It just stands to reason that if you put on the biggest rock tour in history, you’re going to make some serious coin. That might explain why more than three decades into their career, [artist id="1022"]U2[/artist] easily took the top spot on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s top-earning musicians, which also included newcomer Lady Gaga, as well as some of the usual suspects like Madonna, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Bruce Springsteen.
Like most of the artists on the list, the veteran Irish rockers did it with touring cash, in their case the coin from their gigantic 360 Tour, which netted them $130 million over the past 12 months by selling more than 1.3 million tickets for an average price of $94 apiece in North America. The tour grossed $311 million, and each stop had gross ticket receipts of $10 million, but the band’s bottom line was also boosted by healthy merchandise sales, as well as strong radio play for their deep back catalog, which continues to sell well. The outing was temporarily derailed this year due to Bono’s back injury , but U2 plan to return to North American shores next summer for a victory lap.
The Forbes tally, which counted earnings between June 2009 and June 2010, had another veteran band at #2: power rockers AC/DC, who stormed back last year with a tour that grossed $2.3 million a night and helped them earn $114 million on worldwide grosses of $226 million.
Making a stand for the ladies, Beyoncé netted $87 million to become the highest-earning female on the list at #3. A healthy dose of her take was courtesy of major endorsement deals with Nintendo and L’Oréal, sales from her House of Dereon fashion line, and the $86 million in gross receipts from her 93-date world tour.
New Jersey rock icon Springsteen also made most of his money on the road, raking in $70 million by selling more than 2 million tickets on his world tour, which grossed $167 million. Heavy radio play and the sales of lots of catalog albums also helped him lock down the #4 slot on the list.
It was another solid year for Britney Spears, who earned the #5 position with the fifth-highest grossing tour of the year, which brought in gross receipts of $130 million. She also rang up big cash for endorsement deals with Elizabeth Arden and Candies, which added to her $64 million in earnings. Jay-Z gave wifey Beyoncé a run for her money, taking the #6 position with $63 million he brought in from his stake in the New Jersey Nets NBA team, 40/40 nightclub chain, the hit Broadway show “Fela!,” Blueprint 3 sales and the album’s tour, which grossed more than $1 million a night.
Gaga, 24, crashed the list at #7 thanks to strong CD and download sales, her smash worldwide Monster Ball tour and million-dollar endorsement deals with Virgin Mobile, Polaroid, Viva Glam and Monster Cable, which netted her $62 million. She beat out one of her musical and sartorial touchstones, Madonna, who hit the #8 spot with earnings of $58 million thanks to her Sticky and Sweet Tour, the fourth highest-grossing outing of 2009, which raked in $6 million a night for a $138 million gross. The pop legend also made cash from an all-Madonna episode of “Glee” and earned a lump of cash from her lucrative publishing royalties.
Country star Kenny Chesney landed at #9 with $50 million in earnings from a $71 million grossing tour and prominent sponsorships with Corona and MasterCard.
The final spot was a three-way tie between the Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay and Toby Keith, all of whom brought in $48 million. The unstoppable Peas did it with a worldwide tour that brought in $800,000 a night, as well as a raft of endorsement deals with Target, Honda, Bacardi and Apple computers. Coldplay’s tour dates for 2008′s Viva la Vida grossed more than $105 million as well as millions in merchandise sales. Keith made $30 million in gross concert receipts and earned the rest from a growing chain of restaurants, stakes in several publishing companies and millions a year from publishing royalties.