When Forbes released its list of the highest paid musicians in the world, a few of the musical Richie-Riches were expected. For instance, Lady Gaga's inclusion in the top two was expected, and the fact that many people love Coldplay was not exactly groundbreaking. But there were a few lessons to be learned from this list that may surprise the average Top-40s-obsessed tween, and the rest of us, too.
An overarching theme of the list was that age and staying power matter more than popularity in-the-moment. Although prodigies may be inspiring, and Miley Cyrus may be amusing, neither made a dent in the list. Instead, Bon Jovi won the third highest paid musician this year, and was joined by Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd and recent solo The Wall Live tour fame), and the Rolling Stones. Madonna herself nabbed the first place spot, due to her MDNA tour, probably causing Lady Gaga to fly away in her dress in shame.
Some may bemoan the fact that His Holy Bieberness only came in sixth, just followed by Her Taylor Swiftiness at seven, and that One Direction and Katy Perry barely made the list at all. But in an industry obsessed with youth and their misbehavior, I find it refreshing that age and possibly a smidge of wisdom gives The Boss an edge over The Biebs, and Roger Waters the staying power to continue his three-year-run as a top-paid musician. Perhaps their staying power lies in their ability to generate fans that can afford their ridiculously high ticket prices, but I would like to think that Paul, Bruce, and Elton have simply ingratiated themselves to multiple generations of fans. And after their separate burqua incidents, I doubt anyone is crying too hard about Lady Gaga's loss to Madonna, and Rihanna's loss to Diddy.
Beyond the fascinating ability of older artists to make more money this year, Forbes has proven that live shows matter. Forbes called concerts "the main driver for most major artists' earnings," and cited successful tours as the reasons for many of the artists' exorbitant paychecks. I'm sure all live-music junkies will join me in rejoicing that success in the music industry now depends on performing well in front of an audience, rather than in front of a sound engineer. Allow me to temper my enthusiasm by saying that I love a well-produced studio album as much as I love a well-produced slice of pie (a lot), but I do find the new direction of highly-paid performance to be exciting, if completely unaffordable.
Ticket prices are the trade-off in the new emphasis put on performance. Even five years ago, I could afford to go see a major act like Muse at an arena, if I saved money from my college job all year and chipped in a birthday check from grandma. Now that I would have to pay $654 dollars to see One Direction (or up to $1,000 in some cities), live pop concerts have officially flown past the limits of my wallet.
And although I'm excited that tours are now the test of an artists mettle, and that the most successful of those tours are headlined by mature artists, I wonder, at what point will ticket prices get so high that the rich and famous just play for one another?