Dr. Dre now boasts the largest one-year earnings haul in the history of recorded music


Soon after rumors began circulating that Apple had purchased Beats Music, a video emerged in which Dr. Dre was proclaimed to be a billionaire.

The first item proved true. The second: almost, but not quite, according to Forbes.

This week, the magazine released its list of the highest-paid musicians of 2014. They put Dre’s earnings at a mere $620 million.

However, that was good enough for No. 1 on its annual ranking of highest-paid musicians.

It also turns out to be the largest one-year take in the history of recorded music.

“Fifteen years ago Dr. Dre wondered aloud whether people had forgotten about him,” Forbes’ Zack O’Malley Greenburg writes. “If there was a question then, it has certainly dissipated throughout the next steps of a career filled with highlights—most recently the sale of Beats, the company he cofounded, to Apple for $3 billion.”

Of course, you could argue that that $620 million for a “musician” is a bit misleading, since it was based on the sale of an entire business rather than actual music. While Dre remains an active producer, he hasn’t released an album in the past 15 years (“Detox,” his follow-up to 1999’s “The Chronic,” remains indefinitely delayed).

That said, Forbes also counts endorsement deals as part a musician’s earnings. Beyonce’s $115 million, good enough for No. 2 on this year’s list, came thanks to both her surprise album and “Mrs. Carter” tour, as well as product deals with Pepsi and H&M, Forbes said.

Jay-Z took home $60 million, finishing 12th.

Some other facts about this year’s list:

  • The median earnings of this year’s top 10 was $80.5 million, the highest in four years and a huge jump from last year’s $63 million median. The lowest-earning top-10 earner for 2014, Toby Keith, took home $65 million, which would have been good for fourth-most in 2013. (This is also the second-consecutive year Keith took home $65 million.)
  • The median age of 2014’s top 10 was 50.5. Oldest was Paul McCartney (72), and youngest was One Direction (average age 19). It’s the highest median age in four years, and restarts a trend halted in 2013 of a seemingly ever-older list.
  • The names atop Forbes’ list show a remarkable degree of consistency over the years. Bon Jovi and Justin Bieber have now placed in the top 10 for four years in a row. Paul McCartney has made it three out of four years, and 2014 was the first year in the last four in which Elton John did not make it. The only new entrants for 2014 were Calvin Harris (age 30, take $66 million) and One Direction (take $75 million).

Taylor Swift, who had the year’s best-selling album, finished just 11th, at $64 million. But in an email, Greenburg said the list covers earnings between June 2013 and June 2014, and “1989” was released this fall. He said he expects her to have a strong showing next year as she embarks on a world tour.

The earnings results are based on data from Pollstar, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Nielsen SoundScan, as well as interviews with managers, lawyers, executives and some of the artists themselves.

Oh, and here’s a 19-year-old Dre DJ’ing for the World Class Wreckin’ Cru in 1984.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.

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