The 25 Highest-Paid Musicians of 2012: Dr. Dre to Sade

Forbes has released its list for the highest-grossing artists of 2012, and it’s chock full of the regular suspects, with one or two surprises (I’m talking about you, Sade). Take a gander and think about what might have been if you’d kept up with those tap lessons.

1. Dr. Dre ($110 Million)

dre, dr. dre, forbes

Considering the amount of cash Dre is able to collect based solely from previous recordings and productions, the $100 million (pretax) he garnered from HTC for a 51 percent stake in his headphones company must have seemed like gravy. Not to mention, his upcoming album titled Detox will be hitting stores … or websites at the beginning of next year. No word yet if any of the money will go to the other artists he’s blatantly sampled or looped through the years.

2. Roger Waters ($88 Million)

roger waters, forbes, pink floyd

Former Pink Floyd performer Roger Waters makes his bread through his The Wall Live tour, in which he performs the band’s hit album note-for-note in accompaniment of a staggering production. Somewhere in the distance, David Gilmore wails alone.

3. Elton John ($80 Million)

elton john, forbes, rocket man

The man will release his 30th studio album later this year and performed nearly 100 shows in 2012. Pairing that with his big Vegas routine, Elton is crocodile rocking his way to the bank, and closer than ever to becoming Liberace.

4. U2 ($78 Million)

U2, forbes, bono

Wrapping up a touring period that lasted three years and grossed a total of nearly $736 million (!), Bono and company will have to readjust themselves to living the quiet life. Bono still plans to be moderately abrasive and preachy regardless of the band’s future.

5. Take That ($69 Million)

take that, boy band, reunion

Apparently they were a British pop group in the early ’90s, and people in the UK have no problem throwing money at them for the eight dates they recently played at Wembley stadium. Other people with no taste in music (vast majority of Europeans) also enjoy their brand of bubble gum trash.

6. Bon Jovi ($60 Million)

bon jovie, forbes, dead or alive

Really? People just can’t get enough of the arena rocker, who recently finished his own crazy world tour. Because Wanted Dead or Alive never gets old.

7. Britney Spears ($58 Million)

britney spears, forbes, richest artists

The queen of pop still has a large fan base, and her last album, Femme Fatale , went platinum in the U.S. On top of the album sales and tour dates, her bottled sweat is sold as a fragrance with Elizabeth Arden.

8. Paul McCartney ($57 Million)

paul mccartney, beatles, forbes, olympics 2012

So I guess he was in a band or something back in the day, and he gets royalty checks for that, not to mention the pulling off almost 40 shows this year, and killing it at the Olympics … okay, it wasn’t great, but it was still pretty cool.

9. Taylor Swift ($57 Million)

taylor swift, forbes

Swift pulled a cool million per night on her tour this year and is part of those CoverGirl commercials now. I’d tell you all the reasons she sucks, but there’s more than enough already out there.

10. Justin Bieber ($55 Million)

justin beiber, forbes, baby

Biebs, baby, what took you so long? With all the merchandise and concerts already in play, the 18-year-old megastar is focusing on venture capitalism. Well done, sir, I look forward to the disastrous fall from grace the world has built you up for.

11. Toby Keith ($55 Million)

toby keith, douche bag

When he’s not attending Klan rallies, Keith earns the top spot among “country” musicians. He also rakes it in from his I Love this Bar and Grill establishments, and sponsorship with Ford. Next on the horizon are his series of books titled How To Be A Sh*t-Kicking Douche Bag.

12. Rihanna ($53 Million)

That sweet sweet coconut water is treating her well these days — unlike Chris Brown — with a heavy touring schedule to boot going into next year. Did I mention that Chris Brown treats women very poorly, and that we’re not cool with that? Good, you suck, Chris Brown.

13. Lady Gaga ($52 Million)

lady gaga, forbes,

Despite falling off a bit from her ravenous pace in previous years, the quirky diva is scheduled for a new tour this year — and introducing a new perfume, because people want to smell famous or something.

14. Foo Fighters ($47 Million)

foo fighters, david grohl, everlong

It’s been 15 years since the Fighters were relevant, I mean formed. They have a new album coming out, and their new audience has no idea David Grohl was in another band. It was Nirvana, by the way. They were a grunge band … you have no idea what I’m talking about.

15. Diddy ($45 Million)

diddy, puff daddy

By pretending to drink vodka and have a fashion sense, the puff master has blinged out his portfolio nicely, and diversely I might add. I’ll always love you in Made, Diddy.

16. Katy Perry ($45 Million)

katy perry, forbes

This nightmare had five singles on her last album, and her California Dreams tour topped out at around $60 million. That’s enough, Katy, that’s enough.

17. Kenny Chesney ($44 Million)

When Hooters is sponsoring your latest tour, maybe it’s time to take a look in the mirror. Then again, when you’re making this kind of dough and playing across the continent, those chicken wings don’t look so classless after all.

18. Beyoncé ($40 Million)

Since she and husband Jay-Z had their first baby, Blue Ivy, she’s taken a breather as far as touring is concerned. Fortunately they’ve been able to make ends meet with the slew of hits she’s released in the past two years alone.

19. Red Hot Chili Peppers ($39 Million)

Despite continuing to be one of the worst live acts out there, the band has beaten the odds to remain a top-earning outfit. On the back of their new album I’m With You, which did reasonably well, and their past success, the Peppers continue to rock on. But seriously, don’t go to their shows, it’s really disappointing.

20. Jay-Z ($38 Million)

Yes, the Papa also makes the list. Although he’s probably been in the papers more for his minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets franchise, and opening of the Barclays Center, the man still gets it done. Pairing up on a tour with Kanye West certainly helped his cause, not to mention the business deals he has in place with Budweiser, Duracel and others.

21. Coldplay ($37 Million)

For a band that most people would be ashamed to admit they were into, the pop rockers have done well. They played more than 50 shows this past year and have been using last year’s Mylo Xyloto (that’s an album) as a springboard into financial smile town.

22. Adele ($35 Million)

Oh look, someone with enough talent to actually almost warrant such an obscene paycheck. She actually sells albums (500,000), in an era where downloading and singles obsession has depleted the market, and possesses a voice that hearkens back to the golden age of soul. Good stuff.

23. Kanye West ($35 Million)

Hanging out with Jay-Z was a good move, and their collaboration entitled Watch the Throne is tearing it up. Too bad he’s been bitten by the Kardashian bug. Begin the countdown.

24. Michael Bublé ($34 Million)


With a big bump from his Christmas album (has anyone ever done that before?), the Canadian went multiplatinum, and concluded a long tour. I’m sure your relatives will love listening to your version of Rudolph over eggnog.

25. Sade ($33 Million)

Believe it or not, she remains the all-time highest-selling female British artist, with the lion’s share of her hits coming in the ’80s. She just finished up a year where she burned through 100 shows, and makes the top 25. Apparently she’s the J.D. Salinger of musicians, only emerging to make millions of dollars.