Revealed: Top of the pop millionaires

Rock finances: Money, it's a gas for the golden oldies heading league table in survey of music's richest 30
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Ageing rockers dominate a league table of pop star earnings published today with the singer-songwriter-actor Phil Collins topping the list by a massive margin.

The 44-year-old musician earned more than pounds 24m, according to his most recent accounts, twice as much as his nearest rival, the singer Elton John, 48.

Eric Clapton, Sting and the band members of Pink Floyd, Genesis and Queen are among the other rock millionaires revealed in the analysis of company records, whose move into middle age goes some way to explain the millions of pounds they have put aside for pensions.

Phil Collins paid premiums of more than pounds 6m in the past three years and Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd paid more than pounds 3m over two years.

Out of the highest disclosed earners, only Rochdale's soul singer Lisa Stansfield, 29, struck a blow for the younger generation by sneaking into the top 20 at number 19.

Virtually nothing is revealed about the financial affairs of the new giants of pop - Blur, Oasis, Take That or Pulp. Neither do the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Rod Stewart, who have based their finances abroad, appear.

Cliff Dane, a former music industry finance director who has trawled Company House records for the survey, speculates there could be as many as a thousand rock millionaires with assets approaching pounds 5bn.

His analysis is based on the most recent returns filed, and indicates that although earnings were down slightly on the year before, there is long-term evidence of substantial increases.

Yet Britain's importance in the world pop market is in decline. "Despite the recent revival of confidence in the UK industry and the emergence of 'Britpop', the UK's falling share of the key US market and the growing emergence of national repertoire in other markets has meant that the UK cannot really expect to maintain its world market share," Mr Dane said.

Artists of UK origin probably receive between 12 and 15 per cent of the estimated global rock and pop earnings of pounds 6.5bn, he added. Merchandising is the big earner for performers because they, rather than the record companies, get the bulk of the profit.

Income from live performances can be substantial for the most successful, like Dire Straits, whose members Mark Knopfler and John Illsley earned pounds 18.2m in the year of the On Every Street album and tour, falling to pounds 4.8m last year.

But many of the bands earn little other than recognition.

Some of pop's biggest names have kept details of their income secret. Mick Hucknall, of Simply Red, Elvis Costello, Duran Duran and Dina Carroll reveal nothing in their accounts. Deacon Blue and Robert Smith of the Cure were among those to have taken advantage of special exemptions for small companies not to disclose details.

But among the curiosities that do emerge is investment in traditional country pursuits like riding, hunting, fishing and shooting.

Joan Armatrading lost around pounds 400,000 on a stud farm and Justin Hayward even more from bloodstock breeding. Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks of Genesis have an estate on the Isle of Mull which made pounds 5,000 from the sale of Christmas trees, pounds 2,000 from the sale of venison and game and pounds 42,000 in grants.

The key to success lies in establishing international acclaim, writing your own material and restricting the number of people you work with, Mr Dane said. Ali Campbell does not sell as many records on his own as he did with the eight-man UB40 but his share is much greater as a solo artist.

Having a strong contract and a good accountant helps. George Michael, whose annual income is down to pounds 808,000 compared with a pounds 14m peak, proved how disastrous contract disputes can be when his bitter row with Sony kept him out of the recording studio.

Evidence in the trial of Keith Moore, the accountant who was jailed for stealing around pounds 6m from Sting, showed how artists can shield large elements of their world-wide earnings from UK tax.

In Britain, many of those surveyed were found to channel their income through companies, taking advantage of tax breaks. The accounts of Jim Kerr, the vocalist of Simple Minds, for example, do not actually show his earnings but fees paid to his company, Jim Kerr Ltd, for his services. Several stars have relations as directors. Morrissey, the lyricist of the now disbanded Smiths, has his mother listed as a 50 per cent shareholder in his companies.