NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pop star Britney Spears edged past Taylor Swift to claim the title of top-earning woman in music after bringing in an estimated $58 million from her album, endorsements and a perfume in the past year, Forbes said on Wednesday.
Country-pop singer Swift, 22, came in a close second with an estimated $57 million paycheck thanks to her tour, which made more than $1 million each night, a contract with CoverGirl cosmetics, her own line of fragrances and her new album "Red."
R&B star Rihanna, 24, earned an estimated $53 million paycheck to put her at No.3, two places up since last year, followed by Lady Gaga, 26, who slipped from No. 1 in 2011 to fourth place with $52 million.
Katy Perry, 28, the only musician except Michael Jackson to produce five No. 1 hit singles from one album, rounded up the top five with about $45 million in earnings.
"I think people love the comeback story - Britney never really finished her run as a superstar," Steve Stoute, marketing expert and author of "The Tanning of America" told Forbes.
Spears, 31, who was No. 10 last year, earned most of her money from her latest album "Femme Fatale" and her tour, according to Forbes, which compiled the list with estimated earnings from May 2011 to May 2012.
In September Spears became a new judge on the reality singing show "The X Factor," reportedly for a $15 million a year fee.
Despite their huge incomes, only eight of the top women music earners were among the 25 best-paid musicians, which Forbes attributes in part to career breaks to have children.
Madonna made the list in ninth place with an estimated $30 million in earnings, which did not include profits from her latest tour because it was outside the time period considered for the ranking.
Forbes compiled the list after estimating pre-tax income based on record sales, touring information merchandise sales and interviews with concert promoters, lawyers and managers.
The full list can be found at http://www.forbes.com/sites/zackomalleygreenburg/2012/12/11/the-top-earning-women-in-music-2012/
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Nick Zieminski)