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Legendary earnings

Many musicians from the 20th century still have a huge influence on society today, but which iconic star would be making the most from streaming and social today?
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How much legendary musicians could earn through streaming and social media?

Today’s top artists can promote their personal brands without having to rely on TV and radio appearances, with social media and streaming services making it easier for them to connect with their fans and in turn, make even more money through sponsored posts and royalties. 

However, as many great musicians from the past still remain household names today, we were curious to discover which of these legendary stars would earn the most money across the likes of Instagram, YouTube and Spotify.

If this has you thinking about your money later in life, it’s important to understand the different private pensions available so you can ensure the best chance of a comfortable retirement.

To see who would earn the most using modern-day platforms, money.co.uk ran their official accounts through specialist analysis tools to reveal the estimated earnings per musician. For any big name without a ‘blue tick’, we used a combination of fan accounts to represent their modern-day following.  

From this, we were able to add up the predicted earnings and rank the top musicians from yesteryear, to reveal who would be dominating the modern world of social and streaming. 

Which musician would earn the most from social and streaming today?

1. Bob Marley

Annual Earnings: £1,224,891 ($1,667,878)

The analysis ranked legendary reggae singer Bob Marley top, with his total earnings from Instagram, YouTube and Spotify coming to an annual income of over £1.2million (over $1.6million). Although the singer-songwriter took the world by storm in the 1970s with tracks like ‘Redemption Song,’ and ‘No Woman No Cry’, his music still has nine million Spotify streams every single month. His Instagram following, which totals over 6 million followers, also helps to cement his place at the top of the list and shows just how much of an impact he has had on generations of music lovers.

2. Elvis Presley

Annual Earnings: £1,176,150 ($1,604,033)

The second-highest earner is ‘the King of Rock n Roll’, Elvis Presley; famous for his quiff, sharp sense of style and industry-shaking vocals, he is considered to be one of the most significant icons of the 20th century. His status resonates today, with more than 610,000 YouTube subscribers and 13.5 million monthly Spotify streams, it’s estimated he could earn £1,176,150 ($1,604,033) in the modern-day from these platforms alone. 

3. David Bowie

Annual Earnings: £1,023,949 ($1,396,461)

David Bowie is third on the list of highest earners, with more than £1 million (nearly $1.4million) of income from social media and streaming platforms. Known for his ever-changing style and personas, as well as hits like ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Life on Mars’, it’s no surprise that Bowie still gets more than 15.4 million Spotify streams each month, some 50 years after he started releasing his music. His Instagram following is considerably lower than the likes of Marley, at 1.9 million followers, meaning that while his streaming earnings are extremely healthy, his social influence simply can’t compete.

4. Frank Sinatra

Annual Earnings: £999,173 ($1,360,528)

With an estimated 150 million record sales worldwide, Frank Sinatra is one of the biggest musicians of all time, and comes in at fourth in our highest-earners list. With annual earnings just shy of £1 million (over $1.3million), his swing and jazz songs rake in £507,828 ($683,701) from yearly Spotify streams, whilst his YouTube channel could earn him £490,392 ($660,338) a year more than a century after his birth. 

5. Johnny Cash

Annual Earnings: £795,500 ($1,083,196)

Famous for his deep, calming baritone vocals and his trademark all-black wardrobes that earned him the nickname ‘The Man In The Black’, Johnny Cash is the fifth-highest earner of modern day social and streaming platforms. His combined income is estimated to be £795,500 ($1,083,196) every year; he could get £616 ($830) per Instagram post, his YouTube channel is estimated to bring in £366,952 (nearly $500,000), and he could earn the most *Cash* from Spotify, thanks to hit-songs like ‘Ring of Fire’ and ‘I Walk The Line’ being streamed 1,036,6615 times each month. 

Highest-placed woman

Aretha Franklin (aka ‘the Queen of Soul’)ranks as the highest-placed woman in 10th place, with estimated earnings of £542,690 ($740,121). Etta James, who first found fame in 1954 with ‘At Last’, at 16th on the list and jazz icon Ella Fitzgerlad rounds off the top 20, with an annual income estimated at £284,511 ($387,371).

Top 20 musicians with the highest estimated earnings

Updated 17 November 2021
Celebrity NameTotal Earnings (£)Total Earnings ($)
1Bob Marley£1,224,891$1,667,878
2Elvis Presley£1,176,150$1,604,033
3David Bowie£1,023,949$1,396,461
4Frank Sinatra£999,173$1,360,528
5Johnny Cash£795,500$1,083,196
7Marvin Gaye£742,659$1,011,156
8John Lennon£645,453$880,269
9Bob Dylan£600,303$818,694
10Aretha Franklin£542,690$740,121
11George Harrison£466,281$634,913
12Jimi Hendrix£444,578$606,315
13Louis Armstrong£425,120$578,815
14Sam Cooke£340,816$464,032
15Nat King Cole£319,303$434,780
16Etta James£317,720$433,307
17Dean Martin£313,396$426,737
18Chuck Berry£292,669$398,479
19Ray Charles£286,945$390,685
20Ella Fitzgerald£284,511$387,371

If you’re looking to get the most out of your money in time for retirement, these guides on pensions will help you understand how to plan for the future and make sure that you’re the star of your own retirement dreams.  

Methodology and sources

About James Andrews 

James is our senior personal finance editor and has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news. He has previously written for ReachPLC, was money editor of Mirror Online and Yahoo Finance UK, and has recently been quoted in City AM, Liverpool Echo and Daily Record as well as featured on national radio shows TalkRadio and the BBC

View James Andrews’ full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.

About James Andrews

View James Andrews's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.