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Kenny Chesney Makes Bank

In a year punctuated by buzzwords like ‘bailout,’ ‘foreclosure’ and ‘economic downturn,’ it’s nice to know there are a few country stars who still managed to keep the electric bill paid. Forbes magazine has crowned Kenny Chesney country music’s top moneymaker for 2008. The singer raked in an estimated $65 million for the magazine’s survey year.

With over one million tickets sold on his 2008 Poets and Pirates tour and a lucrative endorsement deal with Corona, Kenny unseated last year’s biggest moneymaker, Toby Keith. Rascal Flatts, who sold nearly a million concert tickets and landed a sponsorship deal with J.C. Penney, finish in second place with a $60 million year. And Toby, with restaurants, a clothing line and his acting career to fall back on, still managed to scrape together $52 million for the year, putting him in third place.

But it’s 19-year-old Taylor Swift who’s the real Cinderella story for 2008, earning $18 million. The biggest-selling solo artist of 2008, Swift sold more than four million albums for the year, and made history as the only artist to have two albums among the year-end top 10. Her first headlining tour kicks off April 23.

The overall news for country album sales wasn’t great. Sales fell 24 percent last year, second only to the decline in classical music sales. Overall, sales suffered a 14 percent drop in 2008. Earnings for most of the acts on Forbes’ list increased over last year, mainly due to their heavy touring schedules.

Forbes compiled the list of top earners in country music by taking concert grosses, merchandise revenue, album sales and income from endorsement and licensing deals all into consideration, and estimating gross earnings for the 12 months beginning June 2008. Earnings for May 2009 were projected.

Forbes 10 Top-Earning Country Stars (and their estimated earnings):

1. Kenny Chesney ($65 million)
2. Rascal Flatts ($60 million)
3. Toby Keith ($52 million)
4. Taylor Swift ($18 million)
5. (tie) Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw ($16 million)
7. Brad Paisley ($15 million)
8. (tie) Sugarland, Carrie Underwood ($14 million)
10. Alan Jackson ($12 million)


    Sexy couple Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban shopping for fragrance in Santa Monica at Fred Segal store Feb23, 2009


    Jimmy Wayne pays a visit to the set of ABC’s ‘Extreme Home Makeover,’ on location in Montgomery, Ala.

    Courtesy of the Valory Music Co.

    Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift arrives to the 51st Annual GRAMMY Awards at the Staples Center on February 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

    Musician Keith Urban, actress Nicole Kidman and musician Paul McCartney in the audience at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

    Larry Busacca, Getty Images

    Lady Antebellum arrives at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

    LeAnn Rimes, left, and Sheryl Crow present the award for best country performance by a duo or group at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009, in Los Angeles.

    Country singer Trace Adkins arrives at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on February 8, 2009. Adkins is nominated for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.

    Musician Jamey Johnson arrives at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

    Kenny Chesney performs at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009, in Los Angeles.

    Carrie Underwood holds the Grammy award for the Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “Last Name”, in the photo room of the 51st annual Grammy awards held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on February 8, 2009.

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