Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Have Made Bank On the Speaking Circuit. They Aren’t the Only Ones.

Just a single speech from Snoop Dogg, Jon Stewart, or Jodie Foster could rake in more than $50,000.

Illustrations by Alex Kuehne

Before battling on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump shared common ground on a different circuit: high-paid public speaking. Clinton has earned more than $200,000 per speech, while Trump has reportedly commanded as much as $1.5 million.

Big names including celebrities like Lady Gaga and Larry the Cable Guy are one elite slice of a booming business, which grew after World War II as the meetings industry spread across America. Today, more than 100 agencies broker agreements between event organizers and speakers or their representatives, taking a 10 to 35 percent cut of the fee.

The industry doesn’t keep comprehensive data, but Marie Fredette of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus says business is rebounding post-recession. A 2013 survey of 175 organizations by professional development advisories Tagoras and Velvet Chainsaw Consulting found that respondents hired an average of 15 speakers annually, up from 11 two years prior; one-fifth had speaker budgets topping $100,000.

To peek into this world, Foreign Policy analyzed data compiled by the All American Speakers Bureau, a talent aggregator. It shows that a few keynote addresses are all it could take for one to jump into a new tax bracket. 















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A version of this article originally appeared in the September/October 2016 issue of FP magazine under the title, “Keynote Cosmos.”

Katie Peek is is a science journalist and information graphics designer. Formerly an astrophysicist, her recent work has appeared in Popular Science and Scientific American.