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.