With over one million tickets sold on his 2008 Poets and Pirates tour and a lucrative endorsement deal with Corona, Kenny unseated last year's biggest moneymaker, Toby Keith. Rascal Flatts, who sold nearly a million concert tickets and landed a sponsorship deal with J.C. Penney, finish in second place with a $60 million year. And Toby, with restaurants, a clothing line and his acting career to fall back on, still managed to scrape together $52 million for the year, putting him in third place.
But it's 19-year-old Taylor Swift who's the real Cinderella story for 2008, earning $18 million. The biggest-selling solo artist of 2008, Swift sold more than four million albums for the year, and made history as the only artist to have two albums among the year-end top 10. Her first headlining tour kicks off April 23.
The overall news for country album sales wasn't great. Sales fell 24 percent last year, second only to the decline in classical music sales. Overall, sales suffered a 14 percent drop in 2008. Earnings for most of the acts on Forbes' list increased over last year, mainly due to their heavy touring schedules.
Forbes compiled the list of top earners in country music by taking concert grosses, merchandise revenue, album sales and income from endorsement and licensing deals all into consideration, and estimating gross earnings for the 12 months beginning June 2008. Earnings for May 2009 were projected.
Forbes 10 Top-Earning Country Stars (and their estimated earnings):
1. Kenny Chesney ($65 million)
2. Rascal Flatts ($60 million)
3. Toby Keith ($52 million)
4. Taylor Swift ($18 million)
5. (tie) Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw ($16 million)
7. Brad Paisley ($15 million)
8. (tie) Sugarland, Carrie Underwood ($14 million)
10. Alan Jackson ($12 million)