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Here’s why Bruce Springsteen was the highest-paid musician of 2021

Bruce Springsteen
(Image credit: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for SUFH)

There may have been bigger-selling artists last year - the likes of Adele, Ed Sheeran and Olivia Rodrigo spring immediately to mind - but when it came to earnings, Bruce Springsteen was very much The Boss.

Rolling Stone estimates that Springsteen earned a cool $590 million last year, but it’s worth noting that the majority of this income came not from a new album or tour, but the sale of his publishing copyrights and masters to Sony, which made him a whopping $550 million.

In fact, catalogue sales were all the rage in 2021, with established artists such as Paul Simon ($260 million, #3), Ryan Tedder ($200 million, #5), Red Hot Chili Peppers ($145 million, #6), Lindsey Buckingham ($100 million #7), Mötley Crüe ($95 million, #8), and Blake Shelton ($83 million, #9) all cashing in.

Only Jay-Z ($470 million, #2) and Taylor Swift ($80 million, #10) didn’t earn the majority of their money from a catalogue sale, but new music wasn’t their biggest income driver, either.

Jay-Z made a chunk of money by selling 80% of the Tidal music streaming service, and Taylor Swift helped to ease the pain of not owning her back catalogue by scoring success with re-recordings of two of her biggest albums - Red (Taylor’s Version) and Fearless (Taylor’s Version).

You’ll also note that Swift is the only woman to make the Top 10, and Jay-Z the only artist who isn’t white, emphasising that, when it comes to equality, the music business still has plenty of work to do.

I’m the Group Content Manager for MusicRadar, specialising in all things tech. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 20 of which I’ve also spent writing about music technology.