As we approach this year's end some Taiwanese media outlets have been estimating the value of Taiwan's leading entertainment figures - and the lists make pretty interesting reading. United Daily News (UDN) for example has estimated the ten highest earning singers in 2009, based on record sales, concerts, endorsements and other commercial events - see the article here, but in Chinese.
Leading the pack by the proverbial mile is the megastar of Mandopop, Jay Chou (周杰伦, pinyin: Zhōu Jiélún). His earnings in 2009 were an estimated $550 million (New Taiwan Dollars, equal to about US$17 million), with the largest portion of it coming from endorsements. His earnings were also boosted by his concert tour and film appearances, including the Hollywood production of The Green Hornet. It helps also that he has a (successful) finger in so many pies: singing, songwriting, acting, directing, record producing and, most recently, TV production.
All girl group S.H.E were in second place, earning NT$360 million (US$11.2 million) - obviously a lot of money but well behind Jay Chou's earnings. Again endorsements were the biggest contributers to S.H.E's fortunes, and concerts the next biggest. Surprisingly, neither S.H.E or Jay Chou released an album in 2009, highlighting how actual record sales make up only a small percentage of a singer's overall wealth.
The singer with the biggest album sales in 2009, Jolin Tsai (蔡依林, pinyin: Cài Yīlín), did come in third, but those album sales only contributed NT$20 million in Jolin's overall estimated earnings of NT$350 million (US$10.9 million). Her earnings were also boosted by sales from her recently launched fashion label. Jolin might even have finished in second place, considering she took three months off during the year.
The full list of the highest earning singers according to UDN is:
1. Jay Chou - estimated earnings NT$540 million
2. S.H.E - estimated earnings NT$360 million
3. Jolin Tsai - estimated earnings NT$350 million
4. Leehom Wang - estimated earnings NT$270 million
5. Mayday - NT$268 million
6. Wilber Pan - NT$267 million
7. Angela Zhang - NT$248 million
8. Show Luo - NT$220 million
9. A-mei Zhang - NT$159 million
10. Elva Hsiao - NT$100 million
Honourable mention goes to Super Band (纵贯线), the four music legends - Luo Dayou, Zhou Huajian, Jonathan Lee and Zhang Zhenyue - who got together for a limited time only (this blog post gives more information on the supergroup). They earned an estimated NT$100 million (US$3.1 million) during the past year, almost entirely from sales of concert ticket and record sales as the band shunned endorsements.
Meanwhile Apple Daily has created a list of the five highest earning actors and actresses (Chinese language article here), and it's interesting to see the massive disparity between the money pulled in by the singers compared to that by actors. Perhaps it reflects the esteem (or lack of it) that TV actors are held in by Taiwanese fans.
The TV/pop idol Jerry Yan (言承旭, pinyin: Yán Chéngxù - pictured right) was the richest actor this year. However his earnings of just NT$68 million (US$2.1 million) don't even get him into the top ten of a combined actor/singer chart. The 32 year old member of boy band F4 filled his bank account almost equally from his acting fee for the hit series Down With Love, merchandise sales and commercial events.
Rainie Yang (杨丞琳, pinyin: Yáng Chénglín), nicknamed the Cute Princess, was second on the list, and almost 80 percent of her NT$61.8 million (US$1.9 million) earnings were from endorsements. Love or Bread actor Joe Cheng (郑元畅, pinyin: Zhèng Yuánchàng) was number three, his earnings boosted considerably by some lucrative endorsement deals in mainland China.
Apple Daily's complete list of the five richest is:
1. Jerry Yan - estimated earnings NT$68 million
2. Rainie Yang - NT$61.8 million
3. Joe Cheng - NT$50.7 million
4. Vic Zhou - NT$41 million
5. Joe Chen - NT$35.7 million
Useful English versions of both articles can be found at the Asian Fanatics forum:
The 10 Top-Earning Taiwanese Singers of 2009
The 5 Top-Earning Taiwanese Drama Idol Actors/Actresses of 2009