What Recession? These Are 5 Highest Earning Male Musicians 2011

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Who says the music business is in trouble? Sure, we’re not really buying CDs anymore (unless you’re over 60) and we can listen to endless albums for free thanks to sites like Spotify and Pandora. You have to brave those crazy, loud, jarring commercials they throw at you between songs, though, which is kind of a bummer. Even though musicians aren’t making loads of dough off album sales alone, they usually endorse products, start perfume lines, and tour the world to supplement their income so they can afford the lavish lifestyles they lead.

Most of us still want to see our favorite bands live, and we all know how pricey tickets can be. Still, of the top five highest earning male musicians in 2011, four of them are, well, older, and one is, of course, Justin Bieber. Maybe in twenty years Jack White will be an elder statesman and make it on these lists. For now, here’s a sampling of some of 2011s highest earning male musicians.

5 Justin Bieber ($53 million)

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Ok. say what you will, but there are a lot of Beliebers out there paying for concert tickets, shirts, stickers, albums and who knows what else. Justin Bieber started playing and singing on the streets and he shot to fame and wealth at a pretty young age. He’s got a perfume, a tour, that Bieber movie that every person under the age of thirteen flocked to in 2011. It looks like Bieber fever is here for a while so let’s just sit tight and see what happens – will he have a long-lasting career like U2 or McCartney, or fizzle into reality show land? Time will tell – for now, he’s up there with the big guys – financially at least.

4 Paul McCartney ($67 million)

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When you’re a member of one of the most gigantic (if not the most gigantic) bands in history, there’s a good chance your bank account is pretty healthy. Paul McCartney is a legend and he hasn’t stopped making music all these years. He was named the most commercially successful songwriter in the history of popular music by the Guinness Book of World Records (how do they calculate that? No clue) and he made $130 million on 30 shows over 12 months in 2011. He’s probably living a pretty cushy lifestyle over in merry old England, like Elton. He deserves it.

3 Elton John ($100 million)

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Elton John is kind of like royalty, right? Besides being one of the most talented singer songwriters around, he hobnobs with kings and queens, he’s was Knighted, his clothes are always super fashionable, and he just commands respect. In 2011, he performed over 100 live shows, which you know raked in some serious cash. He loves Lady Gaga, and she’s his baby’s godmother, and he has a very public dislike for Madonna that he’s not afraid to shout about. One-hundred million should keep him cozy for, well, forever.

2 Bon Jovi ($125 million)

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Like U2, these guys are still going strong. It’s been a lot of years since they hit the scene with their big, poufy hair, their fringe, and their hits like “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ On a Prayer,” but that doesn’t mean they’ve retired to a beach somewhere to sip Mai Tais and talk about the good old days. They also haven’t succumbed to the whole embarrassing reality show lifestyle that some of there more glam-rock contemporaries are living in. Bon Jovi opened New Jersey’s Meadowlands Stadium in 2011 with several sold out shows (like Springsteen, they’re huge in Jersey), released a greatest hits album, and front man Jon Bon Jovi was appointed to the White House Council for Community Solutions by Obama. Pretty fancy.

1 U2 ($195 million)

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For some people, U2 is like religion. There are people who think U2 is just ok (probably the same people who love Megadeth and Slayer) and people who pay hefty sums to check out their epic live shows over and over. In 2011, the band made about $195 million – not bad for four Irish guys who grew up kicking rocks together. They went on a two-year tour, playing for over seven million people and selling $700 million in tickets (a lot of that goes back into the show expenses, etc). Add to that whatever album sales, merchandise, and licensing and there you have it: Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam are loaded. Good to know the band and Bono, specifically, does so much charity work.

They’re rich, they’re powerful, they’re at the top of their game. What do you think – are they worth it?

Dina Gachman writes about Hollywood and celebrities for Forbes, and covers film for Red Bull USA. She has written for Splitsider, Thought Catalog, and Hello Giggles. Her comic books about Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor are being published by Bluewater Comics.

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