The life of a musician can be tortuous. From the gigs that fall through, to busking in the rain, to the cut-throat levels of competition — carving a career in this creative industry can make for a gruelling, hand-to-mouth existence. But, for a fortunate few, the Gods (read: industry executives) cast a favouring eye and catapult a handsome handful of Bright Young Things into superstardom.
And, we all know that with great ear-worms come great paychecks — as today’s Sunday Times Rich List will attest. To calculate their hotlist, the salary figures below are drawn from album and single sales, streaming data, and box office receipts from touring.
Read on to discover which of your favourite artists have managed to play, sing or sensationalise their way up the greasy pole — from the old rockers still topping the charts, to the millennial marvels making serious waves.
The richest young musicians…
They say that youth is wasted on the young, but the galaxy of juvenile stars making their way into the Rich List this year might have something to say about that. Coming in on top this year is Adele with a net worth of £140m.
At just 30 years of age, the remarkably relatable songstress has already provided a whole generation with enough heartbreak hits and shower-power-ballads to allow them to wallow in self pity for a lifetime. Impressively, her enormous wealth seems to have come entirely from the universal popularity of her music, as she remains famously private and has declined to take up offers of celebrity endorsements.
Her latest album, 25, was released at the end of 2015 and anticipation is now hotting up for her next release, which will undoubtedly bring further critical acclaim, record-smashing success, and boost sales of Kleenex tissues globally.
Coming in at second place is Ed Sheeran with £80m. It’s been a Perfect (we’re sorry) year for Ed Sheeran, the 27-year-old unlikely heartthrob, whose lilting earworms — or should that be lovebugs? — can be heard at any given moment, reverberating from thousands of wedding dancefloors across the world.
His stratospheric success has been unrelenting in its progress, ever since his album + debuted at No. 1 in the UK charts back in 2011. Since then, he’s headlined Glastonbury, produced two further No. 1 albums, and at one point held 9 out of the Top 10 spots in the UK singles chart following the release of his third album, ÷.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, coming in at the third, fourth, (joint) fifth and eighth are the five members who once made up One Direction, respectively: Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and Zayn Malik. Each have gone on to find success as solo artists, and have partnered up to collaborate with brands.
Styles has pipped his peers to the post, having long been tipped as the member most likely to find solo success. Alongside scoring a couple of well-reviewed acting roles, he has been embraced by the world of high fashion, having acted as a Chair of this year’s Met Gala.
Coming in just behind Malik and girl group Little Mix is Sam Smith, who topped the charts with his second album, The Thrill of It All last year and at just 26 is worth £24m. Since 2015, Smith has collected four Grammys as well as an Oscar for his Bond theme The Writing’s On The Wall.
The wealthiest musicians in the industry….
Despite the commendable efforts of these younger artists, they’ve all got a way to go before they can catch up with their (ever so slightly) older counterparts. Precisely nobody will be surprised to hear that Sir Paul McCartney, (who was made a Companion of Honour in the Queen’s birthday honours last year), has come in top of the list for 2019, with a net worth of £820m.
Alongside completing a world tour last year, in which he performed to nearly a million fans and sold a cool £100 million worth of tickets, McCartney’s seminal work as ¼ of the world’s most famous supergroup continues to earn him enormous sums of money.
You might remember that in 2015, the Beatles’ 13 albums became available on streaming services, which experts believe will have paid incredibly well for McCartney and Sir Ringo Starr, his fellow survivor from the original band. This year cements his 30-year record as a Rich List fixture, and frankly, nobody’s annoyed about that.
Coming in second is the undisputed grandfather of musical theatre himself, with a net worth of £740m. Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber made history last year when he became the first composer to equal the record set by Rodgers and Hammerstein of having four Broadway shows running at the same time. Whilst much of his music isn’t strictly chart-topping, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Spotify account that hasn’t saved at least one of his mega-hit musical theatre numbers.
Lloyd-Webber’s business empire, combined with his royalties, is reckoned to be worth at least £500m, and he has also made significant investments in fine wine, as well as properties in Barbados, Hampshire, Mallorca, New York and London — oh, and a causal Irish castle. His art collection includes a range of pre-Raphaelite paintings and other masters, and he recently released his memoir, Unmasked.
Perhaps rather more unexpected than others on the list, U2 come in third with a net worth of £569m. The band have famously managed to strike one of the best deals in the business — having moved a lot of their operations to Holland in 2005 (where there is virtually no direct tax on royalties).
They have also earned their place for having become the first band to top the US album charts in four consecutive decades. Songs of Experience, their 14th studio album, reached No 1 on the Billboard chart at the end of last year.
The real money spinner for the group, however, is their unrelenting touring schedule. Their latest tour kicked off in Oklahoma earlier this month and will make them one of the world’s highest-earning bands this year. Much like the surviving Beatles, U2 also continue to earn more than £2.6m annually from their back catalogue, merchandise and airplay.
Other iconic performers holding their own in the list include Sir Elton John and Sir Mick Jagger (coming in fourth and fifth, with £300m and £260m respectively).
The Sunday Times Rich List
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