Toby Keith Is Country Music’s Wealthiest Singer

According to a cover story in the July 15 issue of Forbes Magazine, Toby Keith is the wealthiest country singer working today. He’s also one of the “world’s most powerful celebrities,” based on an annual list by Forbes that ranks folks based on factors including earned income, media visibility and marketability.

Oprah Winfrey topped this year’s Celebrity 100. The top ten also included Lady GagaBeyonce, Madonna and Taylor Swift. Keith landed at No. 43.

When it comes to money, though, Keith ranks much higher. Forbes lists his total earnings upwards of an astounding $500 million, and his annual income for the past 12 months at $65 million. So while he may be close to the halfway point on the Celebrity 100 (below Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Dr. Phil and Adam Sandler), in terms of annual income alone he’s at No. 19.

And among country artists, he’s on top. Swift, by contrast, pulls in ‘only’ $55 million a year; Kenny Chesney $53 million; and Carrie Underwood $31 million.

As the Forbes profile describes him, Keith is “the most vertically integrated performer in the music business.”

“There’s little about Toby Keith that isn’t calibrated for maximum synergy,” the magazine continues. In addition to his musicicon1 Toby Keith Is Country Musics Wealthiest Singer, for instance, he’s got his own brand of mezcal (Wild Shot), a massive Ford endorsement deal and a restaurant chain named after one of his most popular songs (“I Love This Bar”). He also has an investment in Big Machine Records estimated at around 10 percent. And then there’s his touring, which earns him, says Forbes, something to the tune of $1 million for a 90-minute show. Not bad wages if you can get ‘em.

In terms of music alone, Keith has anything but slowed down. He’s been releasing music commercially since the early 1990s, and playing much longer, yet 20 years after the release of his debut album his songs are still all over country radio. And the Keith machine is still moving forward. He’s got another new album coming this fall–and the first single from it, “Drinks After Work,” is just beginning to gain momentum.

“When you’ve been around 20 years, it gets more difficult to reach the youth,” Keith told in a recent interview, “so I step out of the box every once in a while to reach them.” One of those ‘outside-the-box’ moments was his smash hit “Red Solo Cup,” and he’s hoping “Drinks After Work” will be another.

– Kurt Wolff,

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