Music is a big business, but not all artists really manage to create sustainable wealth from their careers in the spotlight for a short amount of time. We’ve all heard stories about bad managers embezzling funds or record deals that don’t give the creators what they really deserve!
There are some names who have beat the system, and beat it well! While there are a lot of one hit wonders out there, a good chunk of the names you know have managed to make hundreds of millions through songwriting credits on top of their stellar performances. Let’s take a look at the most successful lyrical money makers of all time! Are you surprised by any of these figures?
Taylor Swift — $320 Million
We all know Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in music today, but did you know that she actually has broken records for music industry income competing with the likes of Michael Jackson?
While Taylor does have a bit of help editing her lyrics to be just right, she does actually write her hits from scratch. Many performers simply sing ballads that were shopped around behind the scenes, but she always has a lot of creativity and vision for the direction she wants to pursue. Taylor’s albums have changed through the years, and the evolution from lite country pop to mainstream pop has made her hundreds of millions, combined with her real estate investments, merchandise, and sold out tours. The songwriting credits on the 40 million albums she has sold certainly ensure that she will see a bigger chunk of the profits than she otherwise would. Very impressive, Taylor!
Mick Jagger — $332 Million
The Rolling Stones are one of the biggest bands in history, and for good reason! Nearly everyone can name a song they love by this group, and it’s no surprise that front man Mick Jagger is doing extremely well so many years after the band’s heyday. While the creative process in a band must be shared with its other members, Mick does have many songwriting credits on their albums. And his solo career just added to his paychecks, which now total more than $300 million!
Did you know that Mick was originally signed up for the London School of Economics while he was thinking about being a journalist? He didn’t finish his education because it seems like something else started taking up his time. The Rolling Stones seemed like a better bet! These days, Mick is the subject of articles, not the author. Do you think he made the right career move?
Bruce Springsteen — $345 Million
Bruce Springsteen is the name we all know from what was actually called the E Street Band, and any New Jersey resident will agree he is “the boss”. A funny nickname, but do his bank records live up to the title?
Indeed, they do! Bruce has sold more than 135 million records, and he has songwriting credit for a very long list of hits with the band and beyond. It’s no wonder he is well on his way to the $350 million mark, and people are still quite happy to buy his older material for their collections. New generations will continue to build Bruce’s bank account, and he has come a very long way since the small New York clubs of the 1970’s when he was trying to get a record deal. Very well done, Bruce!
Beyoncé — $355 Million
Beyoncé Knowles started out as one of three in Destiny’s Child, but she was involved in the core songwriting even back then. Her solo career took off soon after, and we all know she is one of the biggest stars today!
Beyoncé came from modest beginnings, and her family must be incredibly proud of her accomplishments. Her mother was a hairdresser, but now her daughter can probably afford to get her a private stylist! At $355 million, this has got to be some of the most profitable songwriting ever. And she’s not done yet, by a long shot.
Toby Keith — $365 Million
Toby Keith is one of the hottest names in country today, and he started out as an artist on a mainstream record label to get his initial publicity and distribution. Soon though, Toby broke away and formed his label. Was that a good financial move?
It appears so! Toby’s independent label recently merged with another one, and he seems to be doing quite well overall. With 40 million records sold just from his own work, he stands to make much more with the new artists he signs in the future. Individually, he has made more than Beyoncé, which really puts things into perspective. Who knew that country music was such a big industry? The fans shelling out cash do, of course!
Elton John — $500 Million
Ah, Elton John. Who doesn’t love him? It is hard to find someone who has never heard of this artist, at least. Being around so long probably means that he has made a little bit of money, but just how much has Elton raked in from all his songwriting over the years?
If you guessed half a billion, you would be right! And yes, that is billion with a ‘B’. Elton is so prolific that he was actually honored with knighthood by the Queen of England, and he has collected a very long list of other accolades and awards over the course of his 30 album career. Is Sir Elton finished with these projects, though? Fans all over the world will wait and see, but it’s likely he is going to sell out any shows he decides to do on a whim for the rest of his life. He doesn’t actually need to create anything else, but artists sometimes surprise us!
Dolly Parton — $500 Million
Everyone loves Dolly Parton, even people who claim they hate country music! This singer is also a songwriter, and she has cashed in big from all her hits over the years. Half a billion bucks isn’t bad!
Her old hit “Jolene” has recently been remixed into a modern club hit, and bars across the world have been playing her again. Dolly found herself on the top 10 country hit lists for six years straight during the height of her career, and she remains an irreplaceable favorite for those who listen to contemporary country releases. These days, Dolly is a philanthropist and runs an amusement park! What will she do next?
Mariah Carey — $510 Million
Mariah Carey was a staple for music lovers in the late 1990’s and early millennium years, and she does still release music from time to time. But it seems that her deals from that period have made her financially stable enough to pick and choose what she wants to do with her time now. Half a billion dollars is pretty respectable!
In 2000, she signed a $100 million deal with her record label. She has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide, and most people agree that she influenced many other artists we love today. Nobody can sign the high notes like Mariah, and it’s not surprising at all that she has done so well with sales!
Bing Crosby — $550 Million
Now this is an artist many people have forgotten about, but he remains one of the biggest money makers of all time. Bing Crosby is a staple on the radio during the holiday even today, and his albums continue to make money long after his death in the late 70’s.
Crosby’s songs made hundreds of millions of dollars over the decades, and we all know his greatest hits. “White Christmas” will always be a classic! Many may not know that he also starred in movies during his day, and he became a businessman in his own right with the initial money he made from songwriting. He bought TV stations, horse racing tracks, and much more to build lasting wealth, and it looks like he will remain on these lists for a long time to come!
Jimmy Buffett — $560 Million
Jimmy Buffet may have written some of the best songs ever on fruity beach drinks, but he has been pretty busy since then investing his millions of dollars in profit into many other projects. What has Jimmy been up to, exactly?
With his concert and album money, Jimmy invested into stores and cafes. Though he has a song called “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, that was just the beginning for the concept. He opened a restaurant by the same name, and it became a chain. Today, just one exists, located in New Jersey. Have you been there yet? We suspect there are piña coladas, but we can’t be sure!
Madonna — $590 Million
Surprising no one at all, Madonna has her own spot on the list. And considering the sheer number of hits spanning four decades, almost $600 billion in wealth seems pretty on point. But what is Madonna up to these days?
Madonna is still releasing new music, still doing world tours, and still being fabulous. Her Super Bowl halftime show was the most watched break segment in history for the franchise, and it’s not hard to understand why! Madonna is actually considered the wealthiest woman in the music business, and it will be interesting to see who can truly compete with her record over the coming years. It’s a high bar, that’s for sure!
Bono — $700 Million
Bono is such a big star that joins the one name club, and it’s not hard to understand why. What is his last name, anyway? While no one seems to be familiar with it, we all know about his work on global issues and his timeless hits that still play on the radio.
U2 was huge in the 80’s, 90’s, and beyond. They still make music today! Bono’s personal wealth has jumped to $700 million, and he is not done making music yet. He does seem pretty busy, however. Investing his wealth into both business business projects and philanthropist organizations, Bono seems like he really has his hands full. We still think he has a few musical tricks up his sleeve, but we will wait and see!
Dr. Dre — $770 Million
Dr. Dre has been around in hip hop for a few decades now, and that is no easy thing to do in a business with new artists every month! His first breakout role was as a member of the rap group N.W.A. in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but he quickly went on to do a lot of interesting solo work that made him a standout in the business. So what is he up to these days?
After rapping and producing the most famous famous artists that came after him,. Dr. Dr3e has decided to move onto other business ventures. Beats by Dre are some of the bestselling headphones in the world right now, to the extent that counterfeit operators have copied them! This issue plagues many businesses these days, but Dr. Dre continues to innovate with his products despite the challenge. Good luck, Dre!
John Lennon — $800 Million
John Lennon remains an absolute icon in the music industry today, and he probably always will be. His tragic assassination was a shock to the world, but they certainly didn’t stop buying his work. John Lennon albums remain a staple item that music lovers will probably always buy, and the profits put him at the top of the best selling artists of all time. Today, $800 million is associated with his name, but in twenty years it could be a billion!
John was indeed a songwriter for many if not most of the songs with The Beatles, often teaming up with Paul McCartney to produce musical magic. But his solo career was pretty impressive too, and fans loved the song lyrics that expressed his personality without the other three members. Do you think he was better without the band? The controversy has been going on for more than 50 years, and there’s still debate!
Sean Combs — $825 Million
Puff Daddy, P Diddy, Sean Combs – Whatever name you know him by, he is probably one of your favorites in hip hop. His debut album went platinum, which was a big deal before the internet! In fact, it’s a big deal now too, but Sean really deserves some credit as an early superstar in the industry.
Climbing above the $800 million mark is no joke, and he has done so with songwriting credit and performance for his own work along with producer roles for other artists. Sean John is the name of his successful clothing line, started with investment from his music profits. These days, Puff Daddy is a father of six children. It seems like he has more than enough money to support a bigger family if he wants to, but six is a lot already!
Michael Jackson — $825 Million
Even though Michael Jackson is no longer alive, his music is still played on a daily basis on radio stations everywhere. He was really something quite unique when he came out, and fans went crazy for his innovative dance moves and catchy tunes.
More than 350 million records with his work have been sold, and his estate has actually made $2 billion since his death. That’s pretty unusual, isn’t it? It seems that “Thriller” will always be a classic, and it will be interesting to see if any new artists are able to knock him down a few points on all the lists he still seems to dominate. Only time will tell!
Herb Alpert — $870 Million
Not many people know the name Herb Alpert, but maybe they should! As a primer, Herb’s resume includes jazz artist, record executive, and songwriter for artists besides himself. And he has done very, very well!
Herb learned his musical skills at a very young age growing up in Los Angeles, and he has probably really impressed his music teachers by now. To date, he has won nine Grammy’s! He can also claim credit for 14 platinum albums, and 15 gold. Overall, he has sold more than 72 million albums! It’s really no surprise that his bank account is overflowing with more than $800 million, but he probably has the rare ability to enjoy going out in public without the paparazzi following him! A stealthy rise to the top, but he definitely belongs on the list.
Jay-Z — $900 Million
Jay-Z joins his wife Beyoncé on the hall of fame lists for music sales, but he has actually made even more than her with producer credits on top. And beyond that, he is constantly busy with other projects reinvesting his music checks!
Jay-Z has been involved in many areas of business beyond music, actually. He works on branding with Budweiser, has a shoe collection with Reebok, and has been producing a clothing line of his own for a very long time now. Rocawear is a huge brand, and it’s not slowing down. But Jay knows how to recognize a good startup in any industry, and he was a big investor in Carol’s Daughter, an independent beauty company that Oprah also promoted early on. Now it’s pretty big! What will Jay-Z invest in next? It looks like his household is already worth more than a combined billion bucks between he and his wife, and this is only midway for their careers!
Paul McCartney — $1.2 Billion
Paul McCartney joins Elton John in the Knight club. It looks like the Queen has really good taste! Though this is a process honor, Paul has a billionaire title as well. Is anyone really shocked?
Along with John Lennon, Paul was the other main songwriter for all the Beatles hits over the years. And they have really never stopped selling! Eventually, those dollars and cents really add up! If Paul wants to do a concert tour today, it will likely be sold out. He’s definitely got a place in all of our hearts, and he is still making albums! Real artists probably never stop creating, do they?
Andrew Lloyd Webber — $1.2 Billion
Many people probably know the name Andrew Lloyd Webber, but they may not really be familiar with all of his work. Yes, he was involved in theater, and yes, he gets some credit for the Broadway musical Cats – But does anyone know how much this musical artist has really made over the years?
It turns out that he has made more than $1 billion from these hit Broadway musicals! Yes, that[‘s right. Andrew is actually a billionaire, and he also has the honor of winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and Tony award! Very few people in the world can say they have all four, even fewer than those that can claim billionaire status. Very impressive, Mr. Webber!