2017 was the year of the rapper, with Diddy and Drake securing first and third place respectively in Forbes’ list of the highest-earning musicians. In a surprising turn of events, this year has seen supremacy seized by rock bands. Veterans U2 and Coldplay may have their most innovative days firmly in the rear-view mirror but, this year, they have capitalized on their legend status to become the world’s two highest paid musical acts.
However, 2018 has not exactly been a lean year for Diddy and Drake. Diddy’s earnings have roughly halved in comparison to 2017, with a ranking-topping $130 million shrinking to a $64 million that puts the rapper and businessman as the tenth highest-earning musician. In a strange quirk, Drake’s earnings have also approximately halved in a reduction from $94 million to $47 million.
Of course, the nature of the music industry is that there are ups and downs, even when largely remaining at the top. Those ups are dependent on album successes, huge tours and lucrative sponsorship deals, with Variety listing the cash cows for each artist in the list. In 2017, Diddy rose to the top as a result of the Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour and a deal with Cîroc vodka. Drake made similar sponsorship gains, endorsing Apple and Nike while profiting from his Boy Meets World tour.
Both also enjoyed success from unique sources. Drake secured the prestigious title of being the world’s most-streamed artist, while Diddy raked in a suggested $70 million from selling a third of the Sean John fashion line. Those are not events that happen every year.
DJ duo The Chainsmokers are something of an anomaly in the highest-earning artist list. Most of the artists featured are those who have enjoyed several years at the top, such as Diddy and Drake. Lucky Nugget Casino have reported how The Chainsmokers rank second in the highest-earning DJs of 2018, with an intake of $45.5 million keeping them behind Calvin Harris. The Chainsmokers only came to prominence in 2014 with the release of hit single #Selfie, while Harris has enjoyed a decade at the top.
Yet, The Chainsmokers have two of the top ten most-streamed songs on Spotify, perhaps hinting that there will be a changing of the guard when it comes to highest-earning DJs in future years. Unsurprisingly, the list of the most streamed artists aligns reasonably accurately with the highest-earning musicians. That is not necessarily a result of the revenues from streaming alone, but more an indication that someone is doing a lot right if they are racking up millions of streams. Complex have detailed how Drake remains Spotify’s most streamed artist, with Ed Sheeran and The Weeknd not far behind. Those two both raked in more money than Drake in 2018, although they will look enviously towards the Canadian’s streaming accolade.
Veterans Guns N’ Roses and Bruce Springsteen still rank among the biggest earners after long and glittering careers, but younger acts like Drake and The Chainsmokers now stand alongside them as the most renowned musicians in the world. It is easy to forget that Drake is only 32. In 2018, only Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd are younger acts to have earned more than Drake, with just a handful of years separating them.
Drake will be looking in admiration towards Diddy/Sean Combs, who has slowed down in terms of music but remains hugely relevant in both art and business. Music popularity is cyclical, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Diddy and Drake reclaim their spots in the top three musical earners for 2019.