Top 10 Earning Hip-Hop Artists June 2009-June 2010
1. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter – $63 million.
2. Sean “Diddy” Combs – $30 million.
3. Aiunane “Akon” Thiam – $21 million.
4. Dwayne “Lil’ Wayne” Carter – $20 million.
5. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young – $17 million.
6. Christopher “Ludacris” Bridges – $16 million.
7. Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus – $15 million.
8. Timothy “Timbaland” Moseley – $14 million.
9. Pharrell Williams – $13 million.
10. Kanye West – $12 million.
Hip-Hoppers Diversify Business Dealings
More than any other major musical genre, hip-hop is marked by performers who engage in a multitude of business ventures. The top two performers, Jay-Z and Diddy, both serve as recording executives, producers, and clothing designers in addition to releasing albums and touring. In addition, Jay-Z owns nightclubs and a portion of the New Jersey Nets NBA team, while Diddy acts in films.
Two of the top 10 performers, Dr. Dre and Timbaland, primarily serve as producers rather than performers (Dr. Dre’s album “Detox,” scheduled for a fall 2010 release, will be the first album where he serves as the primary musical performer in about 10 years). Other actors include Ludacris and Snoop Dogg, while Pharrell is one of several other hip-hop performers heavily involved in fashion design and Kanye West produces songs for many other artists.
Of the top 10 earning hip-hop performers, only Akon and Lil’ Wayne derive the bulk of their earnings from performing on albums and touring.
Hip-Hop Focuses on new Artists
Unlike the broader music industry (see below), hip-hop focuses on artists who started their careers in relatively recent times. Although hip-hop is generally considered to have begun in the South Bronx in the early 1970s (a minority opinion holds it originated in Queens), the only performer among the top 10 earners whose career goes back as far as the 1980s is Dr. Dre. Jay-Z, Diddy, Snoop Dogg, Timbaland and Pharrell all rose to prominence in the 1990s, and the other performers on the list all kick-started their careers in the past decade.
It’s a Man’s World
Funk legend James Brown, a major influence on hip-hop, once sang “It’s a Man’s World,” and hip-hop remains a male-dominated art form. All 10 of the highest-earning hip-hop performers are male. It is also worth noting that although hip-hop has become a global phenomenon, nine of the 10 top earners are American, with Senegalese performer Akon the lone exception. In addition, hip-hop is still dominated by performers of African-American or African heritage, as all of the top 10 earners fall into this ethnic category.
’80s Rockers Break the Bank
In contrast to hip-hop, the Forbes list of the top 10 earning musical performers between June 2009 and June 2010 features two acts who began their careers in the 1970s: AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen, and two began their careers in the 1980s: U2 and Madonna. Forbes attributes part of this trend to the increasing importance of live performance (which tends to be expensive and skew toward an older audience) in an age where digital music is often cheap or free.
One performer on the list for earnings by musical performers across genres, Jay-Z, is in the hip-hop genre, coming in sixth place. Rap music less easily translates to live performance than many other genres, which may be part of the reason the top five performers are all in the rock or R&B/pop genres.