Despite many people writing off the music industry with the advent of online downloads, it remains a major business where multi-million fortunes can be secured by the top performers. On top of sales and royalties for the music they have written, the top earners achieve their position among the richest musicians by expanding their money-making potential into branded items, such as clothing lines and other investments, investing in the financial markets or even setting up their own entertainment companies to profit from the broader industry.
It’s important to remember when going through a list like this one that musicians, in contrast to companies or public bodies, are private individuals with no obligation to make their riches public. While it’s possible to get some idea of how much they are worth based on the success of their records, tours or investments, the figures of their total wealth are estimates based on the information available at the time.
Interestingly, this list of the top 10 wealthiest musicians contains individuals from a wide range of genres, so it's clear that not only the more recent hip hop and pop industries have been able to generate large sums of money. Here are the top 10 richest musicians, based on a combination of studies which have been checked against information provided by Forbes.
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10 Dolly Parton
Some may be surprised to see her on this list, but Dolly Parton has combined her ability to write some of the most famous songs in pop history with an excellent marketing sense. Her most famous include, "Nine to Five" and "I Will Always Love You", which reached an even wider audience through Whitney Houston’s cover for the film, The Bodyguard. She has released 41 Top Ten albums over her career, and achieved 25 number 1 hits. She has come a long way from her poor background. Her father apparently paid the doctor who helped to deliver Parton when she was born, with a bag of oatmeal. Apart from her musical successes, which includes producing other artists, she has also been an actress in several films. She owns a country theme park called Dollywood, which has drawn in the crowds over the years, adding to her total wealth of $500 million.
The exact amount of Madonna’s wealth has varied according to the sources (ranging from $500-$800 million), with some newspapers even making wild claims that she is a billionaire. But Forbes has estimated a more realistic figure of $500 million (September 2013). In 2013, her MDNA world tour took in ticket sales of over $300 million, making her the highest earning musician in that year, with an income of approximately $120 million. She was awarded the Billboard Award for the best tour for MDNA. Beyond her music revenue, she takes in millions from her Material Girl clothing line and Truth or Dare fragrance.
8 Mariah Carey
The combination of her singing and acting career has helped Mariah Carey increase her net worth to $520 million. She is the biggest selling artist of all time on the billboard charts, and has engineered two timely comebacks that were financially successful. Following her album release in 2008, she reached the position of having the second most number 1’s among music artists, behind only the Beatles. Although some of her movies didn’t escape the wrath of the critics, they did no harm to her bank balance. She has also become a familiar figure on television with her appearance on the judging panel of American Idol. And with such a busy life, it’s important not to forget her perfume and nail polish products she has helped advertise, all of which contribute to her total net worth.
With his net worth standing at $560 million, Jay-Z is the third hip hop artist on this list who has expanded his activities beyond his music-making, and made millions doing so. He has used the proceeds from his platinum-selling albums and successful tours to invest in a record label, restaurants, a clothing line, champagne and a talent agency. His most recent buy was a $56 million purchase of Aspiro AB, part of a bid to get involved in the online download industry. Indicating that his latest venture could turn out to be a major success, Aspiro’s stocks rose by over 50 percent on the news of Jay-Z’s investment. If his wealth is combined with that of Beyonce, which is estimated at over $450 million, the couple possess more than $1 billion.
6 Celine Dion
Celine Dion became a superstar in the early 1990s and since then, has sold over 200 million albums globally. She is probably best known for her song “My heart will go on”, which was featured in the Titanic soundtrack. Her performances around the world have raked in millions, with her regular show in Las Vegas alone reportedly bringing in $350 million between 2000 and 2010. Last year, she put up two large mansions for sale, one in Florida and the other near Montreal, Canada, which taken together, cost over $100 million. Even following these sales, she still owns a home in Las Vegas and a number of other properties throughout the United States and in other countries. Her total wealth is estimated at $630 million.
With Bono’s recent activity as a global fundraiser for good causes and his involvement with diplomacy, it is easy to overlook the fact that he has headed U2 for the past thirty years. The band are one of the most successful ever, and the millions of records and concert tickets sold have certainly contributed to his estimated net worth of between $600 and $700 million. However, mystery surrounds his involvement with Elevation Partners, a private equity fund he co-founded in 2004. His stake in this is not known publicly, nor is the amount he made from his investment in Facebook’s IPO. When these are accounted for, his total wealth could turn out to be a lot higher than at present.
4 Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs
Along with the next person on this list, Diddy was one of the most significant figures in the emergence of rap in the early 1990s. He founded Bad Boy Entertainment, and together with his own success as an artist, this has helped him rake in an estimated $700 million. But it has been his business ventures outside of the studio that have seen his wealth rocket, including his brand of spirits and a clothing line carrying his name. Revolt TV, which is majorly owned by him, is anticipated to bring him in millions more in the coming years, and likely make him the first hip hop billionaire.
3 Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre boasted upon the sale of his headphone business in early 2014, that it had made him the first hip hop billionaire. He hasn't quite reached that milestone if the latest wealth figures are to be believed, with his fortune estimated at $650 million. He founded Beats Electronics in 2008, and he made over $600 from its sale to Apple. On top of that, he has been making and producing music for over 20 years, collaborating with virtually all of the best known figures in the rap industry. He was responsible in popularizing major stars like Eminem and 50 Cent. Eminem’s signing to Aftermath, his record label, led to a multi-million dollar business partnership that established Dre’s label in the industry.
2 Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney’s projected wealth of anywhere between $700 million is thanks above all to royalties from The Beatles’ back catalog, believed to be the most profitable of any music group. But since he embarked on his own solo career, he has not been short of success. His band Wings sold records in the millions, and his solo tours have gone down well. According to Forbes, he pulled in $71 million in 2014 alone, thanks to his latest world tour. When he remarried in 2011, his wealth increased by approximately a third due to the fortune of his new wife Nancy Shevell, who owns around a $200 million stake in haulage firm New England Motor Freight. This led to some confusion about McCartney’s wealth, with one newspaper reporting the combined wealth of the couple as McCartney’s alone. However, he is not yet a billionaire.
1 Andrew Lloyd Webber
The British composer and theater producer has a net worth of $1.2 billion, which puts him at number 1. He started playing musical instruments at an early age: he was three when he began playing the piano. Since he began composing in the 1960s, he has written some of the most recognizable music on Broadway, with his biggest hit being the Phantom of the Opera, a production that has been staged on Broadway more than 10,000 times. He has collected a number of awards for his composition and has also been knighted. Another important source of his wealth was his founding of the Really Useful Group in 1977, a company which is involved in the production of performances in virtually every art form, including theater, television, video, concerts and film. The company is also involved in music publishing.
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