They don’t refer to the outlandish lifestyles of the rich and famous to be ‘living like a rockstar’ for nothing. While not all musicians are rolling in the dough, there is a vast majority that are living their best lives. When you think about musicians across the extremely diverse musical landscape, many different artists will pop up when you think: ‘wealthiest’ artist.
When you think of rich rock stars, you probably envision Justin Bieber driving up in his customized Lamborghini Huracan with his supermodel wife. You envision Celine Dion commanding $500k per show in Las Vegas or perhaps you think of Elton John down the strip playing on his million-dollar piano. Maybe you think about Michael Jackson’s personal exotic zoo at his Neverland Ranch. You could think of an artist like Jay-Z who not only sold over 100 million records but he has won over 19 Grammys, has worked as president of Def Jam Recordings, partially owned and sold the New York Nets, created the Rocawear clothing company, and founded the record label Roc-a-Fella Records all before marrying Beyonce which boosted the power couples combined net worth to reach well over $1 billion.
Another choice may be the polar opposite from the image of someone living a lavish rock-n-roll lifestyle, but one of the richest musicians in the world is Andrew Lloyd Webber. Not familiar with the Broadway composer whose 1.28 billion dollar net worth has been amassed from 20 of the greatest Broadway hits of all time? Ever heard of The Phantom of the Opera? Jesus Christ Superstar? Cats? Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? School of Rock? The list of pieces that he has written goes on and on and so do his accolades. Not only is he collecting royalties from two songs that he wrote for Elvis, but most of the shows that he wrote music for are also still going strong. Some for over ten years! So he is pulling in profit from not only soundtrack sales, merchandise, film adaptations, ticket sales, and products but has won 6 Tony’s, 3 Grammy’s, an Academy Award, and the list goes on and on. Webber has even been granted knighthood and a nobility title for his contribution to music.
So who could be richer than The Right Honorable Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Kt? I don’t know…a Beatle maybe? Paul McCartney is credited as writer and/or co-writer of EVERY Beatles song and just the royalties from that should bring him money forever, right? But McCartney is not a Billionaire from his time with the Beatles. McCartney went on to have a successful solo career, toured with the band Wings, and has had infamous collaborations with the likes of Michael Jackson and Kanye West. The pop culture icon is now a billionaire and that is no doubt due to writing or co-writing 32 #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits, having a song (that he has solo writing creds for) being the most covered song of all time, and he holds over 25,000 copyrights! The music legend was also knighted by the queen (so I guess I should have written Sir Paul McCartney).
It’s crazy to imagine anyone selling more albums than the Beatles or even being worth close to what Sir Paul McCartney is, but there is a relatively unknown, unconventional artist who did and is just that. One of the top five richest musicians in the world is none other than Herb Albert. A majority of the populous will have no idea who Herb Albert is and I wouldn’t if I hadn’t fallen in love with jazz at an early age. Herb Alpert was born on the Eastside of Los Angeles in 1935 to Jewish immigrants. Besides being raised in a musical home, his trumpet lessons starting in his early adolescents and led to performing in military ceremonies while in the US Army. After trying his hand at acting, he pursued a career in music and even was a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band for two years. Alpert worked as a songwriter for Keen Records and wrote or co-wrote hits for Jan and Dean and Sam Cooke. He began work as a vocalist himself in 1960 and by 1962 realized that he didn’t like the way that artists were treated by some record labels, so he said ‘if(I) ever got the chance to have my own company, it’ll be a trust artist label, and revolve around the artist.’ He, along with Jerry Moss, started their label to produce his new single and a new single for Charlie Robinson but with the success of Herb’s single “Tell it to the Birds”, the label produced more and more. His disco tune “Rise” rose to the top of the Billboard Top 100 and even won a Grammy (And if you’re not familiar with the tune, the song would be sampled by Puff Daddy for Notorious B.I.G.’s immortal hit “Hypnotize”.).
Alpert (the A) and Moss (the M) set up shop on the grounds of the historic Charlie Chaplin Studios in Hollywood and signed HUGE acts over the history of the label. Throughout the 60s, Alpert and Moss signed acts like Sergio Mendes, Captain & Tennille, Joan Baez, Burt Bacharach, Herb Alpert’s act Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, and dozens more. The 70s would find them signing artists like Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker, Cheech & Chong, Carole King, Styx, and many many more. By the first ten years of its inception, A&M records had become the world’s largest independent record label, and twenty years after its inception in the 1980s, they were producing albums for some of the world’s biggest stars. Acts like Sting, The Police, Janet Jackson, Bryan Adams, Oingo Boingo, Amy Grant, and a lot more.
By the time 1989 rolled around, A&M was purchased by PolyGram and the $1000 investment from Moss and Alpert into a 500 million dollar company. After the purchase of A&M, still under the tutelage of Alpert and Moss, signed 90s powerhouse acts like Blues Traveler, Aaron Neville, Barry White, Gin Blossoms, Sheryl Crow, and many others which include one of the biggest rock groups of the 90s: Soundgarden (and subsequently the supergroup Temple of the Dog project consisting of members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam). While the original studio and office is now home to the Jim Henson Company, the label itself was absorbed by a much larger merger (now Interscope-Geffen-A&M), and its catalog of songs are distributed amongst a plethora of other places; the impact of A&M is felt throughout the pop culture landscape.
He might not be the richest but he is one of the most profound. Some of his singles outsold the Beatles, and some pushed The Beatles out of the #1 slot on the Billboard Top 100. This multiple Grammy-award-winner had fifteen gold albums, fourteen of which went platinum and sold the record company he built out of his garage. His music outsold the Beatles in 1966, was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as having five albums simultaneously in the Top 20 on the Billboard Pop Album chart (something that has NEVER been broken), worked on many movie soundtracks (including multiple James Bond movies), performed at a Super Bowl, is also the only artist to have a number one vocal single as well as an instrumental piece on the Billboard Pop chart, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music, was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama, and thousands of other things. These accolades add up to the net worth is upwards of 880 million dollars, but what is most important is the rich history that he has in the history of music.
Lamborghini Huracan by Johannes Maximilian – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92604997
Paul McCartney by Rich007 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/36576534@N00/1789561568/, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3693336
Alpert in 1966 by General Artists Corporation (GAC)/A&M Records (management and record companies) – eBay item photo front photo back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16535959
Herb Alpert in 1966 by New service – eBay, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20697805
Soundgarden live at Lollapalooza 2010 by musicisentropy – https://www.flickr.com/photos/bandfan/4908666471/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11273843
Alpert being awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2013 by Pete Souza – Official White House photo by Pete Souza via , Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27379720