Pop Life

Who's Got the Power?: The Musicians on Forbes's Most Powerful Celebrities List

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?

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.

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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia