What did a year with no live gigs do to the fortunes of rock’s biggest stars? Well, they definitely took a hit, but the lucky few who managed to get some live dates in before the pandemic shut things down did well. Streaming of new releases and catalog reissues also helped.
Billie Eilish is the highest-ranking rock act on Billboard’s list of the highest-paid musicians of 2020, thanks to three pre-pandemic concerts she performed. However, she made the bulk of her $14.7 million in streaming and publishing, as well as physical album sales.
Queen came in at number seven with earnings of $13.2 million, thanks to some 2020 tour dates, plus royalties from record sales, publishing and massive streaming numbers. In fact, their on-demand audio streams outranked every other veteran act on the list. Globally, Queen soared to number one in the rankings.
Just out of the top 10, AC/DC came in at #13 with $10.1 million, thanks to sales of its 2020 album Power Up, its back catalog and nearly 1.5 billion streams. Metallica came in at #18 with $9 million, mostly thanks to the sales of their August 2020 live album S&M2 and their digitally remastered catalog.
Also in Billboard’s Top 40: The Lumineers, who managed to play 20 shows in 2020 and earned $6.8 million; Tool, coming in with $6.17 million thanks to nine shows they did in 2020 prior to the pandemic; KISS with $6 million thanks to their 20 live dates, and Aerosmith, who earned $5.35 million thanks to streaming and the shows they played as part of their Las Vegas residency before COVID cut them off.
The list shows just how much rock bands depend on touring revenue; as Billboard notes, the top earners collectively took home $387 million in 2020. By comparison, in 2019, the top earners raked in $969 million.
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