Home / Forbes: Top Earning Dead Celebrities

Forbes: Top Earning Dead Celebrities

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Ever wanted to know who is earning more money than you from the grave? Forbes did, or at least they had enough spare time to find the answer to that question. So they've compiled a list of the the 13 top earning dead celebrities over the past year. Why 13? Because the Forbes writers want to cast an evil aura over the celebrities' graves, obviously. Or maybe the criteria for making it to the list, which involves seven musicians, was the celebrity had to make at least $7 million from their estate between October of 2005 and October of 2006. The evil aura thing still has some credence. The list:

1. Kurt Cobain ($50M)
2. Elvis Presley ($42M)
3. Charles M. Schulz ($35M)
4. John Lennon ($24M)
5. Albert Einstein ($20M)
6. Andy Warhol ($19M)
7. Dr. Seuss ($10M)
8. Ray Charles ($10M)
9. Marilyn Monroe ($8M)
10. Johnny Cash ($8M)
11. J.R.R Tolkien ($7M)
12. George Harrison ($7M)
13. Bob Marley ($7M)

The combination of their estates total to some $247 million, an impressive amount for simply lying in a wooden box — or in some cases, living it up in Jamaica. Forbes attributes Presley's ability to stay so high on the list over the years to a combination of a lasting body of work and an iconic image, though the number of times one of his countless movies fills in a timeslot on TV probably earns enough money right there.

It was a little surprising John Lennon wasn't higher on the list, though with Yoko Ono's increasing involvement in his estate — with two lawsuits against EMI group for unpaid royalties — it wouldn't be shocking to find him at in top position next year. Another surprise was the continuing profit potential of Charles Shulz's estate — as creator of the Peanuts cartoon strip, his body of work is obviously on the larger scale, but as far as can be found, nothing truly significant has occurred in the past year that would grant such profit. Maybe it was that recent Family Guy sketch involving them — I'm sure lawyers would've sued the pants off Seth McFarlane for portraying Charlie as a drug-peddler.

On the other end of the spectrum, Cobain's one-time appearance on the list is a consequence of one or two things. The first being the documentary recently released surrounding his life, entitled Kurt Cobain: About A Son. The second was the $50 million deal Courtney Love signed in handing over 25% of her stake in the Nirvana song catalogue to Primary Wave Music Publishing. My bets are on the latter.

Nevertheless, as disenchanting as the list is for all of us simple folk, it is certainly enlightening that you may one day become famous, get screwed over by major record companies, earn pittance, commit suicide, and make a fortune for your ungrateful relatives and lovers to spend.

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  • Ah didn’t take that into account. That would definitely be a reason behind it, though I’m not sure who would really buy into the Baby Einstein franchise.

  • Sister Ray

    It’s the “Baby Einstein” products. His estate earns money for the use of his name.

  • I’m surprised I didn’t even really notice the Einstein thing. I suppose there’s probably a billion patents on his Theory of Relativity so that could explain it. I wouldn’t even be surprised if there was a mini tourism industry revolving around him – even I’ve visited his house in Pennsylvania.

  • Copywrong

    Wow it is just GREAT to see our copyright law has really paid off. Nothing warms the heart like know that Courtney Love will continue to earn money from the dead for 70 years.

  • Vern Halen

    Einstein is the only one on the list not involved with the arts and/or entertainment industry. I know he was smart, but how did he figure out how to get on this list?