11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It

Music is a notoriously difficult industry to break into because only a select few artists will sign record deals and experience lasting careers. However, there are a chosen few whom not only sign deals but also go on to great commercial success leading to more lucrative, life-changing deals further down the line.

Here, The Viraler takes a look at some mouthwatering numbers as we profile the biggest record deals of all time.

11. Prince- $100 million

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


In 1992, shortly after the success of the Batman movie and the mega album sales spawned from the brilliant soundtrack Prince produced, Warner Brothers offered the artist a staggering record deal that even eclipsed the sums given to iconic performers like Madonna and Michael Jackson.

But with such fortune came a litany of problems for the late star. In fact, Prince often wrangled with record executives over creative control, and he famously wrote the word’ SLAVE’ on his cheek when performing due to the belief that his artistic endeavors were being stifled by moneymen.

10. Whitney Houston- $100 million

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


For the next 10 years, Houston would tour the world and sell out arenas in a matter of minutes, and she was soon labeled the best female vocalist of all time, with Arista parting with $100m to acquire her services in 2001.

At the time, the deal was the richest recording contract in history, though following years of substance abuse and then her death in 2012, only three albums were released.

9. Madonna- $120 million

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


LiveNation deals have been a regular occurrence with stars like Shakira penning $90m deals despite not necessarily being a household name in the US. Nonetheless, if you sell records on a global scale, you can expect to have said numbers thrown at you, so it’s not surprising that Madonna, who is arguably the most famous female recording artist of all time, put pen to paper on a $120m deal with the concert promoter.

Giving the American Pie hitmaker an upfront payment, the ‘360’ deal means that sales of all future albums and tours go straight into the pockets of LiveNation.

8. Robbie Williams- $125 million 

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


He may not have cracked America, but in rare cases, that doesn’t matter if the rest of the world listens to your music and the British megastar Robbie Williams is one such artist.

Fitting the mould and stereotype of the idiosyncratic artist, the boisterous hitmaker, who left pop band Take That to have a solo career, famously exclaimed that he was “rich beyond his wildest dreams” after signing a $125m recording deal with EMI, making it the most expensive British record deal in history at the time.

7. Adele – $130m

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


On the topic of the most expensive British record deal, it was probably easy to guess that it was Adele who put a stop to Robbie’s accolade, because in all honesty, which other British artists since the turn of the century have captured the ears of almost every music listener around the globe?

Yes, Adele Atkins has set the world alight with her magnificent voice, while her down-to-Earth persona has given her a cross-generational appeal that few other artists have matched in recent years; hence her huge album sales. Because of this, Adele’s unprecedented success culminated in a $130m record deal with Sony, seeing her finally part ways with the indie label XL Recordings, who famously only made a profit because of Adele’s global success.

6. Bruce Springsteen- $150 million

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


No male solo artist in recent years has enjoyed the enduring success The Boss has, and his ecclesial-like fanbase doesn’t seem to be waning despite the star not being afraid to come out in support of one political party over the other.

Signed over a decade ago, the 2005 contract with Columbia gave Springsteen a $150m payday, a figure he’s no doubt repaid through sell-out stadium tours and high-charting albums.

5. Jay-Z- $150 million 

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


Like Madonna, Jay-Z was another global artist to sign to LiveNation when he inked a deal with them in 2008 reportedly worth $150m. Unlike other deals, however, Jay Z’s deal included investments in his own businesses.

Certainly a risk, but we’re sure it’s one the multi-millionaire can more than afford.

4. Lil Wayne- $150 million

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


Lil Wayne may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but the New Orleans rapper is one the most famous artists within the hip-hop world, a reality reflected in his $150m record deal with Cash Money.

Managing to attract the likes of Drake and Nicki Minaj, Cash Money have done all they can to keep their prized artist though the relationship appears increasingly strained following a much-publicised spat between the artist and record head Birdman over the delayed release of the much-anticipated ‘Carter V’ album.

3. U2- $200m

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


Ireland’s most successful musical export doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon because the rock band is, to put it mildly, a phenomenon, a reality that even made them label themselves the “biggest band in the world.”

Braggadocious but certainly a fair assessment of their success, the band often tops the Forbes music rich list, and their $200m deal with Polydor was yet another example of their unyielding success.

2. Jay-Z– $200M 

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


Appearing on the list for the second time, the seasoned hip-hop pioneer recently agreed to renew his 2008 deal with the concert promoter LiveNation for a further 10 years after declaring in 2008 that he’d “turned into the Rolling Stones of hip-hop.”

Now worth a reported $200m, the renewal will see Hove tied to the company for another 10 years, increasing his net worth to an estimated $900m. The figure, if it is to be believed, would make him the richest man in hip-hop, ahead of the likes of P Diddy and Dr. Dre.

1. Michael Jackson- $250 million

11 Record Deals That Changed The Music Industry As We Know It


It was only ever going to be Michael Jackson, wasn’t it? Taking the number one spot, the prolific hitmaker was a star by the age of 5 thanks to the success of the family band The Jackson 5, though few would have predicted he would go on to the lofty heights he did.

Boasting the best-selling album of all time with Thriller, upon Jackson’s death, his posthumous deal with Sony was rumored to be around $250m, with the family estate giving the influential label the rights to his extensive back catalog.

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