Reggae’s top living earners

Photograph of Damian Marley. source: eigen wer...

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The top 10 living Jamaican artistes have amassed some US$90 million (J$7.7 billion) in net worth, equivalent to the annual export earnings from bauxite or sugar based on data from an online media report released last week.

These artistes, more than others, sold millions of records, toured successfully and entered into successful business ventures, according to the report. It listed the net worth of:

1. Shaggy at US$22 million ($1.8 billion)

2. Jimmy Cliff at US$18 million ($1.5 billion)

3. Sean Paul at US$11 million ($944 million)

4. Ziggy Marley at US$10 million ($858 million)

5. Sean Kingston at US$7 million ($601 million)

6. Damian Marley at US$6 million ($515 million)

7. Maxi Priest at US$4.6 million ($395 million)

8. Buju Banton at US$4 million ($343 million)

9. Beenie Man at US$3.7 million ($318 million)

10. Bounty Killer at US$3 million ($258 million)

Verification of these figures are hidden within music and tour contracts, however, Urban Islandz says it has compiled its data from sources both online and offline.

“We strive to make sure the content we published is fully accurate but we cannot always guarantee this,” it stated about its list. Urban Islandz, an entertainment company, said it compiled the data to highlight “that our reggae/dancehall artistes are doing well on the global scale in the face of mounting criticisms that our music is in decline”.

Shaggy topped the list due to selling over 20 million copies worldwide of his 2001 album Hot Shot, but equally due to securing a lucrative royalty deal for that album better than 90 per cent of the industry, they said.

“Shaggy managed to sign a sweet deal with UMG, named MCA Records at the time, where he earned (greatly on) each album sold for Hot Shot. Majority of artistes are lucky to earn $1 off each album sold. The Marley’s on the other hand having their own company to work with, puts them at an advantage to earn more off album sales,” stated urbanislandz in a written response to Splash’s queries. “Regarding tour dates, again each artist’s earnings vary according to their popularity and demands. Therefore, when artistes like Sean Paul or Sean Kingston would earn an average US$40,000 per tour date, other artists like Bounty and Beenie would be brushing an average US$10,000.”

A respected musician and producer who toured with at least one the top five artistes told Splash that the data seemed credible. He spoke on condition of anonymity in order to respect private conversations with artistes.

“Sean Paul is conservative and I remember he even avoided buying a NY apartment calling it unnecessary. It is possible that Bounty Killer amassed that amount because he is also a conservative spender and has other businesses. Regarding Jimmy Cliff, definitely. He has been around from in the heyday of reggae and has been involved in music, songwriting and movies. He did songwriting for big artistes and also got his songs covered by the likes of Bruce Springsteen with Trapped. That would have been a big money earner,” he said.

The combined worth at US$90 million is greater than the annual earnings from Jamaica’s major exports including bauxite at US$85 million in 2009 (separate from the US$368 million earned from alumina exports) and sugar at US$72 million according to Bank of Jamaica statistics. It signifies the earning potential of the nation’s music which has come under threat in recent years from international gay and government lobby groups. Consequently, all the top 10 artistes made the bulk of their income prior to the mid 2000s, but Urban Islandz has not discounted Reggae/Dancehall’s future earning potential. They expect newcomers to factor on the list in the medium-term.

“Gyptian is one artiste to look out for as his career is doing exceptionally good and if this momentum takes him into next year and his album Hold Yuh sells well, he could become a strong contender. Mavado also is one to watch, something good should be happening for his career soon…Vybz Kartel is another to watch too, but may need a deal with a major label to put him there. Another reggae fusion artiste to watch is Iyaz from the Virgin Islands who is signed to Sean Kingston’s label,” Urban Islandz told Splash.

Jamaica Observer


One Response

  1. nice to know

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