The highest-paid musician in the world in 2015 was Taylor Swift—who made the bulk of her money not from album sales or streams, but from an international tour and string of corporate endorsements deals.
The highest-paid musician in the world in 2016 was recently revealed to be Beyoncé—and guess where her money came from?
That pattern’s no coincidence. Not even mega stars like Swift and Beyoncé, artists who sell millions of albums a year, can deny the fact that actually writing and recording music just doesn’t bring in as much cash as it used to.
Streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal are a great deal for music listeners, who get an on-demand buffet of songs for a steady monthly rate (usually $10 or lower, with all the promotions going on at the time). For musicians, who have to constantly fight one another for meager fractions-of-cents out of that fixed amount? Not so much.
Beyoncé’s sixth album, Lemonade, was the world’s best-selling last year. It brought in $7.7 million in publishing fees, sales, and streams in 2016. (And only $1.9 million of that was streams.) Her glitzy tour promoting the album—the Formation World Tour, an all-out affair that roved around the globe—boosted those earnings to a total of $62 million, according to Billboard.
If one of the biggest pop stars in the world is only making 10% of her money from her actual music, it’s not hard to imagine how much trouble smaller artists are having with their finances right now.