This week Kanye West performed a private show for the grandson of the president of Kazakhstan, pocketing a cool £3m towards new-born baby North West’s university tuition (or is she going to be a ‘College Dropout’ like her dad?). He’s not the only one to have earned big bucks for a private show, however. Here’s some of the most lucrative gigs of all time…
Behind warmongering and crushing the proletariat with his hammer of oppression on late dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s list of great loves was pop music. A number of chart-toppers played for the Gaddafi family before his death in 2012, including Beyonce, whose private NYE ’09 performance netted her a reported $1m. It drew criticism from fans, so the singer donated her earnings to a Haiti charity.
Nelly Furtado was another to put on a private show for the Colonel’s family, appearing before the tyrant in 2007 in Italy. In 2012, as tensions mounted in Libya and fresh news emerged of Gaddafi’s human rights abuses, the ‘Maneater’ singer announced via Twitter she’d be donating her fee ($1m) to charity.
"I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess," Carey told the Associated Press after it emerged she too had performed for Gaddafi. Not embarrassed enough to donate her fee (again, $1m) to charity, however – she used the controversy to plug a forthcoming single, ‘Save the Day', with proceeds going to human rights charities. Two years later, it’s yet to be released.
Fiddy made a cool $500,000 performing at a bash thrown by Gaddafi’s son Mutassim at Venice Film Festival in 2005. The rapper also later donated the cash to charity but in an amazing twist, also used the experience as inspiration for a level in his computer game, in which the dictator refuses to pay up and Fiddy must get up in his grill with a shotgun.
Jesus, it’s like the guy bankrolled the entire music industry between 2000 and 2010, isn’t it? Another of the revelations unearthed by 2011’s Wikileaks furore was that Usher also performed for the Gaddafi family, at the same 2009 NYE bash as Beyonce. The singer vowed to give the money "to various human rights organisations" and claimed her had no idea who was hosting the event.
Libya marked the 20th anniversary of US bombing raids on Tripoli and Benghazi with a high-profile concert starring Lionel Ritchie in 2006, bankrolled by Gaddafi. It reportedly earned the man a neat $750,000.
Rihanna was reportedly paid £5m by Stratford Westfield in 2012 to turn on the Christmas lights. I repeat: JUST TO TURN THE BLOODY CHRISTMAS LIGHTS ON. Christ on a bike. In fact, £5m probably could have got the actual Jesus Christ on an actual bicycle, doing the honours while pulling a wheelie.
Zaire leader President Mobutu , in a bid to establish the nation (now DRC) as major players on the world political circuit, threw an event performed at by James Brown in1974. No fee was announced, but given the president also forked out $10m to make Muhammad Ali and George Foreman fight for his entertainment, it’s safe to say there was no expense spared.
As comeback gigs from a two year hiatus go, you could do worse than a £1m private show in Moscow in front of wooping Russian Football Federation oligarchs. That’s what awaited Amy Winehouse when she returned to the live scene in 2010, Apparently Russian oligarchs adore her for Soviet roots – her grandmother was a Russian emigrant. Who knew?
Also big with the Russians is George Michael, who made $3m in 2009 playing for a Moscow-based mining and lumber magnate, with the star doing the polka to renditions of hits like ‘Careless Whisper’ reinterpreted on the accordion. Probably.
Over 15,000 people turned out to see Chris Martin and co perform at Dubai's luxurious Emirates Palace on New Year’s Eve in 2009 – a record concert attendance for the Arab nation. Well, beats watching the Hootenanny with Jools Holland.
Apartheid-era South Africa could be a pretty scary place, but I guess if you’ve survived band mates decapitating live bats with their teeth, it takes a lot to rattle you. This was apparently the case for Black Sabbath, who are believed to have made more than £500,000 for their six shows at the Sun City casino resort in 1986.
Beyonce didn’t get a penny for her 2012 Super Bowl performance – unless you count the riches deposited on her door yearly by sponsor Pepsi – but there was plenty of money to be made by other artists around the climax of the American sporting calendar. Lil Wayne is said to have been paid $250,000 to play at a star-studded GQ Super Bowl party – plus a pair of tickets to the big game, of course.
Sting is the tree-hugging eco-warrior former frontman of the Police. Uzbek tyrant Islam Karimov, on the other hand, is alleged to have boiled alive his political opponents. So you can see why fans were confused and angered by the musician’s decision to play a concert linked to the president, for a reported fee of $2m.
Kylie Minogue's first performances in the UAE, across two dates in September 2008, raked in £4m for the star. Which might seem a lot, but she did have to endure grunt-rockers Nickleback as support each night, so fair play, basically.
Days later, Rihanna and Chris Brown were paid £3m each to play a private NYE party in the Ivory Coast, making it £8m earnings in one week for the ‘We Found Love’ singer. That’s one festive Christmas period, alright.
When Marshall Mathers stepped out at Reading and Leeds last month, it was to a reported tune of £6m. Wonder what Dido’s cut was. Hopefully enough to buy her a microwave, which should do the trick next time her tea’s gone cold and she’s wondering why.
Skrillex is now worth $15m according to a Forbes list of the highest earning DJs. Up to $1m of that he may have earned in one night, performing to a Wisconsin arena at a blockbuster NYE show in 2011. Because nothing brings in a new year like 50,000 hertz of wub in your ears.
Gaga’s ‘Born This Way Ball’ tour raked in $2m gross a night, making it one of the highest grossing tours of all time. Times that by the 98 dates on that tour and well, you can see where Gaga gets the money for her costly, extravagant stage shows.
The Rolling Stones were paid $5m for an LA billionaires' birthday party - compered by Robin Williams. You know you’re rich when you’ve got the Stones introduced to the stage by Mrs. bleedin’ Doubtfire him/herself. Bonus fun fact: Mick Jagger and Robin Williams are neighbours, with homes next to one another in the Caribbean. That’d be one weird neighbourhood barbeque to drop in on.
The same man, US businessman David Bonderman, ten years later marked his 70th birthday with a party headlined by Sir Paul McCartney – again with Robin Williams compering. 1020 friends attended. Meanwhile, the rest of us mark our birthdays with a quiet Nandos and a trip to Weatherspoons.
It’s not unusual for Tom Jones to command a big fee, with his salary as a judge on BBC reality show The Voice reported to be upwards of £300,000 a year, but his 2010 Monaco Red Cross fundraiser show was another matter altogether. Red Cross bosses paid the star £3.1m to play a 90 minute set. Jones to his credit gave “a large percentage” of his fee to charity. Good lad, Tommo.
The Eagles were paid $6m in 2003 to play ONE SONG – ‘Hotel California’, obviously – at a private bash in Manhattan. That's roughly $1m a minute. Jesus wept.
Finally, one that got away… news emerged this week that David Bowie has turned down a multi-million pound offer from promoter Live Nation to perform at London’s Olympic Park next year. If money’s not the issue for the Starman, maybe he’s waiting for the right place to make his live comeback – Michael Eavis, over to you…