King Of Pop Still No. 1: Michael Jackson Leads List Of “Top-Earning Dead Musicians”

November 2, 2012  |  

AP Photo/Ira Mark Gostin

They may have passed away, but their music lives on — and continues to make money. Forbes has released their annual list of the musicians who earned the most since death, “The Top-Earning Dead Musicians of 2012.” And, it comes to no surprise the number one artist for the 2012 list is the King of Pop. Michael Jackson is still the world’s best-paid musician, living or dead. His estate made a whopping $145 million in 2012, the third straight year of nine-figure earnings for Jackson.

Michael Jackson’s estate raked in revenues from the work of other artists (through Jackson’s 50 percent stake in the Sony/ATV publishing catalog) and his own material (the Mijac Music catalog). But the large revenue stream is the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour, which is a joint venture with Cirque Du Soleil. The production grossed an amazing $160 million during its first leg, making it the most successful tour in North America during the first half of 2012.

The other King, the King of Rock ‘N Roll, Elvis Presley came in second with $55 million.

The King of Reggae Bob Marley took the third spot on the list with $17 million. During the past 20 years, according to Forbes, Marley has sold more than 75 million albums. Two deals put Marley in the third place: the Marley beverage company, Marleys Mellow Mood (home to the “relaxation drink” of the same name) and House of Marley (producer of eco-friendly audio and lifestyle products).

Rounding out the list were a couple of Beatles — John Lennon and George Harrison along with composer Richard Rodgers.

Some might wonder why Whitney Houston didn’t make the list. “Though the singer signed a $100 million record deal in 2001, she still hasn’t earned back the $30-$40 million advance she received as part of the deal, and didn’t leave behind much in the way of unreleased material,” reports Forbes. Also not on the list are Jimi Hendrix and Tupac Shakur, who both earned more than $3 million but not enough to be on the list.

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