#10 – The Rolling Stones ($57.5 Million per Year)
Starting off the list of the highest paid musicians is none other than British band The Rolling Stones. Lead singer Mick Jagger started the band back in 1960 with childhood friend Keith Richards. After discussing music they decided to start a band and went on to record demos with fellow band mates Tony Chapman, Brian Jones, Ian Steward, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. Early on in their career they would cover Blues songs by artists like Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. Muddy Waters is actually how they came up with their bands name as the legendary Blues singer has a song titled “The Rollin’ Stones” and Mick Jagger decided to roll with it.
After only a few years they got signed by manager Andrew Loog Oldham who actually heard of them when fellow British band The Beatles suggested he take a look at one of their demos. They ended up being signed to Decca Records who was hugely impressed by them and wanted them on their label so bad that they gave them complete control over their recordings. Their career started slow as they didn’t have many popular songs but they started to receive more publicity around 1964 when they appeared on shows like The Ed Sullivan Show.
They entered their golden age of fame the following year when they released their second LP titled “The Rolling Stones No. 2”. Several songs from that album started topping charts in the United Kingdom and the United States. The band spent the next decade touring all around the world, including in places like Australia and New Zealand. Similar to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones became one of the “British Invasion” bands from the 1960s. To this day they are one of the most widely known bands in music history and entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
#9 – Lady Gaga ($59 Million per Year)
Pop icon Lady Gaga got her dose of fame back in 2009 with her hit single “Just Dance”. Her love for music began when she was just four years old and learned to play piano by ear. She continued playing and writing music for ten years and when she was fourteen she started performing her songs at “open mic night” across several bars in New York. She then went on to study at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where she studied song writing and method acting but she dropped out at the age of nineteen to instead focus solely on her music career.
Major label Def Jam Records heard of Gaga and immediately signed her to their record, although they would drop her after only three months. Devastated, Gaga went through a complete attitude shift which would go on to greatly influence the type of music she wanted to sing and write. The once quiet, Christian girl would turn into the scantily clad Gaga we all knew back in 2009. Singer/producer Akon would eventually meet her and fell in love with her vocals. Together they started producing music and in 2008, Lady Gaga’s first album titled “The Fame” was released. The album would produce the two mega popular songs “Just Dance” and “Poker Face”, quickly turning Gaga into a global celebrity.
After the success of “The Fame”, Gaga would go on to produce an EP titled “The Fame Monster” which is basically a sequel to “The Fame”. It produced hits like “Telephone” and “Bad Romance” and then two years later in 2011 she released her next album titled “Born This Way” although it wasn’t nearly as successful. In 2013 her album “ARTPOP” was released and released alongside was the single “Applause”. These days Gaga is less focused on her music and more focused on her acting career. She starred in the most recent season of the popular show “American Horror Story: Hotel” which won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
#8 – Fleetwood Mac ($59.9 Million per Year)
Fleetwood Mac is a band that formed back in the late 1960s by band members Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Other members throughout the years include Bob Welch, Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer. The England rock band has seen a tremendous amount of success and has gone on to sell more than 50 million albums.
The band would receive mainstream success in 1975 when they released their album “Fleetwood Mac”. They had several hit songs including “Say You Love Me” and “Landslide”. During this time the band was falling apart as there was constant drama between the band members. To top off the relationship drama they were also dealing with their new found fame and being involved with drugs and alcohol. Nonetheless the band persevered and went on to release the album “Rumours” followed by the album “Tusk” and then began a year and a half long tour across the world.
The drama continued well into the 1980s and 1990s when two of the bands lead members (Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks) got into physical alterations which lead to Buckingham leaving the band and Nicks leaving soon after. In 1995 the remaining band members released an album called “Time” which was an overall failure, leading to the band officially disbanding. A few weeks later Fleetwood and Buckingham began working together again which eventually lead to a reunion. In 1996, Nicks, Fleetwood and Buckingham met up to record the song “Twisted” for the film “Twister” which helped lead to a live album called “The Dance” being released, which ended up being very successful.
The following year in 1998, Fleetwood Mac joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame although post-being inducted they took a long break from one another. All of the members continued doing performances on their own, especially Stevie Nicks who enjoys working alongside Sheryl Crow. Just recently they announced the original members were working together on a new album which will officially be their last.
#7 – Sean “Diddy” Combs ($60 Million per Year)
Sean “Diddy” Combs was born in 1969 to parents Melvin Earl and Janice Combs. Growing up in New York, Combs would become familiar with both music and football at an early age. He played football for Mount Saint Michael Academy and even won a division title, followed by attending school at Howard University where he attempted to get a degree in business. Instead he decided to drop out and got an internship at major record company Uptown Records and then went on to start his very own alongside friend The Notorious B.I.G. Together they started Bad Boy Records and went on to produce songs alongside musicians like Usher, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men.
Diddy would then go on to become a rapper himself and release hits like “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” and “I’ll Be Missing You” – a track he dedicated to The Notorious B.I.G. who was recently murdered. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Diddy released several other major albums and records under his own label.
While he did drop out of University, Diddy would still become a prominent business man and has gone on to start several business avenues. He started a clothing brand called “Sean John” which wound up winning him several fashion designer awards, a film production company and two restaurants that he named after his sons. Diddy considers himself a family man and he and his son Quincy appeared on an episode of “My Super Sweet 16” where he purchased his son a $350,000 vehicle.
Outside of his business projects, Diddy is also very charitable. He started his own charity called “Daddy’s House Social Programs” where he helps homeless youths get off the streets and even helped victims of Hurricane Katrina by donating over $1 million.
#6 – Justin Timberlake ($63.5 Million per Year)
Justin Timberlake was born in 1981 to parents Lynn and Randall Timberlake. At an early age he began singing country music but after witnessing Janet Jackson perform he was “inspired to be like her” as she had an incredible amount of energy and singing power. In the 1990s he would go on to appear on two television shows – “Star Search” and “The Mickey Mouse Club” where he met future *NSYNC bandmate JC Chasez. Other notable future celebrities include Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, whom he would later date for a number of years.
In 1995, Justin Timberlake would headline the boy band *NSYNC which would go on to become one of the most popular boy bands in music history. While the rest of the bandmates were popular, none of them had the star power that Justin Timberlake had so when they went on an indefinite hiatus in 2002, it was a surprise to no one that Timberlake’s solo career would blossom. Later that year, Timberlake released the album “Justified” which went on to sell a few million copies and spawned the singles “Rock Your Body” and “Cry Me a River”. Four years later in 2006 he released the album “FutureSex/LoveSounds” which sold more than ten million copies worldwide. Afterwards he would take a break from music and start focusing on his acting career. Over the next few years he co-starred in movies like “In Time” and “The Social Network”. He returned to music in 2013 with the release of duo albums “The 20/20 Experience” and “The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2”, the former being the best-selling album of the year.
Justin Timberlake has come a long way since his early boy band days. He is currently working on doing vocal work for an animated movie that is set to release later on this year as well as helping compose a soundtrack for another movie alongside his wife Jessica Biel.
#5 – Calvin Harris ($66 Million per Year)
Calvin Harris was born in 1984 in Scotland and first became interested in electronic music as a kid when he would experiment making demos in his bedroom. He would go on to study at Dumfries High School and then get a job at a supermarket so that he could save up money to purchase DJ gear. He ended up moving to London in an attempt to enter the music scene but wouldn’t have much luck. After his first couple of singles flopped, he moved back home to Scotland and started becoming active on MySpace. It was there he finally began gaining traction and got picked up by a record studio.
His first album was titled “I Created Disco” and was released in 2007. The entire album was written and performed by Calvin Harris and went on to chart in the top 10 United Kingdom albums chart. His success caught the attention from several other upcoming artists including Kylie Minogue and Dizzee Rascal who anxiously wanted to perform alongside him. 2010 would be another good year for Calvin Harris as he released his second studio album but it wasn’t until 2011 when he released his third album titled “18 Months” that he would receive international fame. He went on to collaborate with some major celebrities like Rihanna and released “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been”. He also released “Feel So Close” which went on to become a huge success.
His popularity would only increase as he’s gone on to remix songs with the likes of Katy Perry, Ellie Goulding, Snoopy Dogg, Taylor Swift and Kanye West. He’s become a very philanthropic person and has donated and campaigned for several charities, including the Campaign Against Living Miserably, an event that brings attention to suicidal youths in London.
#4 – The Eagles ($73.5 Million per Year)
The Eagles is a band that was created in 1971 by founding members Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, John Boylan, Linda Ronstadt and Don Henley. They quickly started working on an album and in 1972 released said album they titled “Eagles”. The first single “Take It Easy” went on to become a top 40 hit and the album itself was a complete success. Other hit songs include “Witchy Woman” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling”. That led The Eagles to their sophomore album “Desperado” although it wasn’t as successful as their debut album was.
In 1974 they released their third album “On the Border” which had a few successful hits and then a year later in 1975 they released “One of Those Nights” which turned The Eagles into international superstars. Their first two albums were primarily country-sounding while albums three and four were primarily rock music. This proved to be the right decision as it led them to their first Grammy award win for Best Performance by a Group or Duo. In 1976 they released two albums. The first was a “Greatest Hits” album which has sold nearly 50 million albums to date. The second was “Hotel California” which turned out to be another success for the band. Their next album wouldn’t be for another two years and in 1980 the band unexpectedly broke up. They didn’t perform together for nearly fifteen years and in 1994 they got back together for seven years.
In 2007 the band reunited and once more released their first album in nearly thirty years. Since then they have been touring the world and producing more hit singles. On January 16, 2016, Glenn Frey tragically passed away from pneumonia after recovering from intestinal surgery. The band performed “Take It Easy” during the 58th Annual Grammy Awards in his honor. Frey was 67 years old.
#3 – Taylor Swift ($80 Million per Year)
Country-Pop music icon Taylor Swift was born in 1989 to parents Scott Kingsley and Andrea Gardner Swift. When Swift was nine years old she attended musical theater classes and simultaneously travelled back and forth between classes and Broadway to receive vocal lessons. Feeling inspired by notable Country music acts Shania Twain and Faith Hill, Taylor Swift and her parents decided to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee so she could focus solely on her musical career. Initially she had a difficult time being signed, as not many people were interested in a fourteen year old girl writing and singing Country music but she eventually landed a deal with independent record label “Big Machine Records”. After being signed she spent a lot of her free time after school writing music in preparation for her debut album.
“Taylor Swift” was the title of her debut album and it released in October 2006. It initially did not sell many copies but since its release it has sold more than five million copies. She started opening for other notable Country music bands like Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley. This would boost Swift’s popularity exponentially as her target audience of teenage girls fell in love with her catchy love songs. This lead to her second studio album “Fearless”, which helped Swift win her infamous MTV Video Music Award that Kanye West so famously interrupted as she was giving her acceptance speech.
2010 would be another great year for Swift as she wrote all fourteen songs on her third album “Speak Now”, followed by 2012 album “Red” and 2014 album “1989” which included hit singles like “Shake It Off” and “Bad Blood”. Taylor Swift has easily gone on to become one of music’s biggest influences as she is routinely seen as a role model for women of all ages.
#2 – Garth Brooks ($90 Million per Year)
Even if you don’t listen to Country music, you sure as hell know who Garth Brooks is. Named Country music’s “Artist of the ‘90s”, Brooks entered the scene in 1985 when he started playing at clubs and bars in Oklahoma. While he initially wanted to play Rock and Roll, he changed his mind after listening to the song “Unwound” by Country artist George Strait and decided at that moment to play Country music. Later on that year he was visited by entertainment attorney Rod Phelps who urged Brooks to move out to Nashville. Reluctantly in 1987 he and his then-wife moved out to Nashville where Brooks would start writing for his debut album.
Garth Brooks released album “Garth Brooks” in 1989 and it was a smash hit. He toured alongside Kenny Rogers and played his hit singles including “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The Dance”. His second album “No Fences” was released in 1990 and to this day is his highest selling album of all time. In total it spent 23 weeks at number one on Billboard’s Top Country Albums and featured some of his greatest songs – “The Thunder Rolls” and “Unanswered Prayers” being two of them. This followed suit by his third album in 1991 called “Ropin’ the Wind”, his fourth album in 1992 called “The Chase”, “In Pieces” in 1993, “Fresh Horses” in 1995 and “Sevens” in 1997. He also released an album called “Scarecrow” in 2001 and then took a much needed break from music.
Since then he has returned to music by doing more world tours and even does a show in Las Vegas which has gone on to become critically praised. Garth Brooks is married to Country artist Trisha Yearwood and together they are working on a joint Christmas album that is set to release this holiday season. In total, Brooks has sold more than 160 million albums, making him the best-selling solo artist of all time.
#1 – Katy Perry ($135 Million per Year)
Finishing off the list of the highest paid musicians is the California Gurl herself, Katy Perry. Perry was born Katheryn Hudson in Santa Barbara, California in 1984 to extremely religious parents Mary Christine and Maurice Keith Hudson. Growing up she moved around the country a lot and primarily listened to gospel music, as her parents didn’t allow her to listen to anything else. Between the ages of 9 – 17, Perry would sing in church choirs, took dancing lessons and wrote music. During this time she would draw inspiration from notable bands like Queen, The Beatles, Madonna and Alanis Morissette. She states that those artists made her feel empowered and helped influence her into the artist she is today.
Her career started in 2001 when she released her first album titled “Katy Hudson”. While it was praised by critics, it went on to sell only about two hundred copies. This led to then record company Red Hill Records to drop her from their label but she was picked up by Island Def Jam Music Group, who dropped her before her album could release. She was then picked up by Capitol Records who felt Perry was going to be “the next big thing” and they were absolutely right as her album “One of the Boys” released in 2008 and featured her breakout single “I Kissed a Girl” followed by “Hot n Cold”, turning Perry into a household name.
The album “Teenage Dream” was released in 2010 and featured five number one hits in a row with “California Gurls”, “Teenage Dream”, “Firework”, “E.T.”, and “Last Friday Night”. Five singles reaching number one is almost unheard of as the only other artist to achieve that was Michael Jackson. Her next single was “The One That Got Away” although it peaked at number three. Her next album was titled “Prism” and would be a bit darker and includes song like “Dark Horse”, “Roar” and “Unconditionally”.
Katy Perry is considered to be a sex symbol but beneath her incredibly good looks is a talented singer and song writer who earned her way to the top. She has gone on to top Forbes’ list of the highest-paid female artist for several years in a row.