You still have to do the album biz before you get the golden key
Dr dre’s last album was released in 1999. Thirteen years on, he is named as the best paid “musician” of 2012, having earned $110 million, according to Forbes magazine. And he didn’t make that money from touring. At No 2 on the list is Roger Waters. His last album was released 20 years ago. Welcome to the changing of the guard.
Earlier this year, Noel Gallagher said: “What is fascinating is that there was a way of making money and selling records that got happened upon in the ’60s and it worked for 30-odd years. Then all of a sudden, in under a decade, it’s gone, never to return.”
Gallagher predicted that “rock stardom will die because nobody will make enough money any more to be rock stars. Everybody will be jobbing musicians. The music business we signed into does not exist anymore.”
Consider: Adele had the best- selling album in the world in 2012 – it sold mega-millions and is still doing so – but when it comes to the Forbes rich list for this year, she can only limp in at No 22.
Gallagher is correct in that there never will be any more music mega-millionaires. At least not from sales of albums. You can still make money, as Dre and Waters ($88 million in 2012) have, by owning a lucrative headphone business (Dre’s Beats) or touring an album that is 33 years old (Waters’s The Wall).
It’s little wonder that the best a music talent show winner these days can hope for is some crappy TV presenting job. Or that record labels often give up on a band after barely one album. The figures just don’t add up anymore.
The great thing about Dr Dre being the highest paid musician in the world is that he announced his retirement more than two years ago: “As far as me going into the mic booth, that shit is over. I’m getting older, I’m always going to talent scout and try to find new artists to work with – but yes, that’s it.”
There is still talk of Dre’s Detox album, aka the Chinese Democracy of rap. but he’s been working on that since 2001 and there’s no release scheduled.
But even with Dre and Roger Waters at the top of the Forbes list and Adele way down at No 22 telling us all we need to know about musicnomics in the present era, there remains the salutary fact that the main reason Dre has made so much money is because his name gives his business a certain cachet. And he got that name from his album releases, both with NWA and as a solo artist. Similarly, Waters continue to rake it in because of what he achieved over a series of albums with Pink Floyd. And the same goes for every other act on the Forbes list.
Yes, endorsements, clothing lines, sponsorship deals, €100-plus tickets on never-ending world tours and Las Vegas residencies may be the way to make real money in today’s music world, but you only get that golden key once you’ve done it album-wise. After all, if you’re paying £300 for a pair of Beats headphones, you want something great to listen to through them.
And Santa, if you’re reading this: the Beats Studio High Definition (in black) look very nice.
The Killers’ Christmas single, I Feel It in My Bones. All money goes to HIV/Aids research.
Lady Gaga touted to play Amy Winehouse in biopic.