There's a bit of controversy surrounding Janet Jackson's net worth. Much of the controversy is due to the singer herself, after she tallied up her lifetime earnings in a story that appeared in Variety a few years ago. In that article, Jackson laid out her career earnings, which included $81 million in music and book publishing, $260 million in album sales, $458 million from touring, and a few hundred million more from her other business dealings, including box-office receipts of more than $300 million. Add it all up, and Jackson has created $1.2 billion in entertainment value throughout her career.
That said, income and net worth can be very far apart, which is certainly the case for Janet Jackson. After stripping out all the expenses associated with those earnings, not to mention Jackson's personal expenses, she's left with an estimated $175 million net worth. That's not bad, and it tells only half the story, as her recent marriage to a wealthy Middle Eastern businessman suggests that Jackson probably won't ever struggle to make ends meet.
How Janet Jackson's empire brought in $1 billion
Janet Jackson's success started at a very early age, as she followed in the footsteps of her older brothers, who were already part of the famous Jackson Five by the time she was born. While she performed on occasion with her siblings, she decided to go solo and started her own career at age 16. Her career really began to take off almost a decade later, as she signed what was at that time the largest ever music recording contract for a woman, at an estimated $50 million.
That contract was just that start, as over the past 20 years Jackson's projects have brought in more than $1 billion in gross revenue. The bulk of this revenue has come from three main sources: worldwide tour grosses, album sales, and box-office receipts. However, Jackson's cut of these revenue streams has been much less, in large part because someone else owned the content and therefore earned a greater share of the revenue.
Why Janet Jackson isn't a billionaire yet
We see this case most clearly at the box office, where Jackson counts the $304 million in box-office receipts as part of her entertainment earnings. While the movies she's starred in have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, her take has been much smaller. For example, she was paid $5 million for her role in The Nutty Professor II: The Clumps, as well as an additional $1 million performance fee for a song on the soundtrack. That's a far cry from the more than $166 million the film grossed at the box office. Further, she earned much less than Eddie Murphy did in that movie, as his base take was $20 million, plus 20% of the gross recipes, or another roughly $33 million, for a total of more than $50 million. It was that percentage of the gross receipts that really enabled Murphy to earn substantially more than Jackson, even though her star power contributed to the movie's success.
While Jackson has a long way to go before she ever reaches a billion-dollar net worth, she's made several smart moves along the way that have contributed to her earnings. She lacks the movie-star power of Eddie Murphy and therefore can't negotiate a cut of the box-office stake, but Jackson does like to take an ownership stake in the products she endorses. That's a move that could eventually pay off for Jackson, as owning a stake in the right product early in its life cycle has the potential to create a lot of wealth over time.