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How Katy Perry Became America's Top Pop Export
That means going global. Of the 124 shows she played during our June-to-June scoring period for earnings, 75 of them took place abroad, spanning 27 different countries and four continents. Her hits translate–they’re short on subtlety, long on universal appeal, with a focus on partying (“Last Friday Night”), love (“The One That Got Away”) and celebration (“Birthday”). And her bright, breezy videos match: “Dark Horse” and “ Roar” are the third- and fourth-most-watched YouTube videos of all time, with nearly 2 billion views between them worldwide.

So when Perry tours the world, her audience is already primed. She’s averaged a staggering $20 per head per night in merchandise sales on the tour, according to her managers, about four times the industry’s average. All in all, 60% of her total income now flows from outside of North America.

“ She has a talent for reaching a very wide audience, and her themes resonate across cultures, race and gender,” says Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for the Rolling Stones. “The music matches well with the lyrics, and the tunes are infectious. She is a true global artist.”

Her success is even more impressive when you consider that industrywide annual album sales have plummeted from 785 million to 257 million over the past 15 years. Instead of grumping about Spotify like many of her fellow artists, she’s simply adapted to the times. “Music has changed,” she shrugs. “The record is that launching pad for all kinds of other creative branches.”