No matter how old you are, most of us dream of striking it rich with one giant stroke of luck and chance. For some it’s the lottery, and for others it’s getting recognition by doing something stupid that goes viral. Computer geeks dream of creating that one million dollar app. For those of us as teens with even a smidgen of musical talent, the dream was and always is to create that one-hit that sets us for life. But does that really happen often? Sorry kids, being a one-hit wonder doesn’t make you rich except for a very, very, very small percentage of those who made it to the top of the charts. One hit wonders still need to work day in and day out to make ends meet. I’m sure many one hit wonders live comfortably, but only a few are rich. And none of these people amassed their fortune directly from their one hit. Perhaps it’s a bad contract that gives royalties to everyone else, bad financial decisions, drugs, alcohol, gambling, you name it. What will surprise you is who is off this list. The richest one-hit wonders are not necessarily the biggest one-hit wonders (one very big exception).
The definition of a one-hit wonder differs across geographies, and across genres. This list could include actors, sports stars and musicians. But we’ll concentrate on musicians. Several one-hit wonders are rich because of success in a particular geographical market, or success in a particular genre. 90% of those on this list made their money because they knew how to milk their success and transfer it into other fields, or were very good at attracting loyal fans for a very long period of time without the use of popular radio. We will use the U.S definition of a one hit wonder as someone with a single billboard top 20 hit in the United States. This list was compiled by checking the net worth of various one-hit wonders and finding the millionaires. Only 10 millionaires could be found out of hundreds of one hit wonders. There might be more if you look hard enough, but they are hard to find. Which goes to show that being a flash in the pan is no road to riches.
10. Taylor Hicks – Net Worth: $3.3 Million
Taylor Hicks is proof that winning on American Idol can make you rich, even if you have had only one hit. The Season 5 American Idol winner (at the age of 30) made it to number one on the billboard charts with his first single Do I Make You Proud (2006). The single lasted 5 weeks on the chart. His first album sold a little over 500,000 copies. Where has he made his money? He did make 5 more albums, but none of them were commercially successful. In 2006 he appeared on the American Idols tour. He received a reported $750,000 to write his memoirs. The book was released in 2007. In 2008 he performed in the National Tour of Grease. His best year in earnings was in 2013 where he reportedly pulled in $2.5 million, half of which came from his Vegas shows in the 200 seat room at Paris Las Vegas. His net worth makes him the seventh richest idol winner. He is the first Idol Winner to move to Las Vegas. He’s also an entrepreneur who owns a handful of rental properties, he is part owner of Saw’s Juke Joint in Birmingham, Alabama, and he owns his own indie record label, where his albums have sold around 50,000 copies.
9. Bobby McFerrin – Net Worth: $4 Million
Here’s another artist who hit it big in his 30s, when his hit Don’t Worry Be Happy made it to the top of the charts in 1988, at the age of 38. He released his first recording at the age of 32. He has amazingly won 10 Grammy awards, three for his hit, five of them were prior to that. Three of those were for jazz albums, and one for a children’s album. So he was already an accomplished jazz musician before Don’t Worry. Bobby McFerrin stopped playing his hit song live when George Bush Senior used it for his campaign. Where did he make his money? A lifetime of performances and recordings. Although, the exact amounts from each are hard to come by. Not only a jazz musician, he became chair of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in 1994, touring for orchestras throughout North America. He has two famous theme songs (The Cosby Show (Season 4) and Son of The Pink Panther (1993)) to his credit as well.
8. Sir-Mix A-Lot – Net Worth: $6 Million
Technically a one-hit wonder, Sir-Mix-A-Lot was already entrenched in the Hip Hop world before his mega tribute to women with large buttocks, Baby Got Back propelled him to the top of the charts in 1992. The song that made him a hip-hop legend was initially banned by MTV. That type of publicity sometimes works out. Where did he make his money? A self made man, who created his own record label, promoted his music himself, produced all his own tracks and managed to create a platinum record before he got famous. He then signed to a major record label and released his signature single which sold over 2 million copies. It seems he is one of the few on this list who actually made his money directly from the music that made him famous. It’s probable that because of his previous success he was actually able to sign a contract that let him keep a fair chunk of the money he generated.
7. Sinead O’Connor – Net Worth: $6 Million
Another person who was already successful prior to her one billboard hit Nothing Compares 2 U. This song (which Prince first wrote) hit #1 on the billboard charts in 1990. Known as much for her shaved head, shapeless clothing and political views, Sinead O’Connor already made it big with critics and college charts with her debut album, The Lion and The Cobra (1987). She was so outspoken that in 1992, she refused to perform at a concert in New Jersey if the Star Spangled Banner was played. That same year, in order to protest child abuse in the Catholic Church, she tore a photo of Pope John Paul II live on Saturday Night Live. Two years ago she wrote a controversial letter to Miley Cyrus. She made it big without playing into the general stereotypes of what a female musician should be. She has released 10 albums, but none have reached the success of her first two.
6. Vicki Lawrence – Net Worth: $8 Million
Some of you might be saying, who? The only star from the 70s to make this list. Most of us have heard her one billboard hit though, The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia. (1973). She was definitely more famous for her work on TV, starring for 12 years in The Carol Burnett Show and 7 years in the 80s reprising one of her roles in this show on Mama’s Family. She made most of her money as a comedian, and as an actress, all the way up to a few years ago when she played “Mamaw” on Hannah Montana. Probably the only comic ever who could sing successfully as well.
5. Everlast – Net Worth: $15 Million
Better known as the lead singer for House Of Pain, their big hit Jump Around (1992) hit #3 on the billboard charts and was a hit in every dance club. The band released 4 albums. Putting Everlast on the list is kind of cheating. House of Pain was officially a one hit wonder, but Everlast did release 7 solo albums, with one song, What It’s Like (1999) reaching #13 on the billboard charts. The album containing his solo single was launched after he suffered a massive cardiac arrest requiring an artificial valve implant. He later regrouped with his old crew in 2006, to join the hip hop group La Coka Nostra. Everlast started his career in 1990 releasing his debut album Forever Everlasting, as a member of Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate cartel. When he couldn’t find success there he formed house of pain. His net worth isn’t bad for someone with only two platinum selling albums to his credit.
4. Beck Hansen – Net Worth: $16 Million
Is Beck really a one hit wonder? There was a time when his songs could be found everywhere. Officially he is, as his only billboard hit, Loser, which reached #10 in 1994. Beck has released 30 albums over his career. Each one adding a little to his wealth, through his loyal fan base. When Loser came out some critics thought that he would be the voice of a generation with his fusion of every possible type of music imaginable, while others thought that he was a flash in the pan. His next album Odelay (1996), entrenched him in the alternative music world as it became his best selling album without having one billboard top 20 hit in the U.S. In 2006 he had another “hit”single in E-Pro. But once again didn’t crack Billboard’s top 20 lists. Beck has made such a name for himself that he won a Grammy this year with the worst selling Grammy winning album since 2008.
3. Linda Perry – Net Worth: $18 Million (2012)
Linda Perry makes this list as the lead singer of 90’s female alternative band 4 non-blondes. Their only Billboard hit, What’s Up made it to #14 in 1993. The band released one album, with Linda releasing a few more as a solo artist. But this is definitely not where she made her money. She did make it in the music industry though, but not as an artist. Eight years later in 2001, she found her calling when Pink (seeking a songwriter and producer) called her up. Throughout this decade, Linda produced albums or wrote songs for a wide list of popular artists, such as Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, Faith Hill, Enrique Iglesias and Kelly Osbourne. The list of artists she helped goes on and on, thus helping her earn her millions.
2. Billy Ray Cyrus – Net Worth: $20 Million
Better known today as the father of megastar Miley Cyrus, back in the day he could hold his own as one of the two main Country Music stars in the early 90’s that succeeded in the popular music charts. The other being Garth Brooks. Billy Ray released over 30 albums in his career, but everyone remembers him for Achy Breaky Heart, which made it to number #4 in 1992. He’s cracked the billboard charts 5 more times since then but has never made it past the top 40, let alone the top 20. Nevertheless, many of his albums were decent sellers. He lost a fair amount of credibility in the Country Music world who felt he had too much rock ‘n roll in him, but apparently enough fans stuck around, helping him make millions.
1. Psy – Net Worth: $25 Million
If you want to make it big off of one song, then make sure a billion people watch your video on YouTube. Sound impossible? Well it’s not, but only one person has done it so far. Ironically it wasn’t even his breakout song Gangnam Style (2012) that made it to the top of the Billboard charts. That song peaked at #64. No, the song that puts him on this list is Gentleman, released a few months later, topping out at #5. Psy, a South Korean Native, was educated at Boston University. He became a hit in his native country in 2001, with the album Psy From the PSYcho World. This album connected with teens but was banned by the Korean government who restricted album sales to adults.
His next 4 albums gained industry awards and commercial success in his native land. His face could be seen everywhere on various Korean television shows. So, it may not be fair to say that he wasn’t rich before 2012, but let’s face it, you don’t make $25 million by only being popular in one country, even if it has 50 million people. But when you think of the hundreds of millions made by other musical acts, you realize that it takes more then one song to break the bank, even if 1 billion people listen to it. See the video of his only actual Billboard hit below.
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