Garth Brooks managed to not only become the highest-earning country musician of the last year, but he also brought in the most cash ever by a performer in that genre, according to Forbes and its annual Country Cash Kings list. The biggest performer of the '90s from that scene has brought in more than $90 million, according to the list. Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan did well, but came in far behind Brooks.
His status seems to confirm the long-held belief that musicians make most of their income from the road. Brooks has been touring the country for nearly a year on the back of his "World Tour" (which hasn't actually left the United States yet) and has put in 73 shows during 2015 alone. His strategy is unprecedented: Although the average ticket price for a show is relatively low, he continues to add shows at every venue until he can't sell out any more (or it's just time to move on), thus milking the market for all it's worth. The approach has made his tour the no. 4 highest-earner among live musicians this year, according to Pollstar's recent midyear report.
Of course, the no. 2 individual on the list suggests that there are plenty of ways for musicians to make music besides touring. Toby Keith brought in $53 million over the last year, partially thanks to live shows, but much more thanks to his ownership in a restaurant chain and other business ventures.
It's arguable who the biggest figure in country music is, in terms of music, but Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean certainly come to mind. The latter outsold the former during the last year, apparently, coming in at no. 3 on the Country Cash Kings list. Aldean earned $43.3 million thanks to an arena tour. Of course, the boost he got over Bryan may be the result of releasing a new album in the last 12 months, Old Boots, New Dirt. Bryan came in just behind Aldean with earnings of $42.5 million, but you can bet that things will be switched next year thanks to Kill The Lights—the new album from Bryan, which will drop on August 7.
Kenny Chesney comes in at no. 5 thanks to a combination of touring and business: He headlined several stadium concerts and also has deals with Corona and Blue Chair Bay rum. Alcohol pays, apparently.