The Beatles are highest earners of 2000

Wrinkly rockers The Beatles topped the charts as the biggest pop earners of the past 12 months earning upwards of £50 million, a new 'rich list' showed today.

Westlife are highest placed newcomers in the Heat magazine survey, landing 10th position with the £5 million they are reckoned to have made in 2000.

Singer Sade's return from many years in the musical wilderness is thought to have made her around £10 million in the list of British and Irish music stars.

Astonishing sales for The Beatles' greatest hits package, called 1, saw each of them make millions for material which was all more than three decades old.

In the magazine's first round-up a year ago, the Fab Four were thought to have made £15 million in 1999, earning them third place. However that rocketed up to £55 million in the latest list following number ones in at least 30 countries and simultaneously topping the charts in both the UK and US.

Heat editor Mark Frith said: '2000 was The Beatles' biggest money-making year yet - which is just incredible 30 years after they split. And really all they did was say yes to the release of a compilation. That was a very profitable decision.'

Irish superstars U2 are runners-up and saw their comeback album rake in around £50 million according to the magazine's researchers, with sales of seven million for All That You Can't Leave Behind.

And the band can look forward to further riches in 2001 with a huge north American tour, European dates to come and the knock-on effects of performing in front of millions of British fans when they pick up an award at the Brits.

Other veterans in the top five include Sir Elton John at three (down a place but making around £10 million more), the Rolling Stones slipping from number one and David Bowie at five.

Sade's Lovers Rock album helped to fuel her millions but - like The Beatles - it was also due to the strength of her back catalogue with her Best Of album continuing to sell well.

The Spice Girls fall from grace with record buyers was underlined by their poor performance in the list.

During 1999 there were no new singles but their albums and live shows continued to pull in around £9 million between them. But in 2000, even with the release of third album Forever, they fell to £5 million - dropping from six to ninth position.

Teenage soprano Charlotte Church continues her money-making with a further £4.5 million - on top of the previous year's £6 million. However her split with manager Jonathan Shalit is thought to have cost in excess of £1 million.

The top 10 of the Heat rich list of British and Irish music stars is as follows with last year's position in brackets:

1 (3) The Beatles - £55 million.

2 (-) U2 - £50 million.

3 (2) Sir Elton John - £35 million.

4 (1) Rolling Stones - £27.5 million.

5 (-) David Bowie - £20 million.

6 (-) Sade - £10 million.

7 (-) Tom Jones - £8.5 million.

8 (-) Phil Collins - £6 million.

9 (6) Spice Girls - £5 million.

10 (-) Westlife - £5 million.

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