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Taylor Swift didn’t become the world’s highest-earning celebrity by selling music

Reuters/Carlos Allegri
Wildest dreams.
By Amy X. Wang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Pop princess Taylor Swift, according to new numbers from Forbes, took home a cool $170 million last year. The figure—which is more than double the $80 million the singer made the previous year—puts her as the highest-paid celebrity in the world right now, beating out actors, socialites, authors, fellow musicians, and more.

It’s not exactly musical genius that got her here.

It’s everything else.

While Swift’s album sales certainly contributed to her enviable income, the bulk of it actually comes from two other things: the singer’s $200-million-grossing mega world tour, and a string of endorsement deals with big brands like Keds, Diet Coke, and, most recently, Apple. By way of comparison, Adele and Madonna, two other female artists with similarly sizable and fervent fan bases, didn’t put nearly as much effort last year into self-promotion and brand partnerships—and they made half Swift’s paycheck ($80.5 million and $76.5 million respectively).

Taylor Swift has perfected her response to a trend to which most other artists haven’t fully adapted: music, these days, just doesn’t sell the way it used to. The financial model of popular streaming services pays out less money to musicians than either physical or digital CDs did, and the savviest artists—provided they have enough star power behind them to pull it off—are turning to revenue channels outside of the music industry. Whether it’s live events, corporate promotions, or some other yet-to-be-explored avenues, we’re sure to soon see a lot more musicians stepping out of the studio and into the spotlight.

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