One of the big singles on Taylor Swift’s 1989 is “Wildest Dreams” – a phrase that applies just as well to her recent earnings as the song. Swift pulled in $170 million over the past year, making her the highest-paid woman in music.
The bulk of her career-best haul came from her 1989 Tour, which grossed over a quarter of a billion dollars. More than $200 million of that came in North America, where Swift shattered the Rolling Stones’ record. She padded her total by moving more than 3 million album equivalents during the scoring period and shilling brands including Keds, Diet Coke and Apple. “She has been building her fan base for years, and that fan base crosses multiple market segments,” says entertainment attorney Lori Landew of Fox Rothschild. “It’s this ability to appeal to younger and older audiences, and those in between, that makes Taylor such a sure bet with both concert promoters and brands who want to affiliate with her and with the community she has cultivated.”
Adele claims the second spot with earnings of $80.5 million. Unlike Swift—and pretty much every other superstar musician—the British songstress actually makes most of her money on album sales, most recently from 25, the best-selling album of 2015. Madonna ranks third with $76.5 million, much of it from her Rebel Heart tour, which grossed $170 million.
The No. 4 spot goes to Rihanna, who pulled in $75 million, churning out radio hits and touring while adding to her total through endorsement deals with Dior, Puma, Samsung and Stance.
Beyoncé rounds out the top five with $54 million. She turned betrayal into Lemonade, her sixth No. 1 album, but she still makes the bulk of her bucks on the road. Look for Queen B to finish much higher next year, thanks to her Formation World Tour, which grossed over $250 million. Most of that wasn’t counted in this year’s rankings: the Forbes list measures income from June 1, 2015, to June 1, 2016 before taxes and management fees. Numbers are based on data from Pollstar, Nielsen and the RIAA, as well as interviews with managers, agents, lawyers—and some of the stars themselves.
Four members of the top ten — Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Shania Twain and Jennifer Lopez — have seen their bottom lines boosted by standing gigs in Las Vegas. Others, like Katy Perry, are in between album cycles but still made the cut.
“I take enormous pleasure and comfort in the fact that female artists are growing in success both in terms of revenues earned and their influence in the music industry,” adds Landew. “Many of these artists are enjoying what I see as a continuing cultural shift that allows and enables them to shed prior societal constructs imposed on them about how they should sound or look or dress on stage or on screen in order to appeal to a broader audience.”
There are plenty of artists who earned double-digit millions, but not quite enough to land on the list. Among them: Carrie Underwood, Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert, Selena Gomez, G.E.M. and Halsey. Many of them, including the latter, are working on new projects that could catapult them onto next year’s list.