Despite MDNA flop, Madonna tops Forbes' celebrity high-earners list

Her album may have sold under a million records, but the Material Girl's MDNA tour raked in $305 million

When Madonna told fans grumbling about the £125 price of tickets for her concerts to “start saving” because “I’m worth it” she had a point. The Material Girl was named the world’s highest-paid celebrity by Forbes, after raking in an estimated $125 million (£80 million) in the past year.

Despite her MDNA album proving a flop, the accompanying high-priced tour filled stadiums, grossing $305 million.

Madonna, 55, topped up her income with strong merchandise sales and income from her clothing line, fragrance and strategic investments in brands such as the celebrity-endorsed coconut water drink, Vita Coco.

Click here to see the Forbes' highest-paid celebrities in pictures

Madonna’s pulling power kept her comfortably ahead of the pretender to her pop crown, Lady Gaga, 27, who ranked tenth in the list, with earnings of $80 million (£51 million).

Madonna enjoyed her highest-paid year yet, Forbes said, topping the $110 million (£70 million) she pocketed in 2009. Despite a slump in record sales, Madonna took her live shows to territories she had never previously visited, including the UAE, Ukraine and Colombia. Fans appear willing to pay ticket prices, soaring far ahead of inflation, to see the “legends” of rock and pop.

“Madonna's success, at age 55, just goes to show the incredible power of a successful music career,” Forbes reporter Dorothy Pomerantz said.

However Madonna fell short of the $165m (£105 million) earned by Oprah Winfrey in the previous year, Forbes said. The talk show queen and media mogul took a big pay cut this year according to Forbes, falling to No 13 on the list with earnings of $77 million (£50 million).

Director Steven Spielberg came a distant second to Madonna on the list, with earnings of $100 million (£64 million) last year, most of which came from his back catalogue of hits including E.T. and Jurassic Park. He also gets a cut of all tickets sold at Universal’s theme parks.

E.L. James, the 50 Shades of Grey author, who earned $95 million (£61 million), tied for third place with US “shock jock” Howard Stern and Simon Cowell.

James’s trilogy has sold 70 million copies worldwide and a film is now in the works at Universal Studios. Stern enjoyed earnings from his satellite radio contract. Whilst The X Factor and Got Talent formats, which air in dozens of countries, continue to generate income for Cowell.

Glenn Beck, the controversial American political pundit, demonstrated that there is money to be made from web broadcasting by pulling in $90 million (£58 million). The conservative former Fox News commentator signed up 30,000 subscribers to his internet television network, TheBlaze TV.

Forbes compiles its annual list of celebrity earnings using input from agents, managers and producers. The figures do not reflect tax deductions, agent fees or “the other expenses of being a celebrity”. The figures are calculated for the twelve months from June 2012.

Forbes ten highest-paid celebrities 2012-13:

1. Madonna: $125 million

2. Steven Spielberg: $100 million

= 3. Simon Cowell: $95 million

= 3. E.L. James: $95 million

= 3. Howard Stern: $95 million

6. James Patterson: $91 million

7. Glenn Beck: $90 million

8. Michael Bay: $82 million

9. Jerry Bruckheimer: $80 million

10. Lady Gaga: $95 million

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