The drummer is the backbone for most rock bands, period. A rock song without a guy keeping time and dropping some fills and solos in between would be very, very different. It’s no surprise, then, that drummers – just like any other member of a band – would rake in millions of dollars a year from touring, record sales, salaries, endorsements, and royalties, among other things. In this list, we’ll be counting down the 10 drummers in music who rake in the most dough based on their respective net worth.
Not all of them are actively drumming for their current musical projects – Dave Grohl and Phil Collins are examples of these – but have built up enough of a reputation in the music world to rake in the big bucks. Some men on this list such as Larry Mullen, Jr. of U2 or Roger Taylor of Queen aren’t nearly as famous as their frontmen are or were, but their importance to the makeup of the band as well as the sheer immensity of their band’s success over the course of many decades has allowed for them to make insane amounts of money.
The fact that the drummers of bands such as Aerosmith, U2 and the Rolling Stones – all bands that have maintained their success over a span of multiple decades – are so high on this list is a testament both to their skills on drums and the massive success of those bands. Rock music is indeed quite the high-paying business, but the fact that drummers are so well-paid compared to their singing and guitar-playing counterparts is still remarkable. As younger drummers for other established bands continue to rise in fame, it remains to be seen whether or not they could break into a top 10 list like this someday too. Let’s look at the 10 drummers who are currently there.
10 Chad Smith -- Net Worth: $90 Million
Although the Red Hot Chili Peppers don’t drop new albums on a regular basis, their drummer Chad Smith loves to keep himself busy, and his pockets are growing because of it. Smith currently has a net worth of $90 million, and this is thanks to his involvement with the Chili Peppers as well as with hard rock supergroup Chickenfoot, not to mention his drumming for Johnny Cash, John Fogerty and Kid Rock, to name a few. Last year, Spin recognized him as one of the 10 best drummers in Alternative music, and Smith most recently made headlines for participating in a drum-off with his doppelgänger Will Ferrell.
9 Joey Kramer -- Net Worth: $100 Million
Known for sometimes beating on the drums with parts of his body other than his hands, Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer has profited big-time from the continued success of the evergreen rock band, amassing a net worth of $100 million as a result. The drummer known as “Kramedog” was initially recognized for coining the band’s name, and his net worth is likely this big thanks to Aerosmith still being extremely popular since the ‘70s, with 150 million albums sold worldwide and 18 albums that went platinum. This year, Kramer and the rest of Aerosmith will be touring with Slash across North America.
8 Roger Taylor -- $140 Million
Not to be confused with the same-named drummer of Duran Duran, this Roger Taylor is best known for being behind the kit for Queen, and still tours alongside guitarist Brian May with Adam Lambert filling in for the late, great Freddie Mercury. Much like the rest of Queen, Taylor has been known for penning at least one song per album, such as some of the band's hits like “Radio Ga Ga” and “A Kind of Magic”. Furthermore, Taylor has worked with musicians such as Eric Clapton, Robert Plant and Elton John. As a result, Taylor has managed to get a net worth of $140 million.
7 Larry Mullen Jr. -- Net Worth: $150 Million
With 22 Grammys and more than 150 million albums sold worldwide, its no wonder that U2 remains one of the highest earning acts on the planet. Their drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. – one of the band’s founding members – has therefore earned a net worth of $150 million up to this point in U2’s storied career. Known for making big contributions to songs like “Mysterious Ways” and “Zoo Station” in addition to his drumming abilities, Mullen has also been ranked among the 50 greatest drummers in rock by Stylus Magazine. Mullen and the rest of U2 are currently working on their 13th studio album.
6 Charlie Watts -- Net Worth: $160 Million
If there was ever a band that could be accurately compared to the Energizer bunny, that band would be the Rolling Stones. Although most of the band members are in their 70s now, they’re still touring and playing to sellout crowds wherever they go. It’s no surprise then that their drummer Charlie Watts has raked in an astounding $160 million net worth. The oldest member of the band at 72 years of age, Watts is a member of Modern Drummer’s Hall of Fame, and has been known for collaborating with frontman Mick Jagger in designing the Stones’ stages for their tours.
5 Lars Ulrich -- Net Worth: $175 Million
Originally from Denmark, Lars Ulrich was originally training to become a professional tennis player before he got involved in music. It’s fairly obvious he made the right career choice: the longtime drummer for Metallica boasts a net worth of $175 million as the band continues to tour to massive crowds and work on new music. Although he often reinvents his style of drumming with every album Metallica makes, Ulrich remains one of the band’s most iconic members, and the band is currently working on their 14th studio album as well as playing shows where fans request which songs they want them to play.
4 Don Henley -- Net Worth: $200 Million
Although he’s better known for singing lead on many of the Eagles’ biggest hits as well as many massive singles from his solo career, Don Henley has been well known for his role as the Eagles’ drummer. Both endeavours have been extremely successful for him: the Eagles have sold over 120 million albums around the world, and an additional 10 million albums worldwide have been sold through Henley’s solo career, making for a net worth of $200 million. The Eagles have still been touring since their reunion in 1994, although Henley has said their current tour may be their last.
3 Phil Collins -- Net Worth: $250 Million
Though he makes this list mainly because of his days as the drummer/singer for Genesis, Phil Collins’ solo singing career has bumped up his net worth in ways that his drumming career has not: his net worth clocks in at $250 million, thanks in large part to selling over 150 million albums worldwide despite being one of the most polarizing figures in rock music – just look at Noel Gallagher of Oasis’ constant criticism of him for proof of that. However, he remains one of the most successful artists on the Billboard Hot 100, having more songs in the top 40 in the ‘80s than any other artist.
2 Dave Grohl -- Net Worth: $260 Million
Like Henley and Collins, Dave Grohl makes this list not necessarily for his drumming accomplishments, but for his immense success as the frontman of the Foo Fighters. More specifically, Grohl boasts a net worth of $260 million thanks to his success with the Foo Fighters as well as being the drummer of Nirvana in the early ‘90s. He’s still actively drumming, though: his involvement with Them Crooked Vultures as well as Queens of the Stone Age – he played on a few tracks on their most recent album ...Like Clockwork – and session drumming for many high-profile acts has certainly added to his bank account.
1 Ringo Starr -- Net Worth: $300 Million
When the band you played in during the ‘60s continues to sell millions of records and boast iconic songs that transcend generations decades after you first released them, it’s no surprise that you make ridiculous amounts of money even if your current musical career isn’t very active. For Ringo Starr, that’s exactly how things have panned out: the former Beatles drummer currently has a net worth of $300 million even though his most recent solo albums have not sold well. He remains involved in Beatles-related endeavours, playing with former bandmate Paul McCartney at the Grammys back in January.