Whether you know him as Diddy, Puffy or Brother Love, the last thing you'd call Sean Combs is average. The hip-hop impresario has used a combination of charisma, smarts and showmanship to elevate himself from modest means to the top of an empire that ...and more »
Zack O'Malley Greenburg , Forbes Staff Senior Editor, Media & Entertainment
Diddy Did It: Sean Combs is this year's highest-paid musician.
Whether you know him as Diddy, Puffy or Brother Love, the last thing you’d call Sean Combs is average. The hip-hop impresario has used a combination of charisma, smarts and showmanship to elevate himself from modest means to the top of an empire that encompasses music, spirits, clothing, television and more. But he begs to differ about that first distinction.
“I’m the average person,” Diddy told FORBES earlier this year. “I started looking at business at the age of 12, [from] delivering newspapers to working in gas station bathrooms, or even doing things like being a background dancer or a stylist. Whatever I could do to get close to the industry.”
He’s done quite a bit more than get close: Diddy is the top-earning musician on the planet, pulling in a career-best $130 million pretax this year. His total got a boost from his Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour, his Ciroc vodka deal and the sale of one-third of his Sean John clothing line for an estimated $70 million.
GalleryThe World's Highest-Paid Musicians Of 2017
Beyoncé ranks second with $105 million, making her the only other act top to pull in nine figures. Queen Bey's Formation World Tour, which wrapped up in late 2016 and fell partly in our scoring period, grossed a quarter of a billion dollars. Drake, the world’s most-streamed artist in recent years, rounds out the top three with $94 million, much of it from his Boy Meets World Tour.
"Artists don't really make the money off the music like we did in the Golden Age," explained The Weeknd--No. 4 on the list with $92 million, most of it from his latest Live Nation advance. "It's not really coming in until you hit the stage."
Indeed, touring is a massive piece of the earnings pie for most big-name acts: of the world’s 25 highest-paid musicians, only Taylor Swift (No. 17, $44 million) and Jay-Z (No. 19, $42 million) didn’t play an extensive amount of shows during our scoring period (though the latter is now touring his latest album and the former is set to do so throughout 2018).
To form our list, we considered pretax income from June 1, 2016 through June 1, 2017, and did not take out fees charged by agents, managers and lawyers. We gathered data from Nielsen SoundScan, Pollstar, the RIAA and interviews with industry insiders.
This year’s rankings reveal positive trends in some areas and the same old story in others. Despite Beyoncé’s No. 2 finish, there are only five women in the top 25. But four of the five top acts are musicians of color. And there’s more than a half-century age range on the list, from 23-year-old Justin Bieber (No. 7, $83.5 million) to 75-year-old Paul McCartney (No. 13, $54 million).
Bieber collected the largest annual haul of his career, boosted by 105 live shows in our scoring period. He also cashed in on a Calvin Klein endorsement deal, his JustMoji icons and over a billion streaming spins. Sir Paul owes his placement to continued seven-figure nightly grosses on the road, all while collecting checks from his solo and Beatles back catalog.
McCartney credits his management team for helping him land on another list: our special Centennial issue chronicling the world’s 100 greatest living business minds.
“It's so important to have good people around you,” he said. “That's why I'm anywhere near this list.”
For more on the business of music, pre-order my new book 3 Kings: Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Hip-Hop's Multibillion-Dollar Rise and sign up for my email updates.
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