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Revenue streams continue to flow for musicians and actors

Commerce and art closer than ever as entertainers find innovative ways to cash in on talent, writes Donal Lynch

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Saoirse Ronan at last weekend’s Academy Awards

Saoirse Ronan at last weekend’s Academy Awards

AFP via Getty Images

U2's Bono and The Edge with former Apple chief Steve Jobs in 2004

U2's Bono and The Edge with former Apple chief Steve Jobs in 2004

Getty Images

Niall Horan

Niall Horan

Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Caroline Downey

Caroline Downey

Hozier

Hozier

Getty Images

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson

Getty Images

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett

Getty Images for Operation Smile

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Saoirse Ronan at last weekend’s Academy Awards

The story of entertainment-generated wealth over the last two decades is inextricably connected with the development of the internet. "It meant that everything that was creative suddenly was given away for free," the writer Jaron Lanier once said. Or if not "given", exactly, then stolen or digitally copied. This did not mean, of course, that there were no longer super-wealthy entertainers, but those who remained on the Rich List slowly changed the way they made the bulk of their money.

As cinema box-office receipts waned in the Noughties, actors supplemented their film fees with perfume endorsements. Musicians began to tour more prolifically - live performances were the one thing that could not be pirated - and the records themselves were often reduced to mere promotional tools (Prince led the charge by giving his away for free).

It has also meant that the upper echelon of the Irish entertainment rich list is populated by household names, whose personal brands give them the power to diversify into endorsements and put bums on seats at live events. In 2004, U2 endorsed Apple's iPod as part of its Silhouette ad campaign. The Irish rock legends brought Apple's stock shares to a 52-week high within 72 hours of the endorsement. Since then, the band has built its wealth through touring. After launching and completing 2018's Experience + Innocence Tour (which was in the top 10 grossing tours of 2018) and spending most of 2019 off the road, U2 returned for a 15-show Joshua Tree Tour run across Australia and Asia in November and December, which grossed $73.8m. Their clean-cut image has turned out to be as asset in the long run - it has meant they are all fit and healthy enough for arduous and frequent tours.