FORBES was once a super prestigious publication, and during much of the eighties and nineties, it was the go to publication to celebrate anything financial.
Back then we were in the middle of a period where capitalism and globalisation were growing realities, and through its careful and conservative analysis of financial trends, it came out on top as the leading financial voice.
Back then the novelty of seeing pop stars and actors on its annual Celebrity Rich List was funny but proof that the entertainment industry was getting more and more corporate even if it injected a little colour into the otherwise stuffy, corporate world.
Any good editor knows a good annual list can boost sales, and help establish your publication as a reliable reference point and the celebrity list was Forbes' foot in the door to wider audiences.
It's a tactic that many publications today use as a template.
Looking at this year's Celebrity list, published by Forbes in recent weeks, the results indicate that not much has changed since its nineties hey day.
It's still very much the nineties in entertainment land. We've got two boxers that have taken out pole position and that of runner up, (one of whom has had alleged run ins with domestic violence: sound familiar?), followed by a swathe of music acts, including Katy Perry, who has polled in at #3, and in doing so is both the top female earner of the year as well as the top earning musician.
And can I just say, Garth Brooks. WTF? How nineties is that!!
Forbes has struggled to maintain its prestige with the dawn of electronic media. It's tough for a b*tch to survive with so much competition these days, especially when being older and respected doesn't help you attract you new readers. Cruel isn't it?
These days it's arguably The Economist that is the go to for in depth financial analysis but Forbes still has its lists, and they never fail to attract interest.
For a publication whose top earners list basically reminds us that women remain underpaid and undervalued compared to their male counterparts, it comes as a surprise that some of Forbes' contributing writers (to its blogs at least) indulge in some fame shaming. Some seem keen to celebrate any perceived failings of high profile female acts, and are routinely pitting them against each other.
I won't mention names, but a google search will yield results that suggest some of these contributing writers think they are writing for dazed or vice. #get #real.
Anyway, this $$$ list is basically evidence that being a successful woman in pop means being a young woman in pop (this year at least: maybe we're only obsessed with youth this year...ermm).
Let's face it. Record labels will only get behind an older (and by older, I mean 40) woman's album if she agrees to record some covers or to put out a greatest hits album. If she's 40 or above, something strange happens, in complete opposite to men. A woman suddenly doesn't have any new stories to tell and no audience to tell it to.
We as audiences in the West routinely shame people if they "act" young, but at the same time we crucify them if they try something new or repeat themselves. Actually, that's not true. We don't do that to people. It only applies to women. Elton John, Paul McCartney, U2 et al, they can all do what they want. It happens more in Anglo countries than it seems to in Europe for example, where time tends to bring nostalgia and respect towards female acts. There's other shit going on here: but age is less of an issue in popular culture here.
Earnings come from touring, investments, record sales and royalties. The list is as much about wise investments and sound business choices, but it's interesting to note that 53 year old Garth Brooks comes in at No.6. 68 year old Elton John comes in at No.31. The oldest female on the list is Britney Spears(!). She's 33 y'all (and polls in at #82). Like Elton, she hasn't had a hit in a while, but it's okay, like Elton she's a live act now, doing her greatest hits...wait, how old is she?
So while it's great that acts like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift are currently the big guns (with a bit of bad blood between them), in the context of industry earnings they are already at their peak. They'll need a bit more time to amass a back catalogue to help them eventually become bankable, evergreen touring acts, but who knows how many more records we'll support from them in the meantime to grow those collections. Tick tock, tick tock.
And in the meantime? Expect more blogs from contributing writers that continue to reinforce rather than overcome the typical female narratives, and a general reluctance to say anything supportive in the media to any female musician over the age of 40.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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