Billie Eilish has had a phenomenal couple of years. Since surfacing in 2016 with the single “Ocean Eyes”, she’s released the best performing album of 2019, six Billboard Hot 100 top 40 singles, won too many awards to mention, and, as of 2020, increased her net worth to the jaw-dropping figure of $30 million. And she’s still only 18 years old…
2019 may have been the year Eilish’s career went stratospheric, but her rise to the top actually began all the way back in 2015. In October of that year, she recorded Ocean Eyes: after releasing the track on SoundCloud, she quickly developed a cult fanbase, not to mention a huge amount of praise (and airplay) from the likes of Beats 1, KCRW, BBC One, Zane Lowe, Jason Kramer, Annie Mac, and Chris Douridas. With the huge success of Ocean Eyes, it was only ever going to be a matter of time before Eilish landed a record deal. By August 2016, she’d done just that after signing to record label and artist management company, The Darkroom.
By the end of 2017, the singer had released an EP with four remixes of Ocean Eyes, several more singles (including Bellyache, Bored (which subsequently went on to feature on the soundtrack of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why), and Copycat), showcased at the South by Southwest music festival, and released her debut EP, Don’t Smile at Me. The EP, which included the tracks “Idontwannabeyouanymore” and “My Boy” marked Eilish’s transition from, as Study Breaks puts it, “pastel pop star to dark pop artist”, and, in so doing, from little known cult favorite to worldwide megastar. Before long, Eilish had been promoted to Spotify’s “girl of the moment”, with her brand of melancholy pop chiming perfectly with their “steam bait” genre of mid-tempo, bleak pop. With the full force of Spotify’s considerable influence behind her, Eilish began to prepare for 2019- and with it, the release of her debut album.
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
If Eilish’s success in 2018 seemed newsworthy enough, it was nothing compared to what happened when We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? dropped in March 2019. After a huge, multi-level publicity campaign, the album entered both the Billboard 200 and UK Album charts at No 1, making Eilish the first artist born in the noughties to have a No 1 album in the States, and the youngest female to ever have a number 1 album in the UK. By the end of the year, We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was featuring on pretty much every “album list of the year” imaginable, and eliciting almost unanimous praise from every quarter.
The success didn’t end with the album itself: the fifth single from the album, Bad Guy, managed to knock Lil Nas from the top of the US charts (where he’d been holding court for a record-breaking 19 weeks with his single Old Town Road) while making Eilish the first artist born in the 2000s to have a number one single at the same time. To date, the album has shifted 2,361,000 units in the US (giving it 2x platinum status), 300,000 copies in the UK, 120,000 copies in Mexico, 100,000 in Germany, and 160,000 in Canada (not to mention millions more across the world).
If you want to make $30 million, releasing albums isn’t enough. Whether they enjoy life on the road or not, any artist who wants music to pay needs to tour- something Eilish has been doing in no small way. In 2017, she embarked on the Don’t Smile at Me Tour, followed up a year later by both the Where’s My Mind Tour and 1 by 1 Tour. Despite the success of her previous tours, it was 2019’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Tour that really pulled in the money, selling out across the globe and earning a nomination for Best Pop Tour at the Pollstar Awards in the process.
Music aside, Eilish has been busy capitalizing on her public image by building a considerable range of merchandise. In April 2019, the teenager teamed up with Takashi Murakami (the artist behind the music video to “You Should See Me in a Crown”) to create a new line of all-neon attire. As all items in the limited-edition range (which included oversized hoodies, graphic T-shirts and beanies) came with the bonus of a digital copy of the singer’s album, the range worked on a dual-level, increasing exposure and generating lots of free publicity for the album, while also pulling in plenty of money from the clothes sales themselves. The singer has continued to give fans the chance to shop her closet on several occasions since: in July 2019, she joined forces with LA-based clothing brand Freak City for another line of clothing, and in August, she collaborated with Siberia Hills to create an Anime-Inspired capsule.
The Apple + Documentary
Until 2019, Eilish was rocking along quite nicely on a net worth of around $5 mill. Then along came Apple, and with them, one seriously huge payday. According to Billboard, the singer was paid a massive $25 million to shoot a candid documentary for Apple TV+, which promises a “warts and all” insight into the highs and lows of Eilish’s rise to fame.
The Route to $30 Million
For Eilish, the last 3 years have been a whirlwind, catapulting her from a typical teen writing lyrics in her bedroom to one of the biggest stars in the world…. not to mention a 4-time Grammy award winner. Thanks to a clever marketing strategy, a style of pop that’s tapped straight into the zeitgeist, and an army of almost fanatical fans, she’s managed to journey from A to C without ever touching on the long hard grind of B. And the result? A world that’s so eager for any little nugget of information about their new teen idol that Apple is willing to shell out $25 mill to bring it to them.