Being a successful music artist these days means more than just making a good song, a good album. To make money from music, artists now need to tour, and create their own brands – either by spinning up their own side companies, partnering with big brands, having games listed, collaborating with other artists, or dominating social media – or all of the above! To be a lasting success as a musician, you need to hustle hard.

What might come as a surprise to some people is that top 3 bank maker musician brands in the US are hip hop celebs. These guys have always been hungry, always been power players, and always been clever with their business moves, staying ahead of the game – we’ll start out with these guys and then see who rounds out our list of the top 5 biggest brands in music.


While he’s not out there rapping on records all the time anymore, Diddy remains a big money maker in the music industry and beyond. In 2017, Diddy was the richest individual in hip hop (with a net worth of $820 million) and was named Hustler of the Year at the BET Hip Hop Awards – and it’s no wonder.

While many know Diddy from his flip flopping name changes (Sean Combs, P. Diddy, Puff Daddy…) and late 90s / early 00s super hits like I’ll Be Missing You and Bad Boy for Life, what some people don’t realise is that Diddy was a talent scout, manager, producer, and record label owner way before those days.

Bad Boy Entertainment got its start in 1993 and launched the career of The Notorious B.I.G. as well as a huge stable of other hip hop and R&B stars. The current roster is still star studded, with Machine Gun Kelly, Cassie (also Diddy’s on-off girlfriend), and French Montana all signed.

In other ventures, Diddy has a clothing line – Sean John, a 50% stake in popular brand Ciroc vodka, is involved with DeLeon tequila, and has major equity in Revolt TV. Last year’s Bad Bay reunion tour was a hit around the country – and Diddy may well be on his way to billionaire status in 2018.

Jay Z

Jay’s moves in 2017 and bringing in his flame, Beyonce, as more of a powerful influence in the crafting of his empire means that he is sitting pretty as one of the biggest brands in the music industry in 2018.

Crazy Rich and Worth every Penny

Like Diddy, Jay’s wealth and power come not just from some amazing record making, but from the expansion of his brand to other avenues, like his clothing brand, Rocawear, a champagne brand in the form of Armand de Brignac, as owner of the 40/40 Club, and founder of record label Roc Nation, which currently counts Mariah Carey, Rihanna, and DJ Mustard among the roster.

Together with Beyonce, this firecracker team’s net worth is sitting pretty at $1.16 billion. Their daughter, Blue Ivy, 5, even has her own stylist and is often featured on best dressed lists. Jay can see the power of family as a brand, much like The Kardashians, and has been pushing this front and center for the past few years – and it’s working. They’re friends with the Obamas and supported Hilary Clinton during her 2016 campaign, so perhaps these two are destined for political success at some point in time – we wouldn’t put it past them.

Dr. Dre

Rounding out our top trio of rap moguls is the lesser seen but not lesser known, Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre, or Andre Romelle Young, is known as being perhaps the most perfectionistic of these 3. In fact, though Dre’s best known for early work with NWA, and his outrageously good solo albums, he has only put out just 3 in his career: The Chronic in 2002, 2001 in 1999, and Compton in 2015, as a pairing with the Straight Outta Compton movie, a take on the rise of NWA. Dr. Dre’s net worth as of 2017 stands at $740 million.

Dr. Dre’s label is Aftermath Entertainment, featuring heavyweights Kendrick Lamar and Eminem, who is recently forging a comeback. In fact, Dr. Dre is the man responsible for making Eminem the best selling artist in the US in the 2000s – after being given Em’s mixtape, Dre went and sought out the white rapper and jettisoned his career.
Dre’s sale of his Beats by Dre headphone brand to Apple in 2014 at a reported cost of $3 billion makes him a super savvy entrepreneur and worthy of being one of the biggest brands in the game.

Taylor Swift

This pop princess knows the power of a carefully crafted image. Her evolution is the stuff of promoter dreams, and she knows it too. Bouncing from country star to pop super star to woman in metamorphosis, the world always is poised watching what Taylor will do. Her ability to switch up her style and approach to life with each different album is akin to the Madonna of yesteryear.

Tay-Tay’s net worth is currently sitting pretty at $280 million. After serious touring last year and fierce but different promotion of her Reputation album, Taylor’s currently staying fairly out of the private eye, hunkered down with a new beau – will he be the source of her next album’s material?

With killer album sales and touring income, Taylor supplements with plenty of endorsement deals with huge brands like Apple, Covergirl, and AT&T. Taylor is perhaps the artist who is most acutely aware of the image that she puts across, using it to her advantage to both propel her musical career as well as rake in the cash.

Wildcard: Cardi B

Cardi B might seem like an unlikely inclusion on our list, but this woman is burning up the world like it’s no big deal, coming for the new Queen of Rap title – Nicki Minaj is flustered. After her debut commercial single, Bodak Yellow, managed to hit #1 and she became the first solo female rap artist in 20 years to get that accolade, she was a certified success.

From more humble beginnings as a stripper and social media star, followed by a turn on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: New York, Cardi’s gone from success to success, thanks mainly to her hilarious and no filter personality – something she knows propels her brand.

While Cardi B’s net worth is only $4 million, she has just dropped her debut album, Invasion of Privacy, to universal acclaim. The album features a slew of stars including Migos, Kehlani, and 21 Savage.

Cardi’s just revealed on Saturday Night Live that she’s pregnant with Offset’s baby, too – the start of another family-based dynasty with this trio? The world is watching this quirky lady.

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