Madonna's Instagram: 'You have to be ready!'
UK Press: 'The Times'

Why Madonna Isn't On The Forbes Billionaires List

FORBES released its annual Billionaires issue earlier this month, and the list features plenty of new faces (Tory Burch, Renzo Rosso) alongside the usual suspects (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett).
There are plenty of entertainment moguls on the list (David Geffen, Oprah Winfrey), but there aren’t any billionaires who’ve gained their wealth by working as a musician or actor. Not Diddy or Jay-Z, not Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie - and not Madonna.
Yet earlier this week, the blogosphere exploded with declarations that the Material Girl had ascended to billionaire status. Most of the stories erroneously cited a WWD story as the source of this revelation (representatives from the publication confirm that no such piece exists), probably because of a New York Post item that initially linked to WWD before shifting its attribution to another site.
There’s a reason Madonna isn’t on our Billionaires list: simply put, she’s not a billionaire.
We estimated the singer’s net worth at $325 million six years ago. Since then, our wealth team has chronicled the scads of cash she’s earned via our Celeb 100 list, and while she’s earned a ton of money, the numbers don’t add up to anything near $1 billion. She earned $72 million in 2007, $40 million in 2008, $110 million in 2009 and $58 million in 2010. With no touring or new albums in 2011, she didn’t earn enough to make our list that year, then pulled in another $30 million through the first half of 2012.
Add it all up (plus whatever she earned in 2011–let’s call it $10 million) and you get $320 million. Lop off 35% for federal income taxes ($112 million), another 10% for state and local taxes ($32 million) and 20% for management, legal and agency fees ($64 million). That leaves $112 million before figuring in any expenses for housing, staff, travel or luxury goods.
What about that big concert tour? Most of the recent reports have mentioned Madonna’s past 12 months as the reason for her ascent into the financial pantheon, citing sales of her MDNA album and a world tour that grossed just over $300 million. They mention perfume sales of $60 million, tour merchandise sales of $75 million, and other branding deals that add up to $30 million.
But the difference between gross ticket sales, gross earnings and net earnings is ignored. Artists typically take home about one-third of gross ticket sales on the road–in Madonna’s case, that means $300 million becomes $100 million.
To gross $75 million in merchandise sales, she would have had to average sales of $34 per head on her tour (or about $10 more than Justin Bieber). And that’s just the gross number. For most artists, we project net earnings of $5 per head for merch; Bieber’s take tops the charts at about $10, according to his touring team. Let’s give Madonna the benefit of the doubt and say that she also nets $10 per head–over the course of a tour that drew 2.2 million fans, that would have added up to $22 million in take-home pay.
Madonna’s record deal guarantees her a base advance of $1 million per album, but MDNA hasn’t likely earned much more than that. It’s been certified gold in the U.S. for sales of over 500,000, and it seems likely the album has sold at least as many copies abroad. Still, that’s only a little more than a million copies sold, resulting in just a few million dollars in her coffers–about the same amount that most A-list entertainers net from perfume deals, regardless of heady gross sales.
But let’s be overly generous. Let’s say Madonna earned $200 million over the past year. Take away 65% for taxes and management fees, as we did before. That leaves $70 million. Combine that with the $112 million left over from 2007 through the first half of 2012, and you get $182 million. So even if Madonna had saved every single penny she’d earned since 2007–no travel costs, no living cost, no splurges–she’d be worth about $500 million.
Is it possible that she has other assets that have increased in value and therefore wouldn’t be figured into our annual earnings estimates? Sure. Her real estate holdings, art collection and stakes in other business ventures could have increased. But keep in mind that 2007 was the peak of a long bull market; assets that lost value during the recession are only now returning to those highs.
Madonna’s representatives wouldn’t respond to FORBES’ requests for comment on this story, as it seems was the case with all the stories about her net worth published over the past week. And this isn’t the first time FORBES has weighed in on inflated claims about the singer’s billionaire status–staff writer Clare O’Connor debunked one set back in 2010.
Madonna is a cultural icon, and undoubtedly one of the most successful entertainers of all time. She may well reach the billion-dollar mark one day. But as of now, at best, she’s only about halfway there.



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Forbes article is irrelevant because the numbers to which it refers are not checked (for example, Madonna sold 2 millions cds and not one million) and above all because it is only a false scientific demonstration with so much assumptions that it has no credibility.


What she has and will contribute to our culture is PRICELESS--can't be measured. All hail Queen M!


You people are sorely mistaken. If you all will recall, she had to pay Guy a hefty sum of money, along with 2 homes, and several assets, as part of the divorce settlement. And her albums haven't been selling well, she doesn't get all the revenue generated from the tours. Basically her wealth is immaterial as when you reach her level of success, there is little difference between $750 million versus $1 Billion. That will be more money than most of her fan's income combined.

de Sascha

Maybe that's what Madonna earned the last decade during 2000's...
Madonna never openly talked about her net wealth.
I'm sure she's a Billionairess a long time!
Forbes is clueless and should ask: Who's that Girl;)


im sure it was in 1990-she was worth £230 million-23 years ago!!!!!!!!shes done so much since then-where to start???several albums,tours,clothes,perfumes,shoes,films,kids books & clothes,gyms,workout dvds,merchandise,the sex book,her own record label!!!thats quite a lot of financial gain!!!xxx


I agree.

If Forbes claims Jay-Z and Beyonce are worth 400 million, there's no way Madonna is only worth 300 million. In fact, I haven't seen a figure that low for her thrown around since the 1990s.

Jason Santoro

Forbes is so wrong. Everyone knows that Madonna has been worth more than $850 million for several years and now she is a Billionaire. Just because Forbes doesn't think so it doesn't mean it isn't true. Madonna is the highest paid singer on the planet and the only one to have sold more than 330 millon CD's. Yet they want to say that she is only worth $500 million. Girl please.


I think Madonna is worth a lot more money than people realize- but she is very private when it comes to money issues. I recall reading in Christopher Anderson's 1990 M biography that she was worth over $300 million then, & didn't she appear on a Forbes mag cover in the early 90's with the title 'America's Savviest Business Woman'. Madonna has made no secret about having a large, quality art collection- that she began in the 80's. Madonna has done many successful concerts & other projects since the 80's. If she isn't a billionare yet, she must be very close.


I expect the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Worth more then indicated here but not in billionaire status ( yet at least). Most reports i've seen put her at between 600-700 million but she's notoriously secretive about such things. If and when she becomes a billionaire she's be the last to talk about it.

She's also smart enough to know she probably only has a few true years left to maximize her entertainment income. Even her i dont see putting on such live shows consistently when she's well into her 60s. Get it while you can.


These figures are suspect. First of all, the author reports that if the tour earns 300 million, Madonna's take is 100 million. Yet Forbes reports she earned 34 million from her tour and music in 2012. What happened to the other 66 million? Where is the 120 million Live Nation deal? How do they calculate that Madonna was worth 300 million 6 years ago? Surely, that base line is way too low. All other sources estimate her wealth as being around 700 million at that time. She'd already sold nearly 300 million records by that point and gone on several tours. Plus Maverick records had released several multi-million selling albums, including Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Pill, which is one of the best-selling albums of all time. Furthermore, these assets had had decades to appreciate. Plus, her payout from the divorce was 90 million. This means that if Guy Richie got half of her acquired wealth during her marriage, she made 180 million after taxes during their 10-year marriage. These proceeds would exclude the Live Nation deal, the Sticky and Sweet tour revenu and the MDNA tour revenue. I did notice that in a recent celebrity report, Forbes reported that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt raked in 40 million dollars. However, they each made one film that year and were paid 20 million each for it. Forbes did not deduct taxes, fees, or anything else from that figure. They did the same thing with Beyonce and Jay-Z. I'm not sure why they treat Madonna differently.

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