By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated June 13, 2002 01:00 PM

Third World debt relief is very much on the mind of U2 front man Bono — but personal debt is not, especially since his band was the highest grossing in the music business last year, according to a study by Rolling Stone. The publication’s “Money Report,” revealed in its current issue, ranks the 50 wealthiest artists based on their 2001 earnings. Topping the list: U2 (which reportedly earned $61.9 million), followed — to round out the Top 10 — by Dr. Dre ($51.9 million); The Beatles ($47.9 million); The Dave Matthews Band ($43.4 million); Madonna ($40.8 million); Master P. ($36 million); Carlos Santana ($32.7 million); ‘N Sync ($26.5 million); Aerosmith ($24.2 million); and Sting ($24 million). Calculations were based on receipts from touring, recording and publishing (that is, copyright royalties), though the magazine admits that some of its figures involved guesswork after conversations with music industry insiders, from executives to publicists. The figures are based on “net” (as opposed to “gross”) earnings, meaning what’s left after expenses and fees are deducted. The lion’s share of U2’s earnings came from its successful “Elevation” tour of North America and Europe, with album sales and publishing providing the icing on the Irish band’s cake, says Rolling Stone. The Beatles’ bottom line was mostly due to sales of the greatest-hits album “1,” while Madonna’s was enhanced by her tour last year.