of our scoring period; he and his partners later bought back half of what they sold.
“The brands are so aligned, Dre and Beats, it’s just who he is,” says Kevin Liles, former president of Def Jam Recordings, who now manages acts ranging from Young Jeezy to Trey Songz. “If you look at the biggest earners, the guys have been doing it for 20 years … what’s happening now is people are really telling their truth.”
Dr. Dre leads a slew of pop stars, rock icons, rap moguls and country crooners, many of whom bank the bulk of their bucks outside the recording studio. Though some artists—Jay-Z and Diddy, for example—owe their success partly to business ventures like Dre’s, most of this year’s top 25 are on the list because of touring.
“The concert business had another solid year as both artists and concert promoters used more caution in trying to achieve their touring objectives,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of concert data purveyor Pollstar. “The good seats for major artists continue to be priced at a premium.”
This year’s list has a distinctly international flavor. Among the top five, only Dr. Dre hails from the United States. Pink Floyd rocker Roger Waters ranks second with $88 million, nearly all of it coming from his The Wall Live tour. According to Pollstar, he grossed $158 million on 63 shows in the first six months of 2012. Fellow Brit Elton John claims the third spot with $80 million, culled from over 100 shows in our scoring period.
More info: Forbes.com