For all its associations with rural America and working class life, country music is actually a pretty big business. So naturally, some musicians working in the genre can often expect to take home large paychecks – and you may be surprised by how much these down-to-earth singers really make.
30. Sam Hunt – $3 Million
Sam Hunt broke out onto the country music scene reasonably recently. In 2017 Forbes named him a "breakout superstar" primarily for his single "Body Like A Back Road," which went triple platinum. As of 2022, Hunt has put out three records. While "Body Like A Back Road" remains his most famous song — it was number 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart for 25 consecutive weeks — Hunt continues to make music and has given no indication of slowing down.
29. Chris Stapleton - $12 Million
Though Chris Stapleton is a seasoned veteran in the country music world, many fans were surprised when he was awarded the Best New Artist Award at the 2015 CMAs, at which point the star had been making music for 37 years. Stapleton took it in stride, and the joke might be on the Awards committee, since his "Traveller" album sold its 2 millionth copy only two years later. That's no beginner's luck!
28. Kacey Musgraves – $12 million
While she’s a relative newcomer to the country scene, Kacey Musgraves has already made her mark – monetarily, at least. Indeed, at only 28 years of age, the “Blowin’ Smoke” singer has earned an estimated $12 million through material like her half-a-million-selling debut Same Trailer Different Park. And with two Grammys under her belt, her career has also been fruitful in the awards stakes.
27. Eric Church – $14 Million
Beyond his incredible music, Church is beloved by fans for his above-and-beyond loyalty. He often releases songs to his fan club known as "the Church" for free, and during his "Holdin' My Own" tour, the country star canceled 25,000 tickets he suspected might have been held by scalpers — a bold move considering most of his annual income comes from touring.
26. Lee Ann Womack – $22 Million
Womack has been on the country music scene since her self-titled debut album was released in 1997. Since then, she's gone on to release eight more albums, including 'I Hope You Dance,' which, aside from being the choice song of every graduation for the next ten years, was a Billboard top-charter and remains her biggest hit single to date.
25. Hillary Scott – $25 million
Best known as the frontwoman of Lady Antebellum, Hillary Scott has also branched out as a solo artist. In 2016, for instance, the singer released the album Love Remains, which earned two Grammys and has sold 142,500 copies. Furthermore, Scott can boast of having approximately $25 million in the bank.
24. Willie Nelson – $25 million
He may be a legend in outlaw country, but Willie Nelson has a surprisingly small bank balance at $25 million. Part of this stems from problems with the taxman; in 1990, for instance, the singer was saddled with a $16.7 million debt. However, 1992’s aptly titled The IRS Tapes helped Nelson out of this jam, and he was duly in the black by 1993.
23. Dwight Yoakam – $45 Million
Yoakam is officially an old hand at this whole superstardom thing. With a career spanning over three decades, the beloved musician has released 15 studio albums, three of which have made it to #1 on the country charts. And as if his musical talents weren't enough, Yoakam has also proved his acting chops in films such as Wedding Crashers and Panic Room.
22. Zac Brown - $50 Million
Zac Brown is the lead singer of Zac Brown Band, but with seven studio albums and 16 Billboard top-charting singles, 13 of which have made it #1, it's no wonder why the band took on Brown's name. And the band pulls in a good deal of dough too. Between 2016 and 2017, Zac Brown Band made an estimated $25 million in a single year.
21. Florida Georgia Line - $50 Million
Florida Georgia Line is a two-person band made up of Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley. Their most famous song was 2017’s "Meant To Be," featuring Bebe Rehxha, but the two-man band has gone on to enjoy a solid career on its own. Most of their combined wealth comes from touring, but they also have a few endorsement deals, including Nitto Tires and Advance Auto Parts, that help to bolster their net worth.
20. Tanya Tucker – $60 million
In the business since the age of 13, Tanya Tucker has been singing country for 45 years. Naturally, the star has accumulated a vast amount of wealth in that time: she’s now worth approximately $60 million. And the “Delta Dawn” singer shows no signs of slowing down, either.
19. Miranda Lambert – $65 million
First attracting attention through a 2003 appearance on Nashville Star, Miranda Lambert has come a long way since her reality TV roots. And, indeed, the singer – who is now worth an estimated $65 million – has had many triumphs throughout her career, including platinum-selling album Kerosene in 2005. Meanwhile, in 2016 Weight of These Wings topped the Country Albums chart and earned two Grammy nominations.
18. Loretta Lynn – $65 million
A true legend of country music, Loretta Lynn helped redefine female artists’ place in the genre upon her debut in 1963. And over 55 years in the spotlight, the “Coal Miner’s Daughter” made an incredible 54 studio albums, including 2016’s Full Circle. Furthermore, after the proceeds from her records are combined with earnings from singles, tours, and book sales, it’s estimated that Lynn had approximately $65 million to her name when she passed away in 2022.
17. Keith Urban - $75 Million
The New Zealand-born star holds his place as one of the highest-paid musicians on the country scene. In 2017 alone Urban raked in $22 million. Yet while he clearly isn't hurting for cash with his music career, Urban's side hustles of judging American Idol and his line of guitars only help boost his income. Being married to Hollywood legend Nicole Kidman probably doesn't hurt, either. All in all, Mr. Urban is doing quite well for himself.
16. Jason Aldean – $80 million
Although he’s only been on stage for just over ten years, Jason Aldean has already earned a whopping $80 million. Certainly, the singer’s hit singles – including 2009’s “Big Green Tractor” – have contributed to this wealth. But the star’s business savvy is arguably responsible, too, with investments in the likes of streaming service Tidal bringing home extra income.
15. Reba McEntire – $95 million
Few country artists have had as much longevity as Reba McEntire. Throughout a 40-year career, the star has sold 56 million albums; she is also the only female country act ever to have had number one singles in four decades. Furthermore, her acting credits – including on the show Reba – have helped her garner a healthy bank balance of around $95 million.
14. Blake Shelton – $100 million
After signing with Giant Records in 2001, Blake Shelton immediately made good on his initial promise when debut single “Austin” topped the country charts for five weeks. And today, Shelton still records and gains $4 million a year from a lucrative coaching spot on The Voice. All in all, then, his total net worth adds up to approximately $100 million.
13. Linda Ronstadt – $130 million
While songs like “Blue Bayou” are classics of the genre, Linda Ronstadt has never just been a country musician. In fact, the star has experimented with many musical styles throughout her 50-year career, including rock, jazz and Latino. Perhaps, then, her eclectic range has helped her sell more than 100 million albums; she also has an estimated net worth of $130 million.
12. Carrie Underwood – $140 million
After gaining her big break as American Idol’s fourth season winner, Carrie Underwood has become one of country’s most valued artists. Indeed, the star has won seven Grammy awards and released a record-breaking six consecutive number one albums. As a result, in 2022, Underwood – who’s worth an estimated $140 million – was recognized as the top-earning American Idol winner.
11. Kris Kristofferson – $160 million
Perhaps best known for breakthrough single “Me and Bobby McGee,” Kris Kristofferson is one of the leading names in country. However, his talents extend beyond the microphone. As an actor, for example, the star has appeared in everything from musicals like A Star Is Born to comic book movies like Blade. Thanks in part to his presence on the big screen, then, Kristofferson is worth an estimated $160 million.
10. Luke Bryan - $160 Million
Not only is Bryan a fan favorite, with his concerts having some of the biggest draws to anyone in the industry, but he’s a fully realized businessman to boot. He has many endorsement deals with Chevrolet and Miller Lite and even co-owns a successful hunting company. Brains, money, and he can play the guitar? Bryan is the complete package.
9. Brad Paisley - $160 Million
With 18 nominations, three Grammy awards, and a fortune's worth of endorsement deals, Brad Paisley is not only rich and famous. but he's practically a household name. Paisley has put out 12 studio records since he came onto the scene in 1999, though his lack of new albums since 2017 has some fans worried he might have thrown in the cowboy hat for early retirement.
8. Faith Hill & Tim McGraw – $200 million
Country’s premier power couple, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw have been married since 1996. And while they have also gained fame as solo artists, the pair have delighted fans by collaborating musically on everything from tours to 2017 album The Rest of Our Life. Their combined talents have also resulted in a large joint bank account: the two are worth approximately $200 million.
7. Kenny Rogers – $250 million
Although he may be best known for his duets with the likes of Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers is certainly capable of shifting records all on his own. To date, the star has sold approximately 100 million albums worldwide and netted an estimated $250 million for his trouble, too. Rogers has now retired, though, and he has undoubtedly earned a rest from his incredibly hard work.
6. George Strait – $300 million
Dubbed the best country musician of the last 25 years by Billboard in 2010, George Strait has certainly earned his keep. Since 1981, the “Amarillo by Morning” singer has sold 69 million albums in the U.S. and is the sole singer to land hit singles in 30 consecutive years. What’s more, his commercial success has translated into a $300 million net worth.
5. Toby Keith – $365 million
Despite controversial singles like 2002’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” Toby Keith has an army of loyal fans. His followers are so devoted, in fact, that Forbes magazine estimated in 2013 that the singer’s annual earnings never drop below $48 million. This, in turn has resulted in an impressive personal bank balance, as the star is now worth approximately $365 million.
4. Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood – $400 million
When it comes to the biggest-selling artists, we usually think of legendary figures like Elvis Presley. But that honor actually rests with Garth Brooks, whose 135 million U.S. sales make him, as of 2015, music’s most successful star. And Garth is only one half of the power couple; in addition to her three Grammy Awards, Trisha Yearwood has hosted "Trisha's Southern Kitchen" on the Food Network for 12 successful seasons and even authored her own cookbook.
3. Shania Twain – $400 million
Most artists need a lifetime of records to make their names, but Shania Twain only ever needed one. Indeed, her 18-times platinum-selling Come On Over – released in 1997 – is the best-selling album ever made by either a country star or a female musician. And given the success of her 2017 release Now, Twain’s $400 million bank balance will likely grow even bigger in the near future.
2. Taylor Swift – $570 million
Though 2014’s Grammy-winning 1989 turned her into a legitimate pop princess, Taylor Swift has never forgotten her country roots. Indeed, crossover hits like 2011’s “Mean” have performed well on both the country and pop charts, giving her unprecedented success with fans of both genres. As a result, she now lays claim to an estimated $570 million fortune.
1. Dolly Parton – $650 million
Having written 3,000 songs in her 50-year career, Dolly Parton has gained an eye-watering net worth of $650 million. And besides scoring hits on her own, Parton has also had her songs covered to phenomenal success. Most notably, Whitney Houston’s 1992 version of “I Will Always Love You” stayed at number one for 14 weeks and ensured Parton a fortune in royalties.
Who is the most beloved of them all?
So many people love country music, but have you ever stopped to wonder who the most popular country star in the world is? Well, you’re not alone. YouGov polled Americans and ranked their opinions of famous country musicians. Here are the top 20. Can you guess who came out on top as the nation’s all-time favorite country icon?
#20. Randy Travis
It’s fair to say that Grammy award-winner Randy Travis has had lots of ups and downs during the course of his life. But here’s a big positive: he’s considered the 20th most popular country music artist of all time. His music helped open the door for other “new traditionalist” country singers, some of whom also feature on this list.
Travis has had a pretty rough decade, unfortunately. In 2013 he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and the treatment of that resulted in a major stroke that nearly killed him. He was in critical condition for a while, but he’s slowly recuperating, and now he’s back on his feet and hopefully enjoying his fame again.
#19. Keith Urban
Is Keith Urban one of the most successful men on the planet or what? He overcame a lot of trouble in his personal life to become a bestselling artist, a four-time winner of the Best Male Country Vocal Performance Grammy, and a member of the Grand Ole Opry. And, of course, he’s married to the famously beautiful actress Nicole Kidman.
Redefining the genre
Urban counts none other than Taylor Swift among his biggest fans. In 2021 she told Rolling Stone magazine, “His melodies and inflections influenced me so intensely because they were so different from what I was hearing in country at that time, incorporating rock, pop, and blues into the mix. He absolutely redefined the genre for me, by making it a wider and more expansive place to create from within.”
#18. The Everly Brothers
Phil and Don Everly started their careers in the ’50s and remained in the public eye for decades. None of the headline-grabbing things they did — personal issues, joining the U.S. Marine Corps, very publicly splitting up on stage as a guitar was smashed by Phil — ever managed to dim their popularity. Audiences loved them and their music no matter what.
Sadly neither of the Everly brothers are still around to see themselves take the ranking of 18th most popular country music stars in America. Phil passed away in 2014 and Don in 2021. But their music lives on, and they are widely considered to have laid the groundwork for artists such as Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles.
#17. Hank Williams
Hank Williams was a legendary country music singer in his time — but one about whom the world knew almost nothing. His biographer Colin Escott told The Washington Post newspaper back in 1999, “He left almost no interviews — everything that he said that was reported would barely fill a page. There's very little footage of him, maybe 20 or 30 minutes total.”
But that myth is the 17th most popular country music artist of all time. Why? Escott suggested, “It became very difficult to separate Hank from the myth. In a sense, Hank became a blank screen onto which people projected their vision of him. In some way, he is unknowable; he said so little, except in his songs.”
#16. George Strait
George Strait is one of the men who introduced “honky-tonk” music to a new generation, and it made him a superstar of the country music scene. He knew what his audience wanted and he was happy to give it to them: nothing flashy on his part, just the best tunes performed on stage while wearing blue jeans and a cowboy hat.
Strait to the top
And Strait is still popular to this day, especially among the older “Baby-boomer” generation. He doesn’t tour anymore — he is in his 70s now after all — but he took up residency in Las Vegas come 2016. He’s still delighting audiences now and hopefully he will continue to do so for a long time to come.
#15. Huey Lewis
Is Huey Lewis a rock star or a country music star? Well, does it really matter all in all? The down-to-Earth harmonica player went from performing on the streets of Marrakesh to being one of the biggest names in the music industry, and now according to YouGov he’s ranked an impressive 15th on the list of most popular country musicians.
Sadly, Lewis began to lose his hearing in 2018 and it may never come back, meaning his days as a musician are mostly likely over. But, any of his fans will tell you, he had a wonderful run. Now he lives out on an isolated ranch on Montana and chooses to enjoy the scenery instead of the music he can no longer hear.
#14. Faith Hill
Faith Hill is one half of country music’s biggest supercouple. She and her husband Tim McGraw have conquered the entire industry, and they’ve been a united, scandal-free duo throughout. Their first duet was back in 1997 — Hill recorded the music video while pregnant with her and Tim’s first child — and there have been plenty more smash-hit duets since then.
Take Her As She Is
Hill is well-known in just about every demographic, it seems. Baby-boomers, Millennials, Gen X-ers, women and men alike have all heard of her. She’s sold millions upon millions of records, and when she went on tour with her husband in 2006 it ended up becoming the highest-grossing country music tour to date. Her success can hardly be overstated.
#13. Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks, at number 13, has actually gone down a few places from the last time there was a major ranking of big country music stars. When Rolling Stone posted a ranked list in 2017 Brooks came in at number ten, and the mag said of him, “Divisive though he may be, Garth Brooks changed the game in country music — and when he’s gotten things right, he’s been downright visionary.”
Arguably Brooks is still changing the game, though. His popularity has never waned, and he holds the number-one place on another list — the list of best-selling solo artists of all time. He’s apparently sold over 157 million albums in his time! Only The Beatles have ever sold more, but there were four of them and only one of Brooks!
The band Alabama, on the other hand, have actually gone up many places. Rolling Stone ranked them as only 79th in their 2017 “Greatest Country Artists of All Time” list. But Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook are perhaps more popular with the public than the magazine thought. In total 81 percent of people polled by YouGov had heard of them and of those, only a mere 8 percent disliked them.
A good show
The band members are all getting on a bit in years now, and sadly Cook has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but they’re still performing. In 2022 Gentry told The Columbus Dispatch newspaper, “After years of doing it, I just turned 70 and Randy’s 72, we like to try to put on a good show, surround ourselves with good musicians, honor the music and the songs.”
#11. Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood’s rise to fame was a joy to witness. While a student at Northeastern State University, she decided to audition for the fourth season of American Idol. It could have all come to nothing — American Idol is a crazily competitive show, after all — but she was crowned the winner. And now she’s the 11th most popular country music star of all time.
Underwood has returned to American Idol to coach young up-and-comers who hope to emulate her, but they’ll have a hard time reaching the same status. Underwood is not only the most successful Idol winner of all time but also one of the most successful recording artists ever, with eight Grammy awards and 23 CMT Music Awards to her name.
#10. Tim McGraw
The other half of the Hill-McGraw supercouple. Husband ranks a few places higher than wife in this case, but that’s not likely to cause any tension: the pair’s marriage has been absolutely unbreakable so far. McGraw’s not only a popular country music star but also a popular actor — he’s been in movies The Blind Side and Friday Night Lights among others.
Rich and famous
People from all generations know of McGraw — his frequent collaborations with other artists probably helps when it comes to that. And needless to say, his and Hill’s success in the entertainment industry has made them incredibly rich. At the moment they command a joint net worth of $200 million. Just think of all the cowboy hats you could buy with that!
#9. John Denver
John Denver is very popular among Baby-boomers, not so much with the younger crowd. But that’s okay. He’s the one who sang “Country Roads” — one of the most beloved and famous country music songs of all time. In fact, some might go as far as to say it’s one of the most beloved and famous songs of all time, never mind the genre.
Country Roads, Take Me Home
Sadly Denver is no longer with us: his death in a plane crash in October 1997 devastated his army of fans. But his music played at his funeral and it still plays today. “Country Roads” has been covered by hundreds of artists from all over the world; the song may be about West Virginia, but it ended up resonating everywhere.
#8. Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn was ranked very highly on the YouGov country music stars list, number eight overall. Rolling Stone’s earlier list also indicated just how beloved she was: she was placed at number four and the magazine dubbed her “forever the queen of country music.” That remained the case even after her death at the grand old age of 90 in October 2022.
Lynn racked up multiple incredible achievements during her 90 years on Earth. She won three Grammy Awards, for a start, and blazed a trail for other women working in the country music industry. Her autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, became a hit movie that won actress Sissy Spacek an Oscar. And — last but definitely not least — she received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
#7. Patsy Cline
Sadly Patsy Cline is another country music star who died in a plane crash. And even worse, when she died she was only 30 and her music wasn’t particularly well-known, so she could have done a lot more if only she’d had the chance. But after her death something curious happened: her music continued to gain traction and her popularity grew.
A haunting voice
Now, many decades after her untimely passing, Cline has the deserving spot of seventh most popular country artist of all time in the YouGov poll. And Rolling Stone ranked her highly on its earlier list, as well. It gave her the number 12 slot and said of her, “Today, she is considered country’s most haunting vocalist.”
#6. Shania Twain
It probably comes as no surprise that Shania Twain is so high up on this list. The Canadian superstar helped bring country music into the “MTV era” and made it not just good, but cool. She had to overcome a lot in order to keep her career on track, not least a battle with the voice-limiting condition dysphonia, but she made it.
It goes without saying that Twain is huge in her native Canada, she’s in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame even. But Americans love her too! According to a 2018 YouGov poll to mark Canada Day, Twain is one of the Canadians most beloved by Americans, with 56 percent of people surveyed having a positive opinion of her.
#5. Reba McEntire
Reba McEntire isn’t just high on YouGov’s list of the most popular country music stars, she’s high on their list of most popular music artists of all time as well! She came in at number 65 on the latter list, just under Freddie Mercury. So it’s safe to say that the former schoolteacher has done pretty well for herself.
McEntire has barely stopped working for a moment since she first found fame. She hasn’t just sung, either, she expanded into acting and proved to be very good at it. During the 2000s she had her own sitcom, Reba, which was so popular she won a Golden Globe Award for it. And she maintains her own fashion business as well.
#4. Kenny Rogers
It would have been hard to picture the young Kenny Rogers getting famous. He grew up in poverty, living with six siblings and his parents in one house. But he loved playing the guitar and he was good at it, and his talents made him a legend. Now, a couple of years after his death, Americans consider him the fourth most popular country music star of all time.
Rogers’ last tour was in 2018 but he had to pull out of it after suffering ill health. At the time he released a statement saying, “I could never properly thank [the fans] for the encouragement and support they’ve given me throughout my career and the happiness I’ve experienced as a result of that.” He passed away two years later, but what a life!
#3. Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson is rated the third most popular country music star in America, and that’s just another achievement he can add to a long list. His fans will be pleased to hear the news. Interestingly, the official YouGov website has a long list of things Willie Nelson fans also rate highly, and among them are “tuna salad” “Lowe’s” and “oregano.”
The YouGov website also notes that Nelson is very popular among rural dwellers, along with other big names such as Elvis and The Eagles. So if you live out in the sticks, like to eat tuna salad topped with oregano and do all your shopping at Lowe’s, you just might be a Willie Nelson fan in waiting.
#2. Johnny Cash
Taking second place on the poll is the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. His beautifully performed, socially conscious country music came to define an entire era and kicked off a whole new generation of teenage rebels. Even today, many years after his death, there are millions of Cash fans who long to one day do what he did.
The man comes around
In 2022 his son John Carter Cash wrote in an article for AARP, “Why do my father’s life and music have such a durable impact today? In the year he would have turned 90 years old, why is his image still so much in the minds and hearts of faithful fans worldwide?” He concluded, “Dad was one of a kind, and his unique, captivating allure made him who he was… He truly believed in what he said and what he stood for.”
#1. Dolly Parton
Could the number-one spot on the list have really gone to anyone other than Dolly Parton? She’s got a beautiful voice, an amazing talent and some incredibly catchy songs, but also she’s near universally beloved. Just 5 percent of people polled expressed any sort of dislike for her at all, and frankly, it’s surprising there were even that many.
But despite the many accolades that have come her way, Parton remains incredibly down-to-Earth. She told People magazine in 2021, “I am not all that. I’m glad that I stand for enough stuff to where I’m not the worst person in the world.” Far from it! Of course, that modesty only stands to make her even more popular.