No musician made more money in 2021 than Bruce Springsteen, who took in a staggering $550 million, largely the result of a gigantic deal he struck with Sony Music for his music publishing rights.
In a year of limited touring, all but three of music's top ten earners last year enjoyed their status on the list because of rights deals with record labels and private equity firms. Rolling Stone's list includes five famous rockers, among hip-hop, country and pop royalty:
- Bruce Springsteen - $590 million
- Jay-Z - $470 million
- Paul Simon - $260 million
- Kayne West - $250 million
- Ryan Tedder - $200 million
- Red Hot Chili Peppers - $145 million
- Lindsey Buckingham - $100 million
- Mötley Crüe - $95 million
- Blake Shelton - $83 million
- Taylor Swift - $80 million
Each of the rock artists on that list struck deals for their song catalogs in 2021.
Catalog sales, according to Forbes editor Zack O'Malley Greenburg, are usually treated like capital gains and "therefore taxed at a much lower rate than a royalty check." Further, speculation about potential changes to tax codes has motivated many parties to make deals sooner rather than later.
Music consumption is soaring worldwide — up 26.3 percent year-over-year — and interest rates remain low, so record labels and other firms like KKR and Hipgnosis Songs Fund can afford to borrow hundreds of millions to make deals with iconic artists.
Springsteen's deal with Sony was rumored to be worth around $500 million, making it the richest such deal in history. Beyond the value of his music, Springsteen also had a busy year with the redux of Springsteen on Broadway and the book and podcast projects he launched with Barack Obama.