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The Top Earning Celebrities, Dead and Alive

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Wealth does not always follow fame, but when properly monetized, stardom can be a powerful tool for building a fortune.

The act of turning one’s self into a marketing machine is epitomized by 21-year-old Kylie Jenner, who was the fourth highest earning celebrity in 2018. Leveraging her massive social media following, Jenner has turned Kylie Cosmetics into a force to be reckoned with. Recently, Forbes valued her company at over $900 million.

Today, we look at not only the world’s top earning living celebrities, but also the estates of the celebrities who are no longer with us as well.

Fame and Fortune

With a nickname like “Money”, it comes as no surprise that 2018’s top earning celebrity was Floyd Mayweather. The boxer’s bouts in 2015 and 2017 are still the top earning pay-per-view fights of all time, with the respective payouts propelling him to the top of the celebrity earnings list. His most recent opponent – Conor McGregor – also cashed in big, ranking 12th on the celebrity rich list.

Here is a full look at last year’s top earning celebrities:

top earning celebrities
View a high resolution version of this graphic.

Many celebrities earn big sums of money on specific contracts, so it makes sense that the top 10 shuffles a lot from year to year. Despite this, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is the sole celebrity to remain on this list for every year covered by the visualization.

Ed Sheeran’s Divide album was a runaway success earning him $110 million last year. Not only did the singer sell 1.1 million albums – an impressive feat in the digital age – he was the most streamed artist of 2017.

One somewhat surprising entry into the top 10 is Judy Sheindlin – better known as Judge Judy. Sheindlin reaped a huge windfall after selling her extensive 5,200-episode library to CBS.

Posthumous Profits

Some celebrities are so iconic that their influence extends well beyond their own lifespan.

Michael Jackson’s music is still thrilling listeners around the world, and as a result, his catalog is raking in the posthumous profits. In 2018, the late singer’s estate earned more money than any living celebrity, adding to the $2 billion already amassed since his passing in 2009.

Below is a full look at the top earning dead celebrities:

top earning dead celebrities
View a high resolution version of this graphic.

For the first time since 2006, Albert Einstein has fallen out of the top 10. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem owns the rights to Einstein’s likeness, and in the aughts the “Baby Einstein” brand helped them (and Disney) amass a fortune. The popularity of the Baby Einstein brand is waning, but other licencing deals could bump the famous physicist back into the list at some point in the future.

No Business Like Show Business

Even celebrities who passed away decades ago can continue earning a shocking amount of money. While income streams like song royalties continue rolling in automatically, some savvy companies purchase estates from family members and take the marketing of deceased personalities to the next level.

Companies like Authentic Brands Group, have turned timeless icons like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley into full-fledged brands generating tens of millions of dollars per year through licencing and royalties.

Artists like Bob Marley and Dr. Seuss produced a body of work that still captures our imaginations today, so it makes sense that their estates continue to profit as time goes on.

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Misc

Mapped: Second Primary Languages Around the World

This fascinating map highlights the second most commonly spoken primary language in almost nearly every country.

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Second Languages Around the World Shareable

Mapped: Second Primary Languages Around the World

After the primary language, what second languages are used as native tongues in your country?

The answer reveals a lot about history and location. Whether through immigration, colonization, or local culture, a primary language can either spread around the world or remain rooted in place.

This map from MoveHub shows the second most commonly spoken primary language in most countries, using data from the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia as of February 2021.

The Difference Between Primary and Secondary Languages

First, it’s important to differentiate between primary languages and secondary languages.

A primary language—also known as a first or native language—is the language we use most frequently to communicate. These are languages we are usually born with, have a lot of exposure to, and use at home.

On the other hand, a secondary language is one we learn or pick up after our primary language. In many countries, English is the most commonly learned, with close to 1 billion speakers.

But a map of common second languages can simply show just how many countries prioritize learning English, the de-facto international language in many organizations. Instead, this map highlights the movement of people by showing the second-most common primary language.

The Second Most Common Primary Languages by Country

Even when filtering by primary language use, however, English and other Indo-European languages dominate the world.

With 55 countries speaking it as the second-most common primary language, English came out on top.

Top 10 Most Popular Second Primary LanguagesNumber of Countries
English55
French14
Russian13
Spanish8
Creole8
Arabic6
Kurdish4
Portugese4
Italian3
Quechua3

The use of English as a second primary language was primarily concentrated in Western Europe, Northern Africa, and Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Similarly to second-place French with 14 countries and third-place Russian with 13 countries, English was most common in proximity to English-speaking countries or where there was a history of immigration.

Other second-most common primary languages highlighted different cultures within countries, such as China’s second-most common language Cantonese. Alternatively, they showed the primary indigenous language before colonization, such as the Quechua languages in South America.

What other interesting or surprising language patterns can you spot in the map above?

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Mapped: Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface

This detailed map looks at where humans have (and haven’t) modified Earth’s terrestrial environment. See human impact in incredible detail.

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human impact on earths surface

Mapped: Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface

With human population on Earth approaching 8 billion (we’ll likely hit that milestone in 2023), our impact on the planet is becoming harder to ignore with each passing year.

Our cities, infrastructure, agriculture, and pollution are all forms of stress we place on the natural world. This map, by David M. Theobald et al., shows just how much of the planet we’ve now modified. The researchers estimate that 14.6% or 18.5 million km² of land area has been modified – an area greater than Russia.

Defining Human Impact

Human impact on the Earth’s surface can take a number of different forms, and researchers took a nuanced approach to classifying the “modifications” we’ve made. In the end, 10 main stressors were used to create this map:

  1. Built-Up Areas: All of our cities and towns
  2. Agriculture: Areas devoted to crops and pastures
  3. Energy and extractive resources: Primarily locations where oil and gas are extracted
  4. Mines and quarries: Other ground-based natural resource extraction, excluding oil and gas
  5. Power plants: Areas where energy is produced – both renewable and non-renewable
  6. Transportation and service corridors: Primarily roads and railways
  7. Logging: This measures commodity-based forest loss (excludes factors like wildfire and urbanization)
  8. Human intrusion: Typically areas adjacent to population centers and roads that humans access
  9. Natural systems modification: Primarily modifications to water flow, including reservoir creation
  10. Pollution: Phenomenon such as acid rain and fog caused by air pollution

The classification descriptions above are simplified. See the methodology for full descriptions and calculations.

A Closer Look at Human Impact on the Earth’s Surface

To help better understand the level of impact humans can have on the planet, we’ll take a closer look three regions, and see how the situation on the ground relates to these maps.

Land Use Contrasts: Egypt

Almost all of Egypt’s population lives along the Nile and its delta, making it an interesting place to examine land use and human impact.

egypt land use impact zone

The towns and high intensity agricultural land following the river stand out clearly on the human modification map, while the nearby desert shows much less impact.

Intensive Modification: Netherlands

The Netherlands has some of the heavily modified landscapes on Earth, so the way it looks on this map will come as no surprise.

netherlands land use impact zone

The area shown above, Rotterdam’s distinctive port and surround area, renders almost entirely in colors at the top of the human modification scale.

Resource Extraction: West Virginia

It isn’t just cities and towns that show up clearly on this map, it’s also the areas we extract our raw materials from as well. This mountainous region of West Virginia, in the United States, offers a very clear visual example.

west virginia land use impact zone

The mountaintop removal method of mining—which involves blasting mountains in order to retrieve seams of bituminous coal—is common in this region, and mine sites show up clearly in the map.

You can explore the interactive version of this map yourself to view any area on the globe. What surprises you about these patterns of human impact?

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