Billboard has made its name keeping tabs on the most popular music through the years, and “top 40” has become synonymous with “this music generally makes me puke.” has been posting another kind of top 40 list for the last four years, and this year’s might also make you puke if you’ve been feeling the effects of the current Great Recession. It’s “Music’s Top 40 Money Makers“, and some of the cream of the crop are absurd.

As one might expect in the era of dwindling CD sales, the top dogs are making money based on other endeavors. This year’s list “[comprises], among other variables, monies earned from CD and digital sales, publishing royalties and all forms of streaming,” according to the article. And of course tours. The top earner last year (it’s not even close, folks) was U2. With a whopping $108,601,283 made, U2’s figures reached almost twice as much as number two guy Bruce Springsteen. Bono and co. can thank — or pat themselves on the back for — the huge 360° tour for making them (and Africa) so wealthy. Other tours bringing in the dough: Madonna’s record-setting “Sticky & Sweet” tour, the Jonas Brothers’ world tour, Kenny Chesney’s tour (1 million tickets sold for seven consecutive years), and Metallica’s arena tour, which drew close to a million fans in 2009 (Guitar Hero: Metallica was good for some loose change, too). Metallica’s only 10th on the list but earned $25.5 million. Major labels may be irrelevant, but you can’t argue with these figures. Sheesh.

Other artists making the list include the late Michael Jackson, who sold truckloads of CD’s and ringtones; dutch violinst Andre Rieu on his 30th-anniversary tour; Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which has found a genius niche that is not likely to abandon the band anytime soon; and Leonard Cohen, who needed the money and apparently chose a reliable way to make it. The list also includes the names you expect to see there: Nickelback, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Beyonce. Not among 2009’s biggest earners: Lady GaGa, Black Eyed Peas, and Kanye West, despite being everywhere all the time.


Check out the full list here.