THE HIGHEST-PAID ENTERTAINERS
There has never been a better time to be a sellout. All of 2021’s highest-paid musicians earned their way into the ranks by selling—often for nine figures—all or pieces of their music catalogs. Other top earners sold production studios, cashed in on vintage TV shows or hawked champagne, tequila or sneakers. Less than a third made the bulk of their income from fresh content.
1. Peter Jackson • $580 mil
The Lord of the Rings director became a billionaire in November when he sold part of his visualeffects firm, Weta Digital, to Unity Software for $1.6 billion, about 40% of it in cash.
2. Bruce Springsteen • $435 mil (See story, page 15.) 3. Jay-Z • $340 mil
The hip-hop mogul cashed out stakes in music streamer Tidal and the Armand de Brignac champagne brand.
4. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson • $270 mil
About 25% of his earnings came from starring roles in films like Jungle Cruise and Red Notice; most of the rest came from his buzzy tequila brand, Teremana.
5. Kanye West • $235 mil
He earns most of his money from a multiyear deal to design Yeezy sneakers for Adidas. A jacket and hoodie designed for the Gap arrived last year, quickly selling out. But the 52-year-old brand wants more and is reportedly frustrated by the slow rollout.
6. Trey Parker and Matt Stone • $210 mil
Shocking. Hilarious. And cheap to make. South Park and its offshoots have netted more than $80 million annually in recent years. In August, the duo signed a six-year, $900 million deal with Paramount+.
7. Paul Simon • $200 mil
Last March Simon sold hundreds of compositions, including “The Sound of Silence,” to Sony Music Publishing for some $250 million.
8. Tyler Perry • $165 mil
The billionaire rakes in money from his television shows, a Georgia production studio and the Madea movie franchise.
9. Ryan Tedder • $160 mil
In addition to the 500-plus songs he has written for his own band, the OneRepublic frontman has penned hits for Beyoncé, Adele and Ed Sheeran. He sold a chunk of his catalog to KKR in January.
10. Bob Dylan • $130 mil
The 80-year-old Nobel laureate transferred his recorded music and a few future recordings to Sony last July for $150 million.
That came after a reported $400 million megadeal in 2020 to sell his publishing catalog to Universal.
11. Red Hot Chili Peppers $116 mil
London music investment fund Hipgnosis snapped up the California rockers’ catalog last May.
12. Reese Witherspoon • $115 mil
She sold a piece of her femalefocused production company, Hello Sunshine, at a $900 million valuation.
13. Chuck Lorre • $100 mil
The go-to guy at Warner Bros. TV still makes serious money from such hits as Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.
14. Sean “Diddy” Combs $90 mil
Most of his income last year came from his Cîroc vodka liquor brand.
15. Dick Wolf • $86 mil
Dun-dun! Even after 32 years, Wolf’s Law & Order franchise continues to hook crime junkies with a combo of new shows (Organized Crime) and syndicated older ones (Special Victims Unit).
16. Howard Stern • $85 mil
Radio’s shock-jock “king of all media” moved to satellite 15 years ago. SiriusXM signed him in 2020 for five more years.
17. Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, David Crane • $82 mil
Friends forever: The showrunners responsible for the quintessential ’90s sitcom continue to cash in, mostly recently with an
HBO Max deal.
18. Shonda Rhimes • $81 mil
The Bridgerton producer re-upped with Netflix in July and continues to receive hefty residuals from ABC for Grey’s Anatomy.
19. Neil Young • $80 mil
In January, a year after he sold his music rights to Hipgnosis, he told Spotify to pick between him and podcaster Joe Rogan, who allegedly spread Covid misinformation. The streaming service removed Young’s music.
20. Greg Berlanti • $75 mil
The showrunner is known for his bevy of CW hits like Riverdale, but most of his earnings come from a six-year production deal with Netflix for shows including the psychological thriller You.