Lots of people want to be rock stars. Few realize that dream, and even fewer amass levels of wealth that rival some countries’ GDPs. But those musicians are out there, some having earned more than a billion dollars from their musical endeavors and business acumen.
Here are the richest musicians in the world. We show how they make, and how they spend their riches.
Sting – $300 Million
Before he was a superstar, Sting was an English teacher. But the man his students knew as Mr. Sumner left behind low teacher pay to become one of the richest musicians in the world.
As the bass player, frontman, and primary songwriter for The Police, Sting earned quite a bit of money from the band’s sales of more than 100 million albums. He also wrote “Every Breath You Take,” which stands as the most-played song in the history of radio.
After the dissolution of The Police, Sting launched a solo career that has lasted for decades longer than his band did. Those albums brought in some cash, as did his appearances in films like Quadrophenia and Dune. He’s also written music for films like Kate and Leopold, The Emperor's New Groove, and Cold Mountain.
He invested in a winery and owns several luxury apartments in New York City.
But aside from his music, Sting is renowned for his work with charities and causes. He founded the Rainforest Foundation with his wife, Trudie Styler, and worked with the Prince's Trust and the Live Aid concerts. He has also given to and been a spokesman for Amnesty International, even recording a few projects, the proceeds of which went to the human rights organization.
Lady Gaga – $320 Million
Stefani Germanotta has parlayed her audacious fashion sense and musical brilliance into significant wealth as Lady Gaga. She’s had several successful albums and huge tours, and she’s even performed at the Super Bowl halftime show.
Gaga has also appeared in numerous television and film projects, nearly all of which have been hugely successful. She even won an Oscar for A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper.
She has a line of fragrances and a makeup line with MAC Cosmetics, and she works with iconic fashion brands like Versace and Tiffany & Co.
Gaga has spoken openly about her struggles with mental health, and is a strong advocate for mental health awareness. Lady Gaga has also supported LGBTQ+ rights and has been an outspoken advocate for equality.
Additionally, Lady Gaga has supported organizations fighting poverty and homelessness, including the Born This Way Foundation, which she founded in 2012. The foundation aims to empower young people and create a kinder, braver world.
Keith Richards – $340 Million
The grizzled mug of the Rolling Stones belongs to iconic guitarist Keith Richards, who has been an integral part of pop culture for decades. His work with the Stones and on solo projects has driven album sales of more than 200 million units.
Richards has also appeared in feature films as part of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and published books— an autobiography and a children’s book. He’s also been part of business undertakings related to a clothing line and a line of cigars.
He has spent money on some real estate, purchasing properties in various countries, but he seems more drawn to amassing an enormous collection of guitars, vintage amps, and other music gear.
He has used his wealth, driven largely by music royalty streams, to advocate for environmental causes. Richards has supported the Climate Group and the Environmental Justice Foundation, and outside of environmental causes, he donates to the Music in Schools Today foundation.
Bruce Springsteen – $345 Million
The Boss made a name for himself as a poet of the people while putting on wildly entertaining live shows. His album sales and concert revenue have come together to make Bruce Springsteen fabulously wealthy while singing about the common man.
With more than 20 studio albums to his credit, Springsteen’s songwriting and recording income has allowed him to amass a fortune that he works to distribute to causes he believes in, including social justice movements, environmental organizations, music education, and veterans’ issues. Along those lines, he has given millions to the Thrill Hill Foundation.
He has purchased properties in Florida and California and owns a 400-acre horse farm in New Jersey. Springsteen also has an impressive car collection that includes a 1960 Corvette C1 convertible, a Chevy Bel Air convertible, and a Range Rover.
Ringo Starr – $350 Million
Ringo Starr rose to fame as the iconic drummer of The Beatles and also earned significant income from his work as a solo artist. While he’s made money from music, he’s also set up other income streams from acting in film and TV shows, doing voiceover work for animation and video games, and producing albums for the likes of Peter Frampton and others.
Starr collects art but also earns money from sales of his own artwork, which he’s recently augmented by getting in on the sale of NFTs.
Sir Ringo has long been an animal welfare advocate. To wit, he’s given financial support to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the ASPCA. Music education is another cause close to his heart, and he supports the Lotus Foundation, which provides grants to fine arts education programs.
Mick Jagger – $360 Million
As the lead singer of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger fronts one of the most successful and influential rock bands in history. His bank account reflects that. He’s sold albums with the band and as a solo artist, collaborated with the likes of David Bowie and the Jackson 5, and appeared in numerous films, including Ned Kelly and Freejack. He has also produced films, including the critically acclaimed Enigma.
It doesn’t have anything to do with his wealth, but the fact that Mick Jagger is also a great-grandfather is mind-blowing.
As a patriarch, then, it’s no surprise that he supports causes that work to make the world better. He has donated to organizations working to
- alleviate poverty
- conserve the environment
- provide care for teenage cancer victims
- support education
The Stones still record, but even if they didn’t, royalties would continue pouring in for decades.
Jimmy Buffett – $430 Million
Jimmy Buffett’s devoted fanbase doesn’t care how much money he has. Then again, a lot of his money comes from them as they buy his records, go to his restaurants, and attend his concerts.
With more than 30 studio albums and hit songs like “Margaritaville “ and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” Buffett has built an empire based on beachwear and a laid-back attitude. It has resonated with fans worldwide, and they’ve rewarded him for it.
His Margaritaville restaurant chain has locations around the world, the Margaritaville Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, brings money to his empire, and he’s even published a book.
Far from sitting on the beach and counting his money, Buffett gives much of it away, forming the Singing for Change foundation in 1995 to support social and environmental causes, including marine conservation, affordable housing, and renewable energy.
Taylor Swift – $450 million
Taylor Swift may be America’s sweetheart these days, but she doesn’t really need anyone’s help. Her searingly successful career includes multi-platinum-selling albums, sold-out tours, and endorsement deals with the likes of Coca-Cola, CoverGirl, and Apple Music, which have all earned her a lot of money.
Then there’s her streaming income. She has well over 40 billion streams and gets a percentage from every single one. It’s a small amount per stream, but multiply even a fraction of a penny by 40 billion, and you get a hefty sum.
She has also appeared in films and TV shows, bowing in The Lorax and Cats. That second was kind of a disaster, but she still made money from it, and it wasn’t her idea to make that movie anyway.
Swift has donated millions of dollars to charitable causes ranging from education to disaster relief to LGBTQ+ rights.
Elton John – $480 Million
One of the more recognizable human beings on the planet, Sir Elton John, may be the most famous piano player who ever lived. He’s been active as a recording and touring artist since the 1960s and has sold more than 300 million records. Grammys, Tony, and myriad other awards line his shelves.
He’s made quite a bit of money from live shows, as he tours regularly. People flock to his shows because he’s a flamboyant performer (remember the Donald Duck outfit and all the others?) and because he’s an accomplished musician and one of the greatest songwriters in history.
He lives a high life, buying expensive clothing and once spending £293,000 on flowers in 20 months. But the money keeps coming in from investments in restaurants, flower delivery companies (because, of course), and a stake in the London-based soccer club Watford FC.
Sir Elton is also famously giving. He formed the Elton John AIDS Foundation during 1992. Since then it has raised over $450 million to support various HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and advocacy programs around the world and has helped fund the fight against breast cancer and the support of music education.
Emilio Estefan – $500 Million
When the world first heard Gloria Estefan sing “Conga” with the Miami Sound Machine, who knew the man behind it all would become a music magnate? That man was her husband, Emilio Estefan, a Cuban-American musician, and producer who’s worked with seemingly everybody.
His success with the Miami Sound Machine led him to produce gigs with the likes of Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, and Ricky Martin, so he’s had a huge impact on Latin sounds over the past several decades.
He owns Larios on the Beach and Bongos Cuban Cafe, both successful restaurants and part of a cruise ship line. His investments have allowed him to live a life of luxury, give to causes he supports, and continue making music.
Dolly Parton – $675 Million
One of the most generous musicians of all time, Dolly Parton, has given a huge amount of money to causes supporting literacy, education, and health care causes. She famously donated large amounts of cash in the wake of the Tennessee wildfires of 2016, and she helped fund the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19.
But she’s a musician at heart, releasing more than 50 albums over the years and earning money through album sales, live shows, television and film appearances, and the authoring of several books.
Then there’s Dollywood, an amusement park, and other real estate investments. Parton would be a national treasure for only one of the above paragraphs. Lucky for us, she does it all.
Bono – $800 million
When U2 started, Bono and his friends were Dublin teenagers. Christened Paul Hewson, lead singer Bono helped lead the band to world domination in just a few years, and U2 stands as one of the most successful bands of all time, selling 150 million records.
Their concerts sell out regularly, and as a member of the band, Bono gets a cut of every ticket sold, and that adds up. Songwriting royalties have also contributed to his wealth.
Bono stands as one of the most generous philanthropists in music, getting involved in various humanitarian causes, including poverty, disease, and social justice issues. He co-founded the ONE Campaign, which aims to end poverty and preventable diseases around the world, and co-founded RED, an organization that partners with various companies to raise funds for the fight against AIDS.
As an investor, Bono got in on the ground floor of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm that has invested in various technology and media companies. He has also invested in real estate, including a $14.5 million home in Los Angeles.
Celine Dion – $800 Million
While Celine Dion has made a lot of money as a singer— her Las Vegas residency was the most successful of all time, raking in over $100 million— the Canadian “My Heart Will Go On: has made a pretty penny from brand ambassador deals and collaboration arrangements.
- She was a spokesperson for L'Oreal Paris starting in the 80s.
- Coty Inc. worked with her to create perfumes like Celine Dion, Belong, and Sensational in 2003.
- She worked with Danier Leather to launch a line of jackets, bags, and other accessories in 2008.
- Nordstrom gave her her own accessories line in 2017.
- In 2019, Dion collaborated with the luxury car brand Bugatti to create a one-of-a-kind Chiron supercar, whatever that is. Sounds expensive, though.
She also owns Schwartz’s, a Montreal restaurant known for its smoked meat sandwiches.
Dion gives to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and her own eponymous foundation that supports organizations that help sick and underprivileged children.
She can spend money on herself, too, amassing properties in Florida and Quebec valued in the tens of millions, and she does tend to buy herself expensive jewelry.
Dr. Dre – $800 Million
Before he was Dr. Dre, Andre Young was looking to make it in music and joined a rap group called N.W.A. That group contributed to a seismic shift in pop culture, launching the act and Dr. Dre as a hip-hop figure and, later, a major solo artist and producer.
In addition to multiple Grammy Awards, Dre made money from album sales— N.W.A.’s, yes, but also works he produced for Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and Eminem.
While Gen Z-ers might not be super familiar with Dre’s music, you can be they know about the headphones made by his Beat Electronics. Beats By Dre makes terrific headphones, and Dre sold the company to Apple in 2014 for ten figures.
Philanthropic efforts include the Los Angeles Children's Hospital and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The more cynical among us might think those contributions arose to sway public opinion in the wake of his 2020 divorce and contentious assets battle. But, no matter the reason, sharing your wealth makes for good karma, and Dr. Dre continues making great music.
Madonna – $850 Million
Madonna Louise Ciccone ruled the 1980s and has, to date, sold more than 300 million records. Only The Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Elvis Presley have sold more, making her the best-selling female artist in the history of the world. Record sales, live shows, and merchandise sales have lined her pockets very nicely, and she’s used that money to further her interests and projects.
She co-founded Maverick Records, the label that signed Alanis Morissette and The Prodigy, and she owns interests in a chain of fitness centers and a fashion line.
She makes it, and she spends it, too, though not always on herself. She has supported numerous charities over the years, including the American Foundation for AIDS Research, UNICEF, and Raising Malawi, an organization that supports orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi, a country she’s shown to have a soft spot for in her heart.
Madonna owns property in New York and a $19.3 million mansion in Portugal. She has also been spotted driving luxury cars, such as a Maybach and a Mercedes-Benz SLK.
Herb Alpert – $880 Million
One thing you might not expect from this master of the trumpet is that a good amount of his financial assistance provided to charities comes from his ability as a sculptor.
Herb Alpert came to fame with the Tijuana Brass and made a career out of being a solo artist. He’s sold more than 75 million records and won nine Grammys. The man can play, and he’s had a bit of success.
Once he had some cash to work with, Alpert began investing. He co-founded A&M Records in 1962 and sold it to PolyGram in 1989 for a reported $500 million. Without A&M, pop culture would look very different. Just a small sample of the artists Alpert’s label signed and injected into the zeitgeist include:
- Bryan Adams
- The Carpenters
- Cat Stevens
- Janet Jackson
- Joe Cocker
- Liza Minelli
- The Police
- Simple Minds
He and his wife, singer Lani Hall, founded the Herb Alpert Foundation in 1984 to support various charitable causes surrounding the arts, education, and social justice. The foundation has donated millions of dollars to the Harlem School of the Arts, the Young Musicians Foundation, and the Union Rescue Mission among others.
Sean “Puffy” Combs – $2.5 Billion
Sean Combs, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Puff Daddy, and Diddy are all the same person. And if you gave each one a quarter of Combs’ money, they’d each still have a quarter of a billion dollars. Dang.
Combs is a rapper and producer with many names and many interests. The Grammy winner has produced for Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and The Notorious B.I.G., as well as many other musicians.
He also owns the Sean John clothing line, co-owns Cîroc vodka, and has invested in Revolt TV and DeLeón tequila. Combs has gone far past just being a producer or a rapper, and his business acumen has paid off handsomely.
He lives a luxurious lifestyle, driving a Maybach and splitting time between his $40 million LA mansion and his $17 million Manhattan apartment. He also has a couple of Ferraris and a classic Corvette.
Through the Sean Combs Foundation, he pours money into providing educational opportunities for underprivileged youth in addition to helping fund efforts by the Red Cross, the Boys and Girls Club of America, and the Haiti earthquake relief effort.
Andrew Lloyd Webber – $1.2 Billion
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s contribution to musical theatre is so big as to be nearly immeasurable. This is the guy who wrote Cats, Evita, Starlight Express, and School of Rock, among many others.
Since The Phantom of the Opera stands as the longest-running show in the history of London’s West End (35 years and counting), Webber’s income from that show alone would probably land him on this list.
Webber has also invested in properties, purchasing several mansions and estates in the UK, a villa in the South of France, and a beachfront property in Barbados. He also co-owns the London Palladium, one of the most famous theatre venues in the world.
His philanthropy includes supporting the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Terrence Higgins Trust, which provides services and support to people living with HIV and AIDS.
Paul McCartney – $1.2 Billion
Perhaps the best-known bass player in the world and one-half of what was arguably the most successful songwriting duo in human history, Sir Paul McCartney came to the public’s attention in the 1960s with his mop-top buddies in a little band called The Beatles.
Hundreds and hundreds of millions of album sales later, McCartney is one of the richest singers of all time. While he’s made a good amount of money from his songs with The Beatles and as a solo artist, he sold his music catalog to Sony Music Publishing in December 2021 for $750 million.
As a solo artist alone, he has sold over 100 million records worldwide, and the royalties from his extensive catalog of music which include those for some of the most iconic songs in the history of popular music.
He is a co-owner of the MPL Communications music publishing company, which manages the rights to a vast catalog of music, including songs by Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.
He has been a brand ambassador for companies such as Fidelity Investments, and his image has been licensed for use in video games, advertisements, and other promotional materials.
Sir Paul is also known for his philanthropic efforts, supporting causes dedicated to animal rights, poverty relief, and landmine removal. He also backs the PETA organization and has donated money to organizations such as the Nordoff Robbins music therapy charity and the LIPA Foundation, which provides funding for performing arts education.
Rihanna – $1.4 Billion
Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in Barbados, Rihanna has sold over 250 million records worldwide. She has also won numerous awards, including nine Grammy Awards and 12 Billboard Music Awards. Those awards directly reflect the quality of her musical output and indirectly reflect staggering album sales and streaming revenue.
In addition to her music career, Rihanna has made significant investments in various businesses, founding the Fenty Beauty brand, which offers a wide range of cosmetics and beauty products. She also co-owns Savage X Fenty, a lingerie line, and Fenty, a luxury fashion house.
The singer is well-known for her luxurious lifestyle and owns big-ticket items like a $13.8 million penthouse in Manhattan and a $6.8 million mansion in Hollywood Hills. She has also been spotted driving luxury cars, such as a Porsche 911 Turbo S and a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon.
Rihanna has donated her share of cash, too. She founded the Clara Lionel Foundation to help provide education, healthcare, and emergency response programs to communities in need around the world. She has also lent financial support to UNICEF, the American Cancer Society, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
Jay-Z – $2.5 Billion
Jay-Z’s real name is Shawn Corey Carter. As a rapper, producer, and entrepreneur, he’s one of the most successful and influential hip-hop artists of all time.
He’s made huge amounts of money from his music projects, releasing thirteen studio albums. Several of them achieved multi-platinum status. Jay-Z owns the record label Roc Nation, which represents several successful artists in the music industry.
Aside from his music career, Jay-Z has made significant investments in various businesses. He co-owns the luxury champagne brand Ace of Spades and the streaming service Tidal. He has also invested in Uber and JetSmarter.
Jay-Z's expenditures are also notable. He and his wife, Beyonce, are known for their luxurious lifestyle, including owning multiple multi-million dollar properties around the world. Jay-Z is also an avid art collector and has invested millions in acquiring works by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Pablo Picasso.
But he doesn’t just spend money on things. He and his wife founded the Shawn Carter Foundation, which provides scholarships to underprivileged youth. Jay-Z has also given substantial sums to the Robin Hood Foundation and the ACLU.
Richest Musicians In The World, Final Thoughts
Looking over this list reveals a great many household names. These musicians have become part of our lives and pop culture, and we as a society have rewarded them handsomely for their efforts at making our lives better with their creative output.
That these musicians give back to their local and global communities serves as a credit to each of them, and they’ll all likely continue making music for a long time.