Generational Divide Between Musicians Now and Then

As singers and actors from prior generations die and we learn about their business lives

Maybe people who went into the music in the past, led with their hearts and souls, like Aretha, but the difference in income is astronomical.

ArethaAs singers and actors from prior generations die and we learn about their business lives, there’s a huge disparity between their earnings and that of today’s artists. Stars from the past, beloved and working into their later years, continue to pass away with estates that wouldn’t be deemed sufficient for a CEO to change jobs today.

Wealth Advisorsays in its new article, “Aretha Franklin’s Estate Almost Criminally Undervalued Even At $80 Million,”that description now fitsAretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul.

She sold 75 million records and is credited as a songwriter on hundreds of albums by other artists. However, even the most generous estimates of her career earnings are no more than $80 million.

Compare her to Taylor Swift. She started at about the same age, has been working one fifth as long and the same calculations say she’s worth more than $300 million.

The mega stars in Aretha’s imperial period didn’t earn as much as they do today. Management was often aggressive and took a huge chunk of every dollar earned from the artists’ record sales, concerts, merchandising and media appearances.

Aretha also didn’t do herself any favors, by allowing her husband to manage her early career. When they divorced, he took a lot of her lifetime earnings with him. A raw deal or not, it was the way the industry worked at the time. As a result, paying alimony meant she had to keep working for her ex.

That may be why Taylor Swift hasn’t gotten married. Despite a finely crafted prenuptial agreement and trusts to protect her money, a wrong decision could cost her hundreds of millions of dollars.

The music industry has changed dramatically. Traditional revenue sources never really grew much bigger than they were in the 1960s. Some, like selling the actual music, tanked and have yet to revive. Today’s music icons, like Taylor Swift, thrive because they manage their own tours and take in ticket income rather than record sales. Many own their own publishing outlets, and that maximizes their percentage of every song they sell. That’s not how it worked in Aretha’s day.

 However, Aretha died with money in the bank. Her children will inherit considerable sums. She most likely gave huge amounts to charity and did it in the most tax-efficient way her advisers could find.

Just like Prince, it’s safe to say that sales of her recordings will take a leap, anything as yet unreleased will be repackaged and her name and image will start being monetized. As a brand and a legend, she will be enjoyed by new generations of music lovers. Her family will benefit, and her fans will grow in number.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (August 20, 2018) “Aretha Franklin’s Estate Almost Criminally Undervalued Even At $80 Million”

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