Who's Got the Power?: The Musicians on Forbes's Most Powerful Celebrities List
The "On The Floor" video
Fame and fortune might not be the ultimate goal for every person to ever write a song or learn an instrument, but it is for a lot of people out there. It would be lovely to believe that music is done 100% of the time for the "right" reasons, but most of us are cynical enough to know otherwise.
Some artists eke out meager existences. Some find a certain level of minor success. Others are full-blown A-list superstars. Superstars (be they from music, sports or film) get the fame and the fortune, and with that comes the power.
Forbes magazine tries to quantify that power with their World's Most Powerful Celebrities list. Like every yearly list, this one provides an interesting snapshot for a certain moment in time. Although put down in print, it's ultimately ephemeral.
The list will change next year; that much is certain. But what can we learn from the 2012 edition?
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The Power of Television: If you don't watch American Idol or listen to pop radio, the idea that Jennifer Lopez (No. 1) could be the most powerful anything is probably baffling. Consider who she was before Idol: Her public perception was that of an over-the-top diva, her acting career was largely a bust and she hadn't had a hit single in almost a decade.
Post-Idol, she tops the list of most powerful celebrities. Twitter fans and album sales are great, but the ability to get beamed into millions of households on a regular basis for free is the kind of advantage that even the most talented artists can't overcome.
Music Matters. The list of musicians just barely edges out actors/actresses for most names on the list. Musicians make up a fifth of the total list, four of the Top 5 and six of the Top 10. Impressive numbers, especially when you consider how weak musicians are when it comes to the money rankings.
So with only three musicians listed in the Top 20 earners of the list, how are so many at the top of the overall chart? Internet popularity. Musicians have more followers and are the subject of more Web searches than most other celebrity professions. Look at the image above to see the top four celebrities on the list ranked in terms of social media; all four are musical artists.
Women on Top: Female artists only take up eight of the 22 musicians' spots on the list, but all of them are in the Top 25. For the women of the list it was a pretty good year, but it's weird to see them so high, then compare that to their current places in pop music.
Summer is coming up and while some of them have singles out, none of them are pushing new albums. Lopez has a single but isn't sure if it's from a new project or her greatest hits. Lady Gaga (No. 5) hasn't released a new single this year. Katy Perry (No. 8) has a single promoting her album's rerelease. Of the females listed in the Top 10, only Rihanna (No. 4) has a single promoting her most recent release, and even then Talk That Talk came out last year. One wonders what the lack of a summer push will do for their rankings next year.
The Names That Aren't Listed. A lot of the names you'd expect to see are on the list -- Justin Bieber (No. 3), Gaga, Jay-Z (No. 38), Kanye West (No. 45). A lot of names on the list are ones you wouldn't think of at first but that do make sense when you consider their non-musical business ventures: Elton John (No. 17), Dr. Dre (No. 26), Toby Keith (No. 49).
The poll methodology might say otherwise, but does Drake really have less influence than Skrillex (No. 92)? What about Eminem? Kenny Chesney's (No. 53) name is listed first on their tour, but is Brother of the Sun Tim McGraw that far behind? Control over Cash Money doesn't give Birdman enough power to make it on the list? Lopez might be No. 1, but she's also the only Latin musician ranked -- the Dr. Pepper deal wasn't enough to get Pitbull on the list? And speaking of things that are missing...
Less Rock, More Dance. ...Where are all the rock groups on this list? Obviously U2 will show up next year on the strength of Bono's Facebook holdings, but what about the Coldplays and Radioheads of the world? Roger Waters didn't make enough behind The Wall tour to squeak in the late 90s? Jennifer Lopez's fellow judge Steven Tyler couldn't parlay his judging gig into more? Kudos to John, Paul McCartney (No. 21) and Jon Bon Jovi (No. 25) for holding it down for rock, but no contemporary rock acts is a bit of a downer.
On the other hand, appearances by Tiësto (No. 84) and Skrillex are yet another indicator of just how well EDM is doing. The idea of a DJ/producer on the list might have seemed unreal five years ago, but now it doesn't seem particularly strange at all.
One wonders just how far down on the list you would have had to go to find Skrillex on the 2011 list -- the 2,000-3,000 range if not further? A lot of people might be having good years, but his might just have been the greatest of all.
Curious about how Forbes came up with the list? View the methodology here.
1. Jennifer Lopez 3. Justin Bieber 4. Rihanna 5. Lady Gaga 6. Britney Spears 8. Katy Perry 11. Taylor Swift 16. Beyoncé Knowles 17. Elton John 21. Paul McCartney 24. Adele 25. Bon Jovi 26. Dr. Dre 38. Jay-Z 42. Sean "Diddy" Combs 45. Kanye West 49. Toby Keith 53. Kenny Chesney 68. Brad Paisley 69. Lil Wayne 84. Tiësto 92. Skrillex
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