Beyoncé Vs. Taylor Vs. The Forbes List: On Tour Or Off?  

AP Photo / Julio Cortez
– Beyonce
Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.

The good people over at Forbes recently took some time to rank music’s highest-paid female artists in the music industry, using Pollstar data alongside that of Nielsen SoundScan, the RIAA and their own industry interviews. Breaking out a few of the ladies’ live touring numbers, however, shows how comparing that income can be largely dependent on the period you look at and where these stadium-level artists are in their touring cycle.

The Forbes list looked at pretax income from June 1, 2016 to June 1, 2017. We aren’t in the business of counting the money people take home, but we do have solid numbers for most of the stars’ tours during the period in question.

Beyoncé was named as the highest-paid woman in the Forbes list, which makes sense, as she was also Pollstar’s number 2 highest-grossing artist on its 2016 Year End Top 100 Worldwide Tours chart. Her “Formation” tour that year was the highest-grossing North American outing in 2016 and the continent’s second largest single-year tour of all-time with more than $169 million grossed, behind only Taylor Swift’s gargantuan “1989” tour in 2015.

Queen Bey’s reported data for the period in question (June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017) showed 1,569,262 tickets moved, with prices ranging from around $45 to upwards of $300 in some markets, for a grand total of $171,906,271 reported.

The caveat: Beyoncé released her album Lemonade in February 2016 and appeared during the half time show of the Super Bowl, teeing her up for a humongous tour for the 2016 calendar year, and that tour was in full swing for much of the period in question.

The second-highest earner on the Forbes list was Adele, who split her shows between late 2016 and a massive Australia and New Zealand run in early 2017. Adele reported $105,449,213 during the period in question, and additional research moves the estimated amount she earned on that complete tour to around $164 million, very close to the total reported earnings of Beyoncé. Thus Adele came in the number 5 spot on Pollstar’s 2016 Year End Top 100 Worldwide Tours chart, and number 7 on the 2017 Mid Year Top 100.

Both of those singers had albums come out in 2016 though, and now that they are no longer in a touring cycle, Taylor Swift is ramping up, with her latest release reputation dominating our Elite 100 charts this week. She also scheduled a massive tour that is sure to generate tons of revenue and buzz throughout the year. 

Thus, although Taylor only played one show during the period in question for the Forbes list – the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas – she will shoot to the top of similar charts next year, while Beyoncé will likely be taking some time to spend with her growing family and Adele has stated she is taking a longer-term break from touring in favor of motherhood.

Beyond the Top 3, artists with regular Las Vegas residencies, Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez came in at the number 4 and 5 slots on the Forbes list. Those residencies got them to the #10 and #46 positions on 2016’s Year End Top 100 Tours chart respectively, though Celine also did tour internationally that year. The two reported $90 million and $30 million grosses during the period in question, with Dion including a number of shows in Canada and Europe.

Obviously the Forbes list includes other sources of income besides live shows. Looking at how these artists perform in a limited period of time inevitably catches different acts at different points in the album-media-tour cycle that many still use, so industry vets know not to jump to conclusions that anyone is having an off year.

In total, Pollstar’s 2016 year-end chart has 16 female soloists on it, including all of the Forbes top 10 ladies except Swift and Katy Perry, both of whom did not tour that year.