A Chronically Successful Decade: Dr. Dre Is the Highest-Earning Musician of the 2010s

Dr. Dre arrives at the premiere screening of HBO’s “The Defiant Ones” on June 22, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Dr. Dre arrives at the premiere screening of HBO’s “The Defiant Ones” on June 22, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)

Racking up coins? Oh, that ain’t nothin’ but a G thang for Dr. Dre.

Forbes has named the 54-year-old rapper, producer, executive, entrepreneur and all-around music mogul as the highest-earning musician of the 2010s. That’s right, over the past decade Dre racked in an estimated $950 million. Of course, most of that is due to his huge Beats deal, when Apple purchased the highly popular headphone brand for $3 billion in 2014. And he’s still making dough off of them, with about a 20 percent stake in the brand.


Number 2 and Number 3 on the richest musicians of the past decade go to Taylor Swift ($825 million) and Beyoncé ($685 million), respectively. Speaking of Swifty, if I could just pause for a moment to point out that when I clicked on the Forbes link and saw Taylor’s picture, front-and-center as the cover choice...

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
Screenshot: Forbes

...it made me double-take the other headlines I saw about Dre’s highest-earner status. I thought the other publications had made a mistake and the richest musician of the decade was actually Taylor. Nope. Still D.R.E. 

Jesus hold my 40 acres and a mule—y’all really gave number two the featured cover picture? Wow, white girl privilege knows no bounds, I see.

As for how Forbes calculates its richest musicians list of the decade:

Forbes measures the industry’s top-earning musicians annually for the Celebrity 100 by looking at touring data from Pollstar, music consumption numbers from Nielsen and interviews with managers, agents and many of the stars themselves. The list doesn’t include behind-the-scenes earners such as agents, managers and promoters, nor does it deduct living expenses or taxes.

Our ranking doesn’t extend beyond the grave; if postmortem earnings were counted, Michael Jackson would be No. 1. His staggering $2.37 billion total for the decade by our count is higher than his estate’s recently filed estimate of $1.7 billion because we counted reinvested royalties from his half of the Sony/ATV publishing catalog (his estate sold the asset for $750 million in 2016). He easily tops his living peers by either measure.


Other notables on the list include Diddy (No. 5, $605 million) and Jay-Z (No. 7, $560 million), the latter of which Forbes named hip-hop’s first billionaire. So, if you’re like me and counting on your fingers right now after that last sentence, Dre’s deal did become before Jay’s declared status, but Dre had to pay a huge lump sum in taxes after his deal, so he didn’t actually take home the billion bucks.

As far as omissions go, however, it was surprising to see that Rihanna didn’t make the Top 10 list, given Forbes has named her the world’s wealthiest female musician, declaring that the artist and beauty mogul has earning a $600 million fortune at an impressively quick pace.


As for those diversity and inclusion stats, there are only three white males in the Top 10. Three cheers for colored capitalism!

Hey, Doc? Can I hold $5 (like about a million different times)?

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.



White Mediocrity: Still ignoring reality and overcoming its not-as-good-as-the-actual-first-place-winner status to be held the highest!