Dr. Dre Earned $950 Million In The Past Decade

In 2014, French electro-pop duo Daft Punk swept the Grammys, music streaming service Spotify was named to CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list and no one could get Pharrell Williams’ chart-topping hit “Happy” out of their heads.

The year also marked when Beats Electronics, owned by super-producer and businessman Andre Young (aka Dr. Dre) was acquired by Apple for $3 billion. This major deal helped Dr. Dre secure his top spot as the highest-paid musician of the 2010s, during which time he earned a reported $950 million, according to Forbes’ list of the 10 top-earning musicians of the decade. Also known as Beats by Dre, the company is best known for its line of headphones and speakers.

Unlike Taylor Swift and Beyonce, who come in second, earning $825 million, and third, earning $685 million respectively, Dr. Dre didn’t spend the past decade going on sold-out world tours to promote multi-platinum albums.

In fact, his last album, “Compton,” was released in 2015 as the soundtrack to the biopic he produced, “Straight Outta Compton,” about his start in the music industry as a member of N.W.A. The last No. 1 hit he produced was in 2009, when he worked with Eminem and 50 Cent on the single “Crack a Bottle.”

To be sure, Dr. Dre’s own work as a rapper, musician and producer for artists such Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige has boosted his earning power; it also led to Rolling Stone’s calling him one of the 100 greatest artists of our time.

But the artist’s work outside of the recording studio, namely as an entrepreneur with continued work through Beats and Apple Music, helped him come out on top in the 2010s.

Dr. Dre’s business prowess has inspired the likes of billionaire mogul Richard Branson. After watching HBO’s documentary “The Defiant Ones,” which chronicles the music industry successes of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, Branson said he admired the duo’s approach to fear and setbacks.

“It is down to perseverance, seeing obstacles as opportunities and embracing fear as a fuel for change,” Branson wrote in a blog post.

Bestselling management author and CNBC contributor Suzy Welch agrees that Dr. Dre’s path in music is one worth taking career advice from. Also praising the HBO documentary, she said she appreciated its “lessons about how you get what so many people dream of when they dream of their careers: huge impact.”

The Forbes list is compiled using touring data from Pollstar and music consumption data from Nielsen, and does not include behind-the-scenes earners such as agents or managers. The ranking also doesn’t take into account postmortem earnings. (By this measure, Michael Jackson would come in at No. 1 with $2.37 billion in earnings over the past 10 years.)

Here are the other artists who join Dr. Dre in earning the most money in the 2010s.

1. Dr. Dre: $950 million

2. Taylor Swift: $825 million

3. Beyonce: $685 million

4. U2: $675 million

5. Diddy: $605 million

6. Elton John: $565 million

7. Jay-Z: $560 million

8. Paul McCartney: $535 million

9. Katy Perry: $530 million

10. Lady Gaga: $500 million


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