The singer has come top of an influential list charting the world’s highest earning celebrities thanks to her lucrative recent tour.
Although the 55-year-old’s latest record, MDMA, failed to reach the heights of previous releases, the blow was softened by the millions generated by a string of international concerts.
In the 12 months to the end of June, she made more than £80 million ($125m), mainly from her £197m grossing MDMA tour, but bolstered by sales of branded clothing, fragrances, and investments. Veteran film director Steven Spielberg took second place in the annual Forbes Celebrity 100 list, while musical talent show mogul Simon Cowell tied for third with Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James and disc jockey Howard Stern.
Dumfries-born Calvin Harris also made the grade. The 29-year-old, who has enjoyed a string of hits to become the highest-paid DJ in the world, came in joint 40th place with earnings of £29m ($46m).
Dorothy Pomerantz, the reporter who compiled the data, said the fact Madonna had made the top spot demonstrated the benefits of longevity, drawing a parallel with 27-year-old Lady Gaga, who placed joint ninth with earnings of £51m ($80m), thanks to her successful Born This Way Ball world tour.
She said: “Madonna’s success, at 55, just goes to show the incredible power of a successful music career. [Lady Gaga] is certainly emulating Madonna when it come to raking in money.”
Spielberg, who enjoyed success with Lincoln, the award-winning film starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the US president Abraham, earned around £64m ($100m) over the 12 months, helped by ongoing sales of movies such as Jurassic Park and ET, which remain TV staples.
“Last year’s Lincoln was a critical and financial hit earning £177m on a budget of £42m,” said Ms Pomerantz. “Now Spielberg’s DreamWorks is starting to show some real strength on television. The studio’s latest show, Under the Dome, is one of the few bright spots on broadcast television.”
Cowell, who has become a powerful international television executive thanks to programmes like the X Factor, which has been sold to dozens of countries around the world, took home £61m ($95m) over the period, the same as writer James – whose publishing phenomenon is now being turned into a movie – and Howard Stern, the US shock-jock who has his own network and is paid close to £10m a year as a judge on America’s Got Talent.
Forbes compiles its annual list of celebrity earnings using input from agents, managers, producers and others to calculate its estimates for each celebrity’s earnings. The figures do not reflect tax deductions, agent fees or “the other expenses of being a celebrity”.
Madonna’s top spot compares with her peak of £71m in 2009, but falls short of the £106m taken in by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in the previous year, Forbes said. Her earnings dropped to around £50m ($77m) after she took a pay cut.
Others in the top ten earners included US journalist Glenn Beck, director Michael Bay, best known for the Transformers franchise, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and thriller novelist James Patterson, who Forbes said was now the best-selling author of all time. There were also some big names outside the top ten. Golfer Tiger Woods was in 12th place with earnings of £50m ($78m), thanks to a return to form and sponsor bonuses from Nike and Rolex.
Robert Downey Jr, now one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood on the back of the Iron Man series, was in 15th place with earnings of £48m ($75m).
Other names in the top 20 included tennis ace Roger Federer, Law & Order producer Dick Wolf, talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, musician Toby Keith and reality TV show producer Mark Burnett. Other British entries included the band Coldplay, who earned £41m ($64m), and David Beckham, on £30m ($47m).
The full list can be viewed at www.forbes.com.