Music fans have always reserved the right to identify with the popular artists of their time while harshly judging the tastes of the generations that follow them.
Those who came of age during World War II had Frank Sinatra, and they recoiled in horror when children of the 1950s embraced Elvis Presley. Today’s highest-earning musicians reflect the tastes of two of the largest generations alive in America, baby boomers and millennials, but their tastes are fairly complementary. The influence of baby boomers and millennials on music is the subject of today’s post, which is part of a series that examines the broader themes evident in the Forbes ranking of 2015’s highest paid musicians.
The annual Forbes list, created by Zack O’Malley Greenburg, is a snapshot of the music industry. In 2015, O’Malley Greenburg ranked 30 musicians, who reflect genres ranging from country to hip-hop. Collectively, they earned nearly $1.5 billion. All of them made huge bucks. The lowest ranking musicians, Dr. Dre and Maroon 5, made $33 million each. The entire list looks like this:
|1||Katy Perry||$135 million|
|2||One Direction||$130 million|
|3||Garth Brooks||$90 million|
|4||Taylor Swift||$80 million|
|5||The Eagles||$73.5 million|
|6||Calvin Harris||$66 million|
|7||Justin Timberlake||$63.5 million|
|9||Fleetwood Mac||$59.5 million|
|10||Lady Gaga||$59 million|
|11||The Rolling Stones||$57.5 million|
|12||Ed Sheeran||$57 million|
|13||Jay Z||$56 million|
|15||Elton John||$53.5 million|
|16||Toby Keith||$53 million|
|17||Paul McCartney||$51.5 million|
|18||Michael Buble||$45.4 million|
|19||Jason Aldean||$43.5 million|
|20||Luke Bryan||$42.5 million|
|21||Kenny Chesney||$42 million|
|22||Bruno Mars||$40 million|
|24||Foo Fighters||$38 million|
|Tim McGraw||$38 million|
|26||David Guetta||$37 million|
|27||Florida Georgia Line||$36.5 million|
|28||Jimmy Buffett||$36 million|
|30||Maroon 5||$33 million|
|Dr. Dre||$33 million|
Many of the names on this list, ranging from the Rolling Stones to Justin Timberlake, reflect the collective tastes of baby boomers and millennials, who comprise 158.5 million Americans, or about half the total U.S. population. (Millennials overtook baby boomers as the largest age block in 2015.). Both groups continue to influence American culture even as more baby boomers age their way out of the work force each year.
Baby Boomer Acts: Adapting to New Rules
The top earners of the baby boomer era — Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Garth Brooks, Elton John, Toby Keith, Paul McCartney, and the Rolling Stones — represent the last gasp of an age when musicians could build careers by releasing million-selling albums and then touring to boost the album sales. They are all white, reflecting the whiteness of the baby boomer generation.