Madonna the top-earning musician of 2008

If anyone had any doubt that touring is where the money is in today's music business, a look at Billboard's top moneymakers of 2008 should hammer the point home.

Regardless of genre, retail sales or radio play, each of the 20 acts on the moneymakers list toured last year. For almost all of them, touring generated the most revenue. And in a year when recorded-music sales declined yet again, many earned more at the box office than ever before.

Madonna was No. 1 on the list with 242.2 million U.S. dollars. She had the 50th-best-selling album in the country and ranked 14th on the list of digital track sellers -- but had the highest-earning 2008 tour.

Madonna was followed on the moneymakers list by Bon Jovi with 157.2 million dollars, Bruce Springsteen (156.3 million dollars), the Police (110 million dollars), Celine Dion (99.2 million dollars), Kenny Chesney (90.8 million dollars), Neil Diamond (82.2 million dollars), Rascall Flatts (63.5 million dollars), Jonas Brothers (62.6 million dollars) and Coldplay (62.2 million dollars).

The top-five moneymakers are also the five acts that earned the most on tour, and in the same order, according to Billboard Boxscore.

Those questioning whether Madonna rates the reported 10-year, 120 million dollars multi-rights deal with concert promoter Live Nation might reconsider. Madonna's Sticky & Sweet tour took in 229.9 million dollars at the box office, although the extravagant production might have cost up to 40% of that gross, according to industry estimates. The margin is much better on tour merchandise, where Madonna probably raked in more than 18 million dollars in sales, not counting her licensing business.

Of course, nothing helps reduce tour production costs like more touring. So Madonna will perform another run of concerts this summer -- 25 shows in the U.K. and Europe -- which will add to the take of the top-grossing tour by a female or solo artist.

Outside of the U.K., all of Madonna's concerts will be in stadiums, so she'll gross several million dollars per night. By fall, Sticky & Sweet will have run for 80 shows and earned a place in the top-five grossing tours in history.