New York - Britney Spears edged past Taylor Swift to claim the title of top-earning woman in music after bringing in an estimated $58m from her album, endorsements and a perfume in the past year, Forbes magazine said on Wednesday.
Country-pop singer Swift, 22, was a close second with an estimated $57m paycheck thanks to her tour - which made more than $1m 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 $53m to put her at third place, two places up from last year, followed by Lady Gaga, 26, who slipped from first place in 2011 to fourth place with $52m.
Katy Perry, 28, the only musician other than Michael Jackson to produce five number one hit singles from one album, rounded out the top five with about $45m in earnings.
'Britney never really finished'
"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 a tenth spot 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 judge on the reality TV singing show The X Factor, reportedly for $15m.
Career breaks and family
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 $30m 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.
Forbes' Top Earning Woman in Music:
1. Britney Spears - $58m
2. Taylor Swift - $57m
3. Rihanna - $53m
4. Lady Gaga - $52m
5. Katy Perry - $45m
6. Beyoncé - $40m
7. Adele - $35m
8. Sade - $33m
9. Madonna - $30m
10. Shakira - $20m