Blog Posts by Zack O'Malley Greenburg, Forbes

  • The Forbes Five: Hip-Hop's Wealthiest Artists 2014

    BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 12: Musician Sean Combs attends the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 12, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)Back in 2007, Sean “Diddy” Combs teamed with Jay Z and 50 Cent to create a song titled “I Get Money: Forbes 1-2-3 Billion Dollar Remix.” Less than a decade later, rappers are closing in on ten-figure fortunes, and he’s the nearest of the bunch.

    Diddy leads the pack with an estimated fortune of $700 million, an increase of $120 million over his net worth last year. The change comes largely from the addition of Revolt TV—the new, music-focused, multi-platform channel of which he’s the majority owner—to his already-hefty portfolio.

    “Right now my focus is Revolt and making it the number one, most-trusted, most credible worldwide brand for music,” he told FORBES in a recent interview. “And  to get Revolt to be the quintessential definition of real time. I think that’s the future.”

    Diddy has plenty of competition in the race to $1 billion. His top challengers are Dr. Dre, who ranks second with $550 million, and Jay Z, in third place with an estimated $520 million. The former leapfrogged the

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  • Cash Kings 2013: The World’s Highest-Paid Hip-Hop Artists

    photo: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images

    Sean “Diddy” Combs hasn’t always agreed with FORBES’ evaluations of his wealth. “[Screw] the Forbes list,” he rapped on a Rick Ross song three years ago. “Let’s tell the truth: I ate more.”

    These days, however, the hip-hop mogul is changing his tune.

    “You started learning how to count right, I see,” Diddy told FORBES earlier this year, referring to more recent estimates. “Thank God!”

    He likely won’t find fault with our latest rankings, either: Diddy tops this year’s list of hip-hop’s top earners, pulling in $50 million over the past 12 months. He’s one of rap’s most diversified moguls, thanks to his Bad Boy record label, Sean John clothing line and Blue Flame agency. But it’s his agreement with Diageo’s Ciroc vodka that brings in the bulk of his bucks. Next up: cable channel Revolt, which will debut this fall via Time Warner and Comcast.

    Full coverage: Hip-Hop Cash Kings 2013

    Jay Z lost his hyphen this year but gained $43 million—good enough to earn the second spot on the list. He’s

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  • Forbes Names Top 5 Highest Paid DJs

    (Photo: Larry Marano, Getty Images)

    By Zack O’Malley Greenburg, Forbes Staff

    It was a few minutes after midnight when the models walked in—a signal that the party at Las Vegas superclub Hakkasan was just beginning. About two dozen of them took their places along the banquettes behind the DJ booth, dancing and smiling at the 3,000 gyrating bodies on the floor before them.

    Moments later, Tijs “Tiësto” Verwest strode to the stage. He donned a pair of headphones, raised his right hand and the music swelled ever louder as a sea of cell phones rose to snap his picture, the thick air bathed in blue by the strobe lights overhead.

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  • Britney Spears Number One On Top-Earning Women In Music 2012 List

    (photo: Reuters)Britney Spears earned over $50 million in 2010—$64 million, to be exact. This year, she might describe her financial gains with the words to one of her best-known songs: "Oops! I did it again."

    The 31-year-old pop star pulled in $58 million over the past year, more than any other woman in the music industry. Her latest album, Femme Fatale, was certified platinum in the U.S. and the ensuing tour accounted for the bulk of her bucks. Endorsements and a fragrance line with Elizabeth Arden added millions more to her coffers. Not too bad, considering Spears' troubles just a few years ago.

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  • The World’s Highest-Paid Musicians Of 2012

    Justin Bieber ties with Toby Keith in 10th place, with $55 million [photo: George Pimentel/Wireimage]Though he's only 18 years old, Justin Bieber has had a year for the ages. The Canadian crooner released his third studio album, launched a world tour and continued investing in startups, adding to a portfolio that includes stakes in Spotify, Tinychat and others. All in all, he earned $55 million in 12 months.

    "I do calls every week with my business manager and my lawyer," Bieber told FORBES this spring as part of a cover story on his budding venture capital career. "Each week I'm learning something about my business and what I need to know for my career."

    But when it comes to the world's highest-paid musicians, Bieber is a relative pauper, barely breaking the top ten.

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  • Dr. Dre Unseats Jay-Z As Hip-Hop’s Top Earner

    Dr. Dre (photo: Johnny Nunez, WireImage)Six years ago Dr. Dre was walking along the beach with Interscope Records chief Jimmy Iovine, pondering whether or not he should launch his own shoe line. "[Forget] sneakers," said Iovine. "Let's sell speakers!"

    It might have been the best piece of advice the rapper-producer ever received. In 2008 he teamed with Iovine and a handful of other partners to launch Beats By Dr. Dre, which now sells more than half of the country's premium headphones ($100 and up). That's music to the ears of Dr. Dre, who collected $100 million pretax when handset maker HTC paid $300 million for a 51% stake in the company last year.

    [Related: FX makes deal with Dr. Dre for drama pilot]

    With $110 million in pretax earnings, Dr. Dre is this year's Hip-Hop Cash King—despite the fact that his long-awaited album, Detox, remains on the shelf. He's not the only one on the list who banks the bulk of his bucks outside the recording studio. Diddy ranks No. 2 with $45 million, thanks mostly to a share of profits from Diageo's Ciroc vodka; Jay-Z ranks third with $38 million, pulling in more than half his annual earnings from ventures including ownership stakes in cosmetics company Carol's Daughter, the Brookyln Nets and a joint venture with battery maker Duracell. Last year, Jay-Z topped the list with $37 million.

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  • The Forbes Five: Hip-Hop’s Wealthiest Artists

    Diddy tops the listBack in 2007, Jay-Z, Diddy and 50 Cent released "I Get Money (The Forbes 1-2-3 Billionaire Remix)." The song was a celebration of the artists' inclusion atop the first-ever Forbes Hip-Hop Cash Kings list, now an annual package on the genre's top-earning artists.

    It seems fitting that those same three artists find themselves in an even more exclusive group—the Forbes Five, a short list of hip-hop's wealthiest moguls. Indeed, the original trio boasts a combined net worth well over a billion dollars, rendering their lyrical prognostications accurate. They're joined by Dr. Dre, flush with cash from his Beats headphone line, and Cash Money Records cofounder Bryan "Birdman" Williams.

    "One of my motivations in life is to be a billionaire," said Birdman in a telephone interview with FORBES. "We're going to keep working hard until we get our brand to be as big as possible. That's the goal in life, that's what I live for."

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  • Billionaires Of The Music Business 2012

    Guy Laliberte [Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage]Guy Laliberte is the wealthiest fire-breather in the world, and he's getting even richer. The former street performer founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984 and still owns 80% of the company; revenues topped $1 billion for the first time this year, placing his personal net worth at $2.6 billion, up $100 million last year.

    The increase in Laliberte's fortune can be partially traced to music—more specifically, the success of Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, a joint venture with the Jackson estate. Since its October debut, the show has grossed over $2 million per night across 85 show dates, with hundreds more to come.

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  • The Top Earning Women in Music

    Lady Gaga, WireImage, JC Olivera

    Alicia Keys gave birth to her first child in October 2010, but she barely skipped a beat in the year that followed. In 2011, the "Empire State of Mind" songstress co-directed a short film called Five, co-produced the Broadway debut of Stick Fly, grossed nearly $700,000 per night for a string of live concerts, and still was able to contribute time to Keep A Child Alive, the charity she co-founded.

    The Clickiest Viral Videos of 2011

    "A lot of times, people make far more money than they could probably ever even think about what to do with," she told FORBES this fall. "If you have the opportunity to be able to encourage someone to do something great for somebody else … I think that's the right way to do business."

    Keys did plenty of business last year—$10 million in earnings, by our estimates—placing her among the ten highest-earning women in music. Yet she finished far behind this year's Cash Queen.

    That title belongs to Lady Gaga, who led the pack with a staggering $90 million total

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  • The World’s Highest-Paid Musicians

    Two decades ago Jon Bon Jovi sat with the members of his eponymous band in a basement in New Jersey. Hoping to rekindle the group's desire to make music after two grueling years on the road, he'd hung vintage posters on the wall, illuminated only by candles and blacklights. But instead of feeling inspired, Bon Jovi found himself becoming cranky and short of breath.

    "I'm thinking maybe this is an issue, maybe I just don't like them," Bon Jovi said in a recent interview for the FORBES Celeb 100 issue. "Until I realized that all the oxygen was sucked out of the room by the candles ... So I blew out the candles, cranked up the amplifiers, and said, 'We're going to be a rock band. If you believe in what I'm telling you, we can be the Rolling Stones.'"

    Sure enough, Bon Jovi is still rocking. The group earned $125 million over the past 12 months, enough to claim the No. 2 spot on FORBES' annual list of the world's highest-paid musicians. U2 (pictured above) took home $195 million-and music's

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