This year’s highest-earning dead musicians made nearly as much money between October 2018 and October 2019 as the operating profits the music streaming giant Spotify has generated since it listed.
According to Forbes, the highest-earning dead musician in 2019 was Michael Jackson. The King of Pop, who died a decade ago, made approximately $60 million this year topping the list for the seventh year in a row. The lowest-earning dead musician on the list was George Harrison who raked in $9 million. In the list of 13 top-earning dead celebrities, there were nine musicians with the others being sports stars and actors.
Joining Harrison and Jackson on the list were Whitney Houston who earned $9.5 million, Xxxtentacion ($10 million), Nipsey Hussle ($11 million), Prince ($12 million), John Lennon ($14 million), Bob Marley ($20 million) and Elvis Presley ($39 million). Collectively, the nine musicians made $184.5 million.
In its entire lifetime as a public company, music streaming giant Spotify (NYSE: SPOT) has only made an operating profit in three quarters. This includes the quarter that ended on September 30 where it reported an operating profit of $60.3 million.
During the quarter that ended on December 31, 2018, Spotify also recorded an operating profit amounting to $107 million. In last year’s second quarter the music streaming giant also posted an operating profit of approximately $49 million. The total operating profit for the three quarters is $216.3 million which is within sights of the $184.5 million that the nine dead musicians made in the last one year alone.
Interestingly, even as the dead musicians’ income this year rivals Spotify’s lifetime operating profits, the celebrities have streaming to thank for to an extent. Forbes attributes Whitney Houston’s debut on the list partially to streaming. A remix of one of Houston’s song Higher Love has, for instance, clocked more than 175 million spins on Spotify.
Xxxtentacion, who was murdered mid last year is currently the most-streamed dead musician in the US. As of the list’s release, the rapper’s music had clocked about 5.6 billion spins. Nipsey Hustle who was killed earlier this year has clocked around 1.85 billion streams. Prince who has been dead for three years saw a 12% increase in the number of streams to reach 500 million streams.
The music of reggae legend Bob Marley registered close to one billion streams in the US while the King of Pop’s music recorded a 17% increase in the number of streams. Last year, Michael Jackson’s music was streamed 1.8 billion spins in the US but this figure grew to 2.1 billion this year.
These musicians may be dead but they are playing a crucial role in keeping music streaming, and by extension Spotify, alive. Mid this year, singer John Legend stated that streaming has boosted content consumption as ‘people are listening to more music than ever before’.