Fifteen years ago Dr. Dre wondered aloud whether people had forgotten about him. If there was a question then, it has certainly dissipated throughout the next steps of a career filled with highlights—most recently the sale of Beats, the company he co-founded, to Apple AAPL -1.88% for $3 billion.
Dr. Dre took home $620 million this year before taxes, thanks largely to that deal, making him the world’s top-earning musician of 2014. More remarkably, that number also marks the largest single-year haul of any musician, ever.
“It’s safe to say headphones is a good business,” said DJ Khaled, one of hip-hop’s top earners.
Dr. Dre’s payday gives him the widest margin in history between the first and second spots on our top-earning musicians list—half a billion dollars separate him from the No. 2 earner, Beyoncé, who pulled in $115 million. Her most lucrative year yet comes courtesy of her Mrs. Carter Show tour, a surprise album and endorsements with the likes of Pepsi and HandM .
Only one other act reached the nine-figure mark: The Eagles, who earned $100 million on the strength of their History Of The Eagles tour. Bon Jovi ranks fourth with $82 million and Bruce Springsteen rounds out the top five with $81 million; both Jersey-born rockers grossed millions per night on successful arena tours. Those three acts also benefit from staging that’s relatively simple, and therefore cheap, compared to some big pop acts.
“I think it’s just wise to be efficient,” Bon Jovi once told FORBES. “I know big bands where each of them has personal assistants on the road, each of them has a security guard. We don’t have a security guard. Take your own friggin’ bags!”
VIDEO Full coverage: The World’s Highest-Paid Musicians
Indeed, each of those three legacy acts earned twice as much as younger list-mates such as Katy Perry ($40 million), Miley Cyrus ($36 million) or Lady Gaga ($33 million). Justin Bieber ($80 million) and One Direction ($75 million) are the only acts under age 30 to make the top ten; Taylor Swift finished at No. 11 ($64 million).
There’s more diversity when it comes to genre than age. Hip-hop, pop and rock are represented in the top three; the top earners of other categories can be found further down. For example: Calvin Harris notched the highest single-year payday of any DJ ever evaluated by FORBES, pulling in $66 million.
“The rise of dance music has been astronomical in the last three years,” he explained. “And I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Harris finished just one spot ahead of country’s cash king, Toby Keith, who pulled in $65 million. The cowboy capitalist collected from a diverse array of income streams including his own record label, mescal line and restaurant chain.
To form this year’s list, we considered income from touring, recorded music, publishing, merchandise sales, endorsements and other ventures. Management, agent and lawyer fees were not deducted. Earnings were calculated from June 2013 to June 2014 and based on data from Pollstar, the RIAA and Nielsen, and on interviews with managers, lawyers, executives and some artists themselves.
Dr. Dre didn’t sit for an interview, but some of the other artists on the list did speak to FORBES over the past year—including some who feel they could find themselves closer to the top next time around.
“I feel like I’m just getting started,” said Bruno Mars, who earned $60 million last year, locking him into a three-way tie with Jay Z and Diddy for No. 12. “I haven’t even really scratched the surface yet.”
Article courtesy of FORBES:
Additional reporting by Ryan Mac and Natalie Robehmed.