By Dorothy Pomerantz, Forbes Staff
Madonna's latest album, "MDNA," was a flop. Her 12th studio album sold fewer than 1 million copies, and the singles, like "Give Me All Your Luvin," failed to impress on the pop music scene.
But the tour that the Material Girl launched to go along with her new album was a spectacular success. Fans didn't flock to stadium and spend upwards of $100 per ticket to hear Madonna's latest stuff. They went to hear hits like "Vogue," "Like a Virgin" and "Lucky Star." The tour grossed $305 million and earned her the Top Touring Award at the Billboard Music Awards. Add to that strong merchandise sales, a clothing line, fragrance and investments in companies like Vita Coco and Madonna tops our list of the Highest Earning Celebrities. We estimate the pop star brought in $125 million between June 2012 and June 2013.
That's more money than Madonna has ever earned in the time we've been doing our Celebrity 100 list. The closest she came to $125 million was in 2009 when she earned $110 million.
Madonna's success, at age 55, just goes to show the incredible power of a successful music career. Many have accused Lady Gaga of copying Madonna's career. The young star is certainly emulating Madonna when it comes to raking in money. Gaga ranks 10th on our list of highest-paid celebrities with $80 million in earnings. She would have brought in even more than that if her tour hadn't been cut short by a hip injury. Her latest single, "Applause," was overshadowed last week by Katy Perry's latest, "Roar." But Gaga can comfort herself with the knowledge that last year at least, she earned a lot more money than Perry who brought in an estimated $39 million.
To compile our list, we talked to agents, managers, producers and other in-the-know folks to come up with estimates for each celebrity's entertainment-related earnings between June 2012 and June 2013, the time frame for our Celebrity 100 list. We do not deduct for taxes, agent fees or the other expenses of being a celebrity.
Ranking second on our list is Steven Spielberg. The director earned an estimated $100 million between June 2011 and June 2012. Most of that money comes from his extensive library. Hit movies like "E.T." and "Jurassic Park" are always playing on TV somewhere in the world. Last year's "Lincoln" was a critical and financial hit earning $275 million on a budget of $65 million. Now Spielberg's DreamWorks is starting to show some real strength on TV. The studio's latest show, "Under the Dome," is one of the few bright spots on broadcast television.
Author E.L. James, Howard Stern and Simon Cowell all tie for third place on our list with $95 million each. James took the publishing world by storm with "50 Shades of Grey." The trilogy has sold 70 million copies worldwide and a movie is now in the works at Universal Studios. Stern still earns big from his contract with Sirius/XM (despite lawsuits) and Cowell is raking it in from the "The X Factor" and "Got Talent" formats which air in dozens of different countries. Stern and Cowell overlap with "Got Talent." Stern is earning an estimated $15 million per year as one of the judges on "America's Got Talent."
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