Theoriginsof country music trace back to Atlanta, Georgia in the 1920’s. While most music genres change over time, the heart and soul of country music has much remained the same. Due to its worldwide popularity, country music has turned many talented solo artists, duos, and bands into legends.
With great success in country music comes fame and fortune. The most successful country music stars sell out arenas across the world. With a fan base that extends far and wide from the Great Lakes of Michigan to California, Australia, Europe and beyond, fans buy concert tickets in record breaking time. As a result of their loyal following and incredible talent, some of these industry stars are earning well over $20 million per year.
Who are the highest paid musicians in the country music industry? We found the 10 most successful country music stars to date. You might be surprised by some of the people who made the list. Let’s start with a duo that is fairly new to country music but has already found great success with their country-meets-pop music feel.
#10 – Florida Georgia Line ($24 Million/Year)
Die-hard country music fans dislike Georgia Line, as they consider them to be the “Nickelback of Country Music.” This comparison is made because of the very formulaic way that the duo’s songs are composed, lacking depth and meaning. Even the genre that Florida Georgia Line falls into is referred to as Bro-country. Still, with a lot of detractors, it is undeniable that Florida Georgia Line is doing just fine for themselves money-wise.
The tour dates for the duo (comprised of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard) routinely sell out, which is pretty impressive for a band that didn’t really start until 2011. Florida Georgia Line also tours with some of the biggest names in country, many of whom we will see later in this list. The end of 2014 saw the release of the duo’s second album, “Anything Goes”. That late boost in record sales helped solidify their place in the top 10 highest-paid country stars.
#9 – George Strait ($26 Million/Year)
Even at 62 years old, George Strait is still rocking. Known by many as the “King of Country,” George Strait has maintained both his classic cowboy look and massive popularity since the 80’s. Strait has earned countless awards throughout his career, including the 2014 ACM Entertainer of the Year award and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Strait still had room for one final tour in his career, which kicked off in January 2013.
The “Cowboy Rides Away Tour” didn’t end until June of 2014, packing in a whopping 47 concerts. Strait played his final show at the AT&T Stadium, which is (appropriately) home to the Dallas Cowboys. The stadium holds over 100,000 fans and 104,000 of them showed up to see Strait’s career come to an end. It was a record breaking show for a concert, destroying the previous record of 87,500 in attendance by the Rolling Stones.
#8 – Rascal Flatts ($27 Million/Year)
Rascal Flatts got their start in 1999 in the city of Columbus, Ohio. Despite Columbus not being known as a hotbed for country music, Rascal Flatts made it to the big time anyways, with a total of 26 songs on the Billboard Top 20 Country Music Charts. 2014 proved to be an interesting year for the trio; their tour had been quite a success, but they also faced some controversy. Due to overusing their vocals on tour, lead singer Gary LeVox admitted that the band lip synced their performance at the ACM Awards.
While admitting to lip syncing bothered some, owning up to the act and having a legitimate excuse didn’t keep people away from the band’s shows. Their tour was known as the “Rewind Tour” and featured musician greats, Sheryl Crow and Gloriana. Rascal Flatts is going back on the road in 2015 for the “Riot Tour” and they’ll be joined by Scotty McCreery and Craig Wayne Boyd.
#7 – Keith Urban ($28 Million/Year)
Keith Urban might be in his late 40’s, but his haircut would suggest that he’s still in his 20’s. Urban was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia. He found massive success after he moved to the United States in the early 1990’s. For nearly 25 years now, Urban has released hit after hit. His career hasn’t slowed down at all with recent hits like “Cop Car”, “Somewhere in My Car” and “Raise ‘Em Up”.
While Urban’s music continues to make him a lot of money, the bulk of his recent earnings have stemmed from reality television. He was a vocal coach in the Australian version of “The Voice” in 2011, but left after just one season. Now, Keith Urban is one of the judges on “American Idol” alongside Jennifer Lopez and fellow country star, Harry Connick, Jr. Urban also has his own guitar line that has sold more than 40,000 units.
#6 – Zac Brown Band ($29 Million/Year)
Georgia, the Zac Brown Band has a total of eight members, with the most obvious being Zac Brown himself. Although the band hasn’t released an album since 2012, their songs have been successful enough to provide them with a few years of touring. The Zac Brown Band has had eight number one hits on the country charts since 2008 alone, and two of their singles have reached number two. Fans are very excited for the band’s long-awaited new album which will debut in 2015. It will surely hold a few more chart-topping singles.
The Zac Brown Band is currently collaborating with big names, to include; Dave Grohl, Sheryl Crow and Clare Bowen. The future seems bright for the squeaky clean band that also runs a non-profit camp in Georgia to educate children through the power of music. It’s unclear how the eight members split their music earnings, but they seem to have it down.
#5 – Luke Bryan ($34 Million/Year)
Luke Bryan didn’t get his start in country music by singing. Instead, Bryan actually wrote songs for both Travis Tritt and Billy Currington. Bryan finally got his big break in 2007 with the album “I’ll Stay Me”. Since then, Bryan’s album names have gotten progressively more ‘country’ with “Doin’ My Thing”, “Tailgates and Tanlines” and “Crash My Party”. Bryan has also headlined two tours, with a third one coming in late 2015.
Just to get an idea of how many hits that Bryan has produced in his short amount of time as a singer, he has been a part of 17 singles that have reached the Top 5 in the Country Music charts, with many of them going straight to number one. Bryan even won the 2014 Billboard award as the Top Country Artist and the Top Country Album. You can probably expect Bryan to be on this list for at least a few more years to come.
#4 – Jason Aldean ($37 Million/Year)
Jason Aldean started out in country music in 2001, and gained popularity after signing with Broken Bow Records in 2005. In the last 10 years, Aldean has been able to pump out six studio albums, with the most popular being “My Kinda Party” in 2010. 21 of his singles have reached the Top 10 on the Country Music charts, and 12 of them have taken the number one spot.
It’s not just Aldean’s music that has him raking in the cash. He owns a stake in Buck Commander, which is also co-owned by the guys from “Duck Dynasty”, who founded the Duck Commander. It’s undeniable that music has been good to Aldean. His latest tour, the “Burn It Down Tour”, has featured Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Farr, Miranda Lambert and Kenny Chesney, who just happens to be next on this list.
#3 – Kenny Chesney ($44 Million/Year)
Kenny Chesney has been one of the biggest names in country music for over a decade. He has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and has had nearly two dozen number one hits. For four straight years, the ACM named Chesney as the Entertainer of the Year. His tours are also massively popular and they typically turn into a big party. Even though Chesney hasn’t gone on tour since 2013, he’s still making big dough.
Chesney will be back on the road in 2015 with Jason Aldean, Eric Church and others. Perhaps his most notable tour to date was the “Flip-Flop Summer Tour” with Brooks and Dunn and Taylor Swift. Chesney’s latest album, “The Big Revival”, has been a big hit, and appropriately enough is the name of his next tour. At 46 years old, there’s still plenty of time for Chesney to take the number one spot on our list, but he’s facing some stiff competition.
#2 – Taylor Swift ($64 Million/Year)
Listing Taylor Swift might be cheating a little since she has started to move away from country music in favor of pop music, but we can’t deny that she can still bring it with a country song. Swift moved to Nashville when she was just 14 years old to start her country music career and became an almost instant success. It doesn’t feel like it’s been nine years since Swift released her first album, especially since she’s only 25.
Swift is already in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and has racked up a total of 37 major awards for her music. Her latest album, “1989”, is on its way to being the biggest album of the year by far. Due to the album’s massive hits, Swift is going on a 79 show tour starting in May. There’s no doubt that she will have the most successful tour of the year.
#1 – Toby Keith ($65 Million/Year)
You might be surprised that Toby Keith edged out Taylor Swift, but Keith’s investment portfolio is more diverse than anyone else on our list. Keith owns the “I Love This Bar and Grill” restaurants, which are named after one of his hit songs that came out well over a decade ago. He is also a spokesman for Ford trucks, which pays him millions of dollars each year. On top of all that, Keith is still a big draw in music.
Keith has been on tour just about every year since the dawn of the new millennium. His latest tour, called the “Hammer Down Under Tour”, was in 2014 and also featured Kellie Pickler and Eli Young. Keith has plenty of hits to choose from. He’s had 60 singles, including 20 that have reached number one on the Country Music charts. Keith isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but being the richest person in country music probably makes it easy for him to ignore the haters.