The business of being a celebrity is simple. First, you get rich and famous using your most primal talent: Beyonce sings. Ryan Seacrest hosts. Glenn Beck talks (or weeps) into a microphone or television camera.
Then, once you're firmly entrenched in the pop-culture dialogue, you use your fame to diversify your revenue stream and become a one-man (or woman) brand. Beyonce begins acting in movies. Ryan Seacrest endorses Coca-Cola. Glenn Beck writes a few books.
The final step? Maximize your earnings before the public decides to fall in love with another celebrity.
Beck believes celebrities must find as many ways as possible to sell their brands. "I don't think you can be a celebrity in today's world ... without being ubiquitous," says the talk radio and Fox News personality. "Nothing's big enough anymore."
Beck has built a flourishing entertainment empire based on his insight and personality. He has made $23 million in the past 12 months.
The most profitable arm of his operation is his syndicated radio show, The Glenn Beck Program, which earns him $10 million per year. He also hosts The Glenn Beck Program on Fox News every weeknight and has earned $2 million in the last year for his work on CNN and Fox. He's further parlayed his exposure into speeches and appearances ($3 million), book sales ($5 million) and revenue from advertising and merchandise sales on Glennbeck.com ($3 million).
Ranked No. 4 on this year's Celebrity 100 with earnings of $87 million, Beyonce has also created an incredibly valuable brand that milks consumers for their disposable dollars in myriad ways.
She reaped $15 million from her fashion lines, Dereon and House of Deréon. She earned $14 million from a combination of concert ticket and merchandise sales. As a songwriter and recording artist, she pulled in $29 million from album sales and publishing royalties. She earned another $20 million lending her likeness to marketing campaigns by Armani, Nintendo, and L'Oreal, among others.
Ryan Seacrest can't sing, act or dance--but that hasn't stopped him from becoming the hardest-working man in Hollywood. He banked $38 million last year hosting American Idol, a top 40 radio countdown, E! News and other red-carpet events, plus ABC's New Year's Eve special.
In addition to his lucrative deals with both ClearChannel Radio and the Comcast Entertainment Group, he develops and produces TV shows, including E's Keeping up with the Kardashians and NBC's Momma's Boys. He's also got endorsement deals with Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola.
Athletes commonly supplement their performance salaries and winnings with endorsements and appearance income. Race car driver Jeff Gordon has had a headline-making career for more than 10 years and remains today one of the highest-paid athletes in terms of endorsements and product licensing.
Ranked 63rd on the 2009 Celebrity 100 with $30 million in earnings, Gordon makes only one-third of that take from driving a car. His catalog of endorsement deals with EA Sports, Pepsi and others, plus winnings, adds $20 million to his bottom line.