Highest-Paid Country Musicians

Singing Sad Songs All the Way to the Bank

Highest-Paid Country Musicians
August 24, 2015

Country music isn't so much about hardscrabble life and strumming washboards anymore, and it hasn’t been for many years. To paraphrase the old David Allan Coe classic, the perfect country and western song does not have to include "trains, trucks, mama, prison, and getting drunk."

There may still be some of those elements, but many of country music's more successful acts today border on good-time pop or rock (and in some cases, have completely crossed over a la Taylor Swift). Many are also blessed with good looks and attractive physiques — not a common trait of the classic country singers.

So in this new era of country, who tops the field as the highest-paid country musician? It's one of the classic artists coming out of semi-retirement. Here is the list of the top-grossing country musicians as compiled by Forbes magazine.

  1. Garth Brooks – Brooks (pictured above) pulled in $90 million over the past twelve-month period, not only topping the 2015 list but also topping the all-time list for a country music artist or group in a single year. He and his wife Trisha Yearwood, a powerful country act in her own right, have teamed up to tour the U.S. and packed arenas wherever they go. Brooks' more traditional country has a broad appeal that can bring in younger fans as well as their parents.

  2. Toby Keith – Keith raked in $53 million in the past year, good enough for second place on the list. His popular songs like "Red Solo Cup" bring him closer to pop than Brooks, but he also has some interesting tangents, including the classic "tribute" to Willie Nelson "I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again," and the powerful "American Soldier," written "for all the times I get to meet the troops on these USO tours." His entrepreneurial efforts include the Show Dog label, Wild Shot mescal, and a large endorsement deal with Ford.

  3. Jason Aldean – Aldean (pictured below) is in third place with a $42.5 million take. Aldean's brand of country can be classified as country rock, and his live shows include pyrotechnics that are worthy of some of classic rock's finest showmen. His music has overseas appeal, given his success with concerts in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Sweden. Make no mistake — Aldean can and does fill up many arenas in the U.S. as well. On the entrepreneurial side, he's taken part ownership in Jay-Z's Tidal streaming service.

  4. Jason Aldean

  5. Luke Bryan – Bryan (pictured below) squeaked into fourth place with $42.5 million. Buoyed by songs like "Roller Coaster" and "I See You," he has a definite crossover appeal. Aside from his musical success, Bryan has lucrative deals with Miller Lite and the outdoorsman/sportsman outlet Cabela's.

  6. Luke Bryan

  7. Kenny Chesney – Chesney (pictured below) made it into the top five by bringing in $42 million. His stadium tour has been extremely lucrative, and his endorsements from Corona beer and Costa sunglasses fit his style perfectly — as does Blue Chair Bay Rum, his own brand. Chesney is teaming up with Aldean for ten shows throughout the rest of 2015, so get the cash registers ready.
  8. Kenny Chesney

Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line are not far behind in earnings — but where are the women on the list? With Taylor Swift reclassified out of country, we find the highest-earning female in ninth place. Miranda Lambert (pictured below) is there with $28.5 million, ironically tied with her ex-husband Blake Shelton.

Miranda Lambert

If you've never considered country music before, give some of these acts a try. They are gaining a much broader appeal, and after a listen, you might discover why.

Garth Brooks photo ©iStock.com/EdStock | Jason Aldean photo by Morgan Williams [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Luke Bryan photo by Keith Hinkle [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons | Kenny Chesney photo By LawrenceFung (174_7493) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  Conversation   |   32 Comments

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Victor | 08.24.15 @ 14:06
It's crazy how one person makes more money than the rest of the population , i think this should be regulated and the money should be more evenly divided.
Sarah | 08.24.15 @ 14:19
I figured Garth would be on top and am not surprised by Toby, Luke or Kenny. I am a little shocked at Jason being so high. He still seems too new to me. I guess that shows I've been listening to Country for way too long...
Apryl | 08.24.15 @ 14:20
I can't even begin to fathom that much money. Let's hope they have good financial advisors!
Daniel | 08.24.15 @ 14:26
We honestly need to get some priorities straight. Entertainer / sports figures may be well loved but the fact that they earn what they do but those that educate and protect or families ( teachers, first res ponders, etc) often barely scrape by.
Britt | 08.24.15 @ 14:29
I don't really see an issue. Singers and performers make their money based off of how successful they are, how much their music sells, how high on the charts they end up, march and then of course - live events. If one singer attracts a larger group - then he attracts a larger crowd.
Jo Ann | 08.24.15 @ 14:29
Are these totals before they pay everyone that works for them or after they pay everyone? Either way this is huge amounts of money, Which is well deserved because they do bring happiness to the world.
Elaine | 08.24.15 @ 14:35
Really not all that surprising. They are entertainers and people seem to not mind sending money to go get entertained.
Christina | 08.24.15 @ 14:37
I love country music. It's shocking to see how much money they make, and they do donate to some charities. So some good comes from them besides our entertainment..
Angie | 08.24.15 @ 14:47
I don't listen to country as much as I used to, but I occasionally hear it. If they work that hard at it, and the people buy their music, more power to them! The genre crosses over much more than it used to, and so their audience should be much larger than it used to be.
Chrisitna | 08.24.15 @ 14:49
Just like every other profession, men are paid more than women... big surprise. Such a shame that celebrities, sports stars and musicians are paid WAY more than the teachers who are responsible for the knowledge of the next generation.
gracie | 08.24.15 @ 15:03
Seeing Garth top the list doesn't surprise me at all but whew I was floored to see how much money they are making!
Steffanie | 08.24.15 @ 15:05
What an income. Not a huge country music fan, but the names are somewhat familiar because my teenagers talk about them.
Zanna | 08.24.15 @ 15:08
I am surprised Reba isn't on this list, I would think she'd be close to the top. It would be interesting to see the list broken out several different ways - top men, top women, top groups,
Ron | 08.24.15 @ 15:28
Broader appeal? Pop singers in cowboy hats. That is why they get paid! I will stick to the underground and outlaws. Heart and passion for pop promenades.
Crystal | 08.24.15 @ 15:32
I would have guessed Garth Brooks (rightfully so), but not some of the others.
Jackie | 08.24.15 @ 15:42
I'm not surprised at the amount of money they make each year. Ticket prices are outrageous if you get a seat anywhere close to the stage.
Rindy | 08.24.15 @ 16:08
I like this list but this isn't country music. Country music has changed so much and to me this has taken the place of my beloved rock. Most of this music really borders that genre. I love all of these artists and am surprised that Kenny Chesney is not closer to the top. I love Jason Aldean with is edgy rock attitude!
Blake | 08.24.15 @ 16:13
I've never heard of Jason Aldean but it's no wonder the others make so much. Even people who don't listen to country music know who they are. They make a crazy amount of money
irene | 08.24.15 @ 16:20
Not a country fan but I am not surprised at what they earn considering the prices I have paid for concert tickets to various rock artists over the years.
Nancy | 08.24.15 @ 16:39
I'm not surprised by any of these. Well, maybe that Toby Keith earns so much still. As far as women making the list? They are underpaid as a whole, why not in country music, too?
Joni | 08.24.15 @ 16:54
I am not surprised to see how much they make. Also not to see who is on that list. Kenny Chesney has done a lot of new things since he moved to St,John. He would never had made that rum if he hadn't moved there and his songs are island themed which I like.
Sara | 08.24.15 @ 17:04
You know I do not mind that people make more than others. But heck if you make that much then give to the community. No reason there should be people suffering
STOKES | 08.24.15 @ 17:17
It's not surprising how much money there is at the top of the Country music scene. It's one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the United States. I hope they have great financial planners managing their money!
Bobbie | 08.24.15 @ 17:23
I don't listen as much because a lot seems to be more pop country than country. Those are some staggering figures though.
Alec | 08.24.15 @ 17:43
I love Garth Brooks and Toby Keith. I don't think they should make quite so much money though. People with income like this is ridiculous no matter what their job.
Kamie | 08.24.15 @ 18:04
I figured George Strait would have been in the top 5.
Chelsey | 08.24.15 @ 18:12
It is crazy how much a person can make off music if they are successful. I think all of these people are talented. I wouldn't know what to do with all that money. I mean obviously invest and be ready for retirement in no time. But I would definetly be helping others.
Crystal | 08.24.15 @ 18:16
I wouldn't even know what to do with so much money. I hope they make good investments and consider charitable donations.
Vaughn | 08.24.15 @ 18:43
I don't even like country music.
Erin | 08.24.15 @ 18:56
I'm not surprised at all. I just wish I could be pulling in a fraction of what they do.
Allen | 08.27.15 @ 18:49
"Border on good time pop?" Hell, most of what you hear on so-called "country" radio these days IS pop..NashVegas Suburban Pop. Hip Hop rhythms and cadences with a few references to southern rural "culture" and whisky. The real Country music is on the Americana charts, but the big money mega radio chains won't play it.
Randy | 10.03.15 @ 18:38
Yep, I agree w/ Victor, put it all in a 'Tip Jar' and split it at the end of the year
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.01.20 @ 11:37