Sade tops the British musical export list
With six Grammy awards and millions of record sales worldwide, she is Britain's most recognisable global star.
But Adele was trumped by Sade in the 2012 U.S. money list.
The soft jazz veteran of more than 25 years raked in $16.4million (£10.5m) last year after her first North America tour for a decade and the release of The Ultimate Collection.
Sade came sixth in Billboard's list of high-earning musicians, eclipsing Adele, the only other Brit in the top 10, who earned $13.1m (£8.4m).
Popular British bands such as Take That did not even feature, and The Beatles remain one of our best performing exports, coming in at No 24.
The shy 53-year-old Anglo-Nigerian is a singer/songwriter and frontwoman of the four-piece band of the same name.
Sade - or Helen Folasade Adu - was born in Ibadan, Nigeria but moved to Clacton-on-Sea, Essex with her mother and brother when she was four.
After studying fashion at St Martin's, she formed a Latin funk band called Pride, which later became Sade - comprised of saxophonist Stuart Matthewman, keyboard player Andrew Hale, and bassist Paul Denman.
In 1984 they released their first album, Diamond Life, featuring the smash hit Smooth Operator, but they went on to produce just five more over the course of a long-running musical career.
However, in the quarter of a century they have been performing together, the band have still managed to sell more than 23m albums.
After Lovers Rock in 2000, they took a seven-year break before releasing their latest studio album, Soldiers of Love, in 2008.
Another easy listening act, country singer Taylor Swift, topped the U.S. earnings list, according to trade publication Billboard, making $35.7m (£22.8m).
She was followed by Irish rockers U2 on $32.1m (£20.5m) and another country star, Kenny Chesney, who earned $29.8m (£19m).
Taylor Swift's earnings came in at 17 per cent higher than last year's top earner, Lady Gaga, who fell to fourth position this time around, earning $25.4m (£16.2m).
She is followed by U.S. hip hop star Lil Wayne, before the list returns to more classic performers with Bon Jovi and Celine Dion and is completed with another country singer, Jason Aldean, at number nine.
Touring remained the biggest source of income for the top earners, although album sales saw Adele, The Beatles and Justin Bieber perform strongly.
Adele's earnings would have been boosted had she not been forced to cancel 10 sold-out US shows after undergoing throat surgery.
Yet she still broke records in the country as her album 21 spent 23 weeks at No 1, with sales hitting 6.7m.
21 was previously declared the longest-running No 1 record since Prince and The Revolution's Purple Rain, which held the top spot for 24 weeks in 1984-85.
MUSIC TO THEIR EARS: TOP EARNERS OF 2011
1. Taylor Swift: $35.7m
2. U2: $32.1m
3. Kenny Chesney: $29.8m
4. Lady Gaga: $25.4m
5. Lil Wayne: $23.2m
6. Sade $16.4m
7. Bon Jovi: $15.8m
8. Celine Dion: $14.3m
9. Jason Aldean: $13.4m
10. Adele: $13.1m
11. Glee cast: $12.6m
12. Journey: $12.3m
13. Elton John: $11.97m
14. Katy Perry: $11.96m
15. Toby Keith: $10.4m
16. Britney Spears: $10.1m
17. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band: $10m
18. Rascal Flatts: $9.6m
19. Tim McGraw: $9.3m
20. Michael Buble: $9m
21. Brad Paisley: $8.6m
22. Rihanna: $7.7m
23. Enrique Iglesias: $7.5m
24. The Beatles: $6.74m
25. Sir Paul McCartney: $6.72m
26. Lady Antebellum: $6.67m
27. Keith Urban: $6.57m
28. Zac Brown Band: $6.5m
29. Rod Stewart: $6.4m
30. Usher: $6.3m
31. Foo Fighters: $6m
32. Rush: $5.8m
33. Backstreet Boys: $5.7m
34. Sugarland: $5.6m
35. Justin Bieber: $5.5m
36. New Kids on the Block: $5.5m
37. Steely Dan: $5.38m
38. Motley Crue: $5.37m
39. Kanye West: $5.36m
40. Linkin Park: $5.2m