Big Bucks: Madonna Tops Celeb Earnings List, and Other Surprises Follow

When it comes to raking in the dollars, not every star is created equal

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Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Madonna at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards

In the latest addition to its mid-year volley of celebrity rankings, Forbes has named Madonna the top-earning celebrity of the year. During the period that began in June 2012 and ended in June 2013, the groundbreaking singer is estimated to have brought home $125 million.

As pointed out by Forbes‘ Dorothy Pomerantz, the publication’s star-list guru, Madonna’s blockbuster year may at first surprise many who remember that her last album wasn’t exactly a chart-topper. Her tour, however, was a huge success, turning out audiences eager to hear her sing the hits. She’s also, of course, not just a singer: between corporate investments and branded merchandise, Madonna’s income sources are nothing if not diverse.

(MORE: Women Lead List of Most Powerful Celebrities)

Madonna’s money also puts her a significant step above the rest, as the Number 2 earner made a full $25 million less than she did. Here are the other celebs who filled out the list’s top slots:

  • Steven Spielberg: $100 million
  • Simon Cowell, E.L. James and Howard Stern: $95 million
  • James Patterson: $91 million
  • Glenn Beck: $90 million
  • Michael Bay: $82 million
  • Jerry Bruckheimer and Lady Gaga: $80 million

So what are the take-aways from these ten big-name successes?

For one thing, though Madonna is certainly conspicuous, visibility does not equal dollars. Other than Madonna, Gaga, Glenn Beck and Simon Cowell (and, to an extent, Howard Stern), everyone else on the list is a behind-the-scenes star. While their names are often in lights, their faces may not be so recognizable. And while the publishing industry is certainly suffering, aspiring writers can take heart: it’s still possible to be a multi-millionaire novelist. In fact, the three writers on the list (James, Patterson and Beck) all made far more than the highest-paid actor of the year (Robert Downey Jr., who took home $75 million).

(MORE: Who Is Hollywood’s Highest-Paid Actress?)

It’s also worth comparing this list to Forbes‘ other rankings, in particular its list of the most powerful celebrities: a star with more social-media clout than money can gain significant power (see: Taylor Swift), but power is still well-paid (see: Madonna, in the top-ten list for both, along with Spielberg and Gaga). The gender breakdown of the power list is also far more even, and actually weighted toward women; Oprah, not surprisingly, topped the power list, and just missed the top 10 of the earning rankings, pulling in an estimated $77 million.

The third take-away? Never count Madonna out. After all, if things go south for her,  she can always sell her new diamond-and-gold grill.

12 comments
KyleRichardson
KyleRichardson

Also, MDNA only sold a little less than Britney's 2011 album "Femme Fatale" and yet you said she was one of the highest earners based on record sales of Femme Fatale, when MDNA probably sold more worldwide than Femme Fatale in a shorter period of time. 

KyleRichardson
KyleRichardson

What? Any fan of Madonna knows that she has never been about performing the hits. We all knew full well that we would be hearing songs mostly from MDNA. Just like Sticky & Sweet featured songs mainly from Hard Candy and Confessions Tour featured songs from Confessions on a Dance Floor. I don't go to see Madonna sing 'Like A Virgin', I go to see her sing her new songs like 'Gang Bang' and 'Girl Gone Wild'. So please try to report better. Any Madonna fan knows she doesn't really depend on her hits in her concerts, it's mainly about the album that out at the moment. And BrianParker was right, MDNA debuted at #1 in around 40 countries and "Give Me All Your LUV" was another top ten for Madonna. She didn't even really do the promotion circuit. 

BrianParker
BrianParker

You write Madonna's MDNA album didn't exactly top the charts. Please do not follow the poor example set by Forbes and it's celebrity writer Dorothy Pomerantz who wouldn't know a fact if her life depended on it. Mdna was not only a number one album, it spawned Madonna's 38th billboard top ten, had tree dance number one singles, and was the best selling EDM record of the year. US sales of just over half a million and world wide sales of just under 2 million make it the 15th best selling album of the year. She outsold Pink, Britney Spears, and a slew of other singers who released albums year with no radio support to speak of. Do not rely on people or publications with an agenda and do your own reporting before commiting their mistakes to your pages. 

Pacino718
Pacino718

Wealthy ppl are lowkey. RT @TIME: When it comes to 2012's top-earning celebrities, visibility does not equal dollars ti.me/14ASMGe

ducourtierinc
ducourtierinc

@TIME those in the know find this interesting...those who know don't.

TINAHILLSTROM1
TINAHILLSTROM1

@TIME If Obama Goes to War without Congress Vice President Biden says that is cause for Impeachment

bb53
bb53

Someone who's been washed up for fifteen years leads the entertainment world in earnings.  Talk about a fantasy world...

NewmanJustice07
NewmanJustice07

@bb53 it's better to be considered washed up, at least you were significant or did something people loved. i cannot say the same for you, most certainly NEVER!