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By Hein Kaiser


Singing for their caviar: World’s richest musicians

Kanye West’s wealth in Rand-terms is about R 54 billion, meaning he can employ just over 162 000 South Africans at the average wage measure for a year.

Money makes the record go round. That is, if you are old enough to remember what a vinyl LP or even a compact disc is or was. These days, one should probably say money makes the download, well, download. The music industry is responsible for creating some staggering wealth for those who claw to the top. There have been a gazillion surveys to figure out who really has made the largest pile of greenbacks and, after scouring the internet it seems that there are well-more than a handful of extremely rich folk performers out there, some earning more than the GDP of small countries.

Sir Paul McCartney is at the very top of the list of singers. With his $ 1,2 billion fortune he can buy the entire country of Samoa, whose gross domestic product is around 40% less than what the former Beatle is worth. Nearly $ 400 million poorer, next on the list of wealthy rock stars is U2 front man and social activist Bono. Likely Ireland’s biggest export, the singer owns a chunk of Facebook shares, serves on the board of investment capital firm Elevation Partners and has a 5-star hotel in Dublin called The Clarence.

Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy aka P-Diddy aka Big Wallet is worth a staggering $ 885 million. A fortune he amassed by turning his brand, or brands, into an empire. Interestingly, Combs was a businessman before he became a performer, launching his own record label Bad Boy Entertainment in 1993, four years before getting in front of the microphone himself.

Joining Sir Paul in the Billionaire’s Club is Kanye West, who recently spent some $ 14 million in pocket change as a candidate in the US-Presidential elections, garnering a measly 66 000 votes or so. Divvied up and it cost West more than $ 200 per vote cast for him. It is an expensive publicity stunt that cost more money than most of us would see in several lifetimes, but, for West, a drop in the ocean of his $ 3.2 billion and counting fortune. He can afford to be as eccentric as he wants.

Lower down on the list are some evergreen performers that surprise. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones is worth around a measly $ 360 million. This, after a career spanning almost 60 years. Still, it is a lot of cash and $ 10 million ahead of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. Madonna is worth more than both ageing rockers put together with her wealth estimated at around $ 850 million last year while her 80s contemporary Cindy Lauper only managed to amass a fortune of circa $ 50 million during her career of equal length.

Katy Perry and Beyoncé are separated by $ 50 million with the I Kissed A Girl singer estimated to be worth $ 350 million. Beyoncé clocks in at $ 400 million and, together with husband Jay-Z the couple’s net worth of $ 1 billion, they can club together and buy the Comoros Islands whose GDP is just over $ 1 billion, and still eek out an existence with the $ 390 million in change.

Just to put this into even greater perspective. According to the site averagesalarysurvey.com the average take-home salary in South Africa is around R 335 000 annually. Kanye West’s wealth in Rand-terms is about R 54 billion, meaning he can employ just over 162 000 South Africans at the average wage measure for a year. Now is not that incredible.

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