Today we’re taking a look at music’s biggest financial disasters. Courtney Love has repeatedly claimed to have been robbed of $530million by unscrupulous forces in the music industry. Broke, in 2006 she sold a stake of the Nirvana publishing rights.
In more stage-based trauma, in the mid-90s Paul Simon announced his intentions to develop Broadway musical The Capeman, about Puerto Rican murderer-turned writer Salvador Agron. By the time it closed, Simon had reportedly lost $11million.
Country legend Willy Nelson’s assets were seized in 1990 by the IRS amid claims he owed $32million in back taxes. His accountants had been doing the dirty, and it took Nelson three years on the road touring the double album ‘The IRS Tapes’ to pay it back.
In 1969, the Beach Boys’ Wilson Brothers’ father Murry decided the band had peaked and sold the rights to the music to A&M for just $750,000, leading to decades of bitterness and lawsuits ever since.
Jay-Z and R Kelly’s 2002 album ‘The Best Of Both Worlds’ seemed like a good idea until the video of Kelly allegedly was indicted on child porn charges. Kelly was acquitted, but the album sold just 1million and a joint tour collapsed.
Riding high from the 15 million sales of ‘The Black Album’, Metallica let their egos get the better of them and followed it up with the more ‘experimental’ collection ‘Load’. The move cost them a 66% drop in album sales.
“The Beatles have no future in showbusiness,” was Decca chief Dick Rowe’s verdict on Brian Epstein’s young charges in 1962. Two years later the band sold $50million of records in the US alone. Decca could take comfort in finding The Rolling Stones.
TLC sold 10 million copies of 1992’s ‘CrazySexyCool’, but after paying back advances, expenses, their label, managers and lawyers, they still found themselves having to declare themselves bankrupt.
Newsreader turned svengali Tony Wilson was so dedicated to the dream that he signed contracts in his own blood, let his artists keep rights, and lost money on record sleeves. He created a legend but bankrupted himself in the process.
Putting a private equity investor in charge of Britain’s only major record label. What could possibly go wrong? Artist walk-outs, a billion-pound write-off and EMI falling into the hands of creditors Citigroup were among Guy Hands’ finest achievements.
By the time Run DMC came to release their sixth album ‘Down With The King’, the hip-hop trio still had to file for bankruptcy, having ‘run’ out of all their money
Mariah Carey’s doomed 2001 movie ‘Glitter’ earned terrible reviews and a Golden Raspberry Award. It also cost her the $80million record deal she’d just signed when the soundtrack bombed. The label bought her out for $28million.
New Order’s investment in the Hacienda put dance music on the map. But the ecstasy boom meant that while the dancefloor was packed, the bar tills were not, and the club was kept afloat by the band’s record royalties.
The King Of Pop’s lavish spending meant he burnt through his fortune faster than he could hope to maintain it. By the time of his death, Jackson’s debts were estimated to scale around $500million.
After a glittering career in the 60s and 70s, Isaac Hayes’ label went broke with $6 million of debts, and the soul legend himself had to file for bankruptcy in 1976, losing his home, personal property and future royalties from his music.
In 2005, Leonard Cohen alleged his former manager Kelly Lynch had misappropriated over $5million from his retirement fund leaving just $150,000. Cohen was forced to go back on the road to make ends meet.
Mick Fleetwood was finally forced to file for bankruptcy in 1984. The world said it was down to a cocaine addiction. He claimed it was the result of too many bad real estate purchases.
Only Elvis had sold more records as a solo artist in the 20th Century than country everyman Garth Brooks. So for his next trick he created the country-goth alter-ego Chris Gaines for a movie and ‘prequel’ album. He now plays nostalgia shows in Las Vegas.
Jay-Z’s co-founder of Roc-a-Fella records Damon Dash was once worth $50million. That didn’t last long after Dash fell out with Jay, sold his stake to Island Def Jam for $10millon and made a flurry of bad business decisions.