Building a career in music might be a gamble, but if that gamble pays off, the rewards are huge. Some of the biggest names in music are sat on fortunes worth millions of dollars. Surprisingly, not all of them are singers or frontmen. The leader and songwriter might get the lion’s share of a band’s riches, but there’s still plenty left over for the guitarist. If that guitarist also happens to tick the singer, songwriter, and band founder boxes, so much the better. If you’re keen to find out which guitarist is the wealthiest of them all, take a look at our list of the 20 richest guitarists in the world.
20. Mark Knopfler – Net Worth: $95 Million
As a songwriter, film score composer, guitarist, record producer, lead vocalist, and the founder of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler is clearly a man of many talents… and many millions. By the latest reckoning, Knopfler is worth the grand total of $95 million, making him one of the richest men in rock and an easy candidate for our top 20.
19. Tony Iommi – Net Worth: $140 Million
Up next is Ozzy Osbourne’s long-suffering bandmate, Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. As one of the pioneers of heavy metal, Iommi’s influence on rock metal can’t be overstated. Widely considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time, the techniques he developed during the band’s formative years are credited with changing the shape of music as we know it today. He’s currently estimated to be worth $140 million.
18. Pete Townshend – Net Worth: $150 Million
Author, rocker, vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist Pete Townshend is best known as one of the founding members of the legendary rock group, The Who. In addition to founding the band and playing the keyboard, mandolin, drums, bass guitar, banjo, and almost everything else for them, he also acted as their principal songwriter, penning over 100 songs in total and contributing to the sale of over 100 million albums worldwide. Acknowledged as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, he’s won numerous awards and accolades over the course of his career, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His current net worth is around $150 million.
17. Angus Young – Net Worth: $160 Million
Scottish-born Australian guitarist and songwriter Angus Young may dress like an overgrown schoolboy, but he’s clearly earning a lot more than just pocket money. These days, the AC/DC frontman and guitarist is worth a massive $160 million. Considering he’s the founding member of the 14th best-selling band of all time, with sales of over 200 million records worldwide, it’s hardly surprising.
16. Jimmy Page – Net Worth: $180 Million
Up next is Jimmy Page, a man who’s widely considered one of the most versatile and important guitarists in living memory. His work with Led Zeppelin needs little introduction. For those who prefer their music on the mellower side, neither does his contribution to The Yardbirds. A two-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a regular fixture on every ‘Greatest Guitarist’ list ever created, and an influence on almost every guitarist and musician born in the last 50 years, Page is clearly a man of immense talent, immense creativity, and, judging by his net worth of $180 million, immense wealth.
15. Dave Gilmour – Net Worth: $180 Million
You don’t get to be the leader of one of the most commercially successful bands of all time and not have a decent amount stashed away in the bank. If you need proof, just look at Dave Gilmour, the lead guitarist and, following the death of Roger Waters, frontman of Pink Floyd. By all accounts, Gilmour has $180 million squirreled away in real estate, bank accounts, pensions, and other kinds of assets. Considering Pink Floyd has sold over 250 million records, it’s really not surprising. Other than being very rich, Gilmour has a reputation for being charitable. Over the last few years, his work in raising awareness of climate change, homelessness, and other issues has marked him out as one of rock’s biggest philanthropists.
14. Kirk Hammett – Net Worth: $200 Million
According to Metalhead Zone, Kirk Hammett is the richest metal guitarist in the world. Considering he’s estimated to be worth a mammoth $200 million (a full $40 million more than the next richest, Tony Iommi), it’s not surprising. Regularly ranked as one of the greatest guitarists of all time (both metal and otherwise), Hammett’s influence on generations of metal fans and bands is hard to deny. Despite a history of substance abuse, Hammett is now clean and a happily married family man.
13. Ronnie Wood – Net Worth: $200 Million
Up next is Rolling Stone, Ronnie Wood. His wealth might not be in the same league as some of his bandmates, but it’s still considerable enough to get him a mention. A multi-instrumentalist who first found fame with the Small Faces, Wood was recruited by The Rolling Stones in 1975 after the departure of guitarist Mick Jones. Despite being an integral part of the Stones’ success over the coming decade, it would take until 1990 before the band made him an official financial partner. As Celebrity Net Worth notes, until that point, he was still technically an employee and was paid a monthly salary. Even so, his involvement with the Stones still makes up the vast bulk of his equally vast wealth.
12. Brian May – Net Worth: $210 Million
No one’s quite sure exactly how many records Queen has sold in total. Some people put it at a conservative estimate of 170 million. Others put it at 300 million. Either way, it’s a lot of records, certainly enough to make them of the world’s best-selling bands of all time. And unlike certain other bands, their popularity never ceases to wane. Today, they’re still selling as many albums as they were doing their heyday, with the result that the fortune of each remaining bandmate continues to swell with each passing year. Guitarist Brian May is doing the best of all the band, with a net worth that’s estimated to be in the region of $210 million.
11. James Hetfield – Net Worth: $300 Million
James Hetfield is best known as the co-founder, vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and primary songwriter for Metallica. According to IMDb, Hetfield grew up hunting, playing guitar, and was an ordinary quiet kid. By 1981, he’d clearly had enough of being quiet and ordinary and decided to form Metallica instead. Since then, he’s gone on to become one of the best known and influential figures on the metal scene, with a net worth that’s currently believed to be around $300 million.
10. Dave Matthews – Net Worth: $300 Million
If there’s a job title missing from Dave Matthews’ resume, it’s yet to be found. Singer, songwriter, musician, actor, record label owner, producer, and, of course, frontman, vocalist, and guitarist for the Dave Matthews Band, he’s the very definition of a polymath. Since forming in 1991, the Dave Matthews Band has enjoyed phenomenal success: according to Wikipedia, they’ve sold more than 20 million concert tickets and a combined total of 38 million CDs and DVDs. The band isn’t, however, Matthews’ sole source of income. Believe it or not, he’s one of the largest private landowners in Virginia, with a property portfolio that covers hundreds, if not thousands, of acres around the state. Despite his wealth, he lives a low-key lifestyle, residing in a modest home in Seattle purchased in 2001 for just $360,000.
9. Dave Grohl – Net Worth: $320 Million
Having established himself as a drummer with Nirvana, Dave Grohl went on to prove he had more than one string to his bow as the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter for the Foo Fighters. Since then, he’s sold a massive amount of records and accrued an equally massive fortune of $320 million.
8. Toby Keith – Net Worth: $365 Million
Country artist Toby Keith is nothing if not prolific. Between 1993 and 2000, he released a new album each year, with each record shifting at least 500,000 copies. But he’s not just hard-working: he’s smart. In 1999, his label rejected a bunch of songs from his upcoming album, “How Do You Like Me Now.” Keith bought back the rights to the album for $93,000, then sold it on to DreamWorks for $200,000. In the end, the album sold over 3 million copies. His subsequent albums have proved equally successful, while his 10 percent stake in independent record label Big Machine means that every time the likes of Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, and Taylor Swift sell an album, at least a little of that money comes to Keith.
7. Bob Dylan – Net Worth: $375 Million
Bob Dylan may be known best as a songwriter and singer, but it’s as rare to see him on stage without a guitar as it is to see him without a surly expression and his back to the audience. When he swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric one at The Newport Folk Festival in 1965, he changed the face of popular music forever. Since then, he’s sold over 100 million records, earned ten Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and even the Nobel Prize in Literature. In December 2020, Dylan sold 100 percent of his song catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group for $300 million. According to TheRichest, the deal increased his already considerable net worth to around $375 million.
6. The Edge – Net Worth: $400 Million
Surprisingly enough, The Edge wasn’t born ‘The Edge.’ Neither was he born a multimillionaire. Yet somewhere along the line, the man formerly known as David Evans has managed to gain a new name and a heaving bank account. As a founding member of U2, The Edge has won 22 Grammy Awards and sold between 150 and 170 million albums worldwide; as a guitarist, he’s credited as one of the greatest of all time; and as an individual, he’s worth a monster $400 million.
5. Eric Clapton – Net Worth: $450 Million
Widely considered one of the most influential guitarists and musicians of the last century, Eric Clapton is a three-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, one of the best selling artists in history, a Grammy winner, an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a Commandeur de Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and a man with a $450 million fortune. Not all of his wealth comes from music, however: his vehicle assets, real estate, and art collection are all considered ‘significant.’
4. Keith Richards – Net Worth: $500 Million
As a founding member of one of the best-selling rock bands of all time, Keith Richards is obviously not going to be short on cash at this point. And indeed, he’s not. Having sold over 200 million records worldwide with the Rolling Stones, performed at sell-out arenas across the world, and somehow managed to survive both one of the most prodigious drug habits in rock and roll and a coconut falling on his head, ‘Keef’ is now worth the grand sum of $500 million.
3. Bruce Springsteen – Net Worth: $500 Million
Over the course of his career, Bruce Springsteen has managed to carve out a position for himself as one of rock’s most respected artists. His albums have won both commercial and critical acclaim, winning numerous awards and selling more than 135 million albums worldwide. The result? According to closerweekly.com, a net worth of $500 million.
2. Jimmy Buffet – Net Worth: $600 Million
Jimmy Buffet might rank as one of the richest men in music, but music is by no means his only money-spinner. The global business empire spawned by his particular brand of “island escapism” music covers several very successful restaurant chains (“Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “Margaritaville”), several lines of products launched under the “Margaritaville” name (including Margaritaville Tequila, Margaritaville Records, Margaritaville Brewing, Margaritaville Footwear, and Margaritaville Foods), and even a $1 billion retirement village in Daytona Beach, Florida. With an annual income that’s believed to be around $50 million, Buffet now has a total net worth of $600 million.
1. Paul McCartney – Net Worth: $1.2 Billion
Who else could top our list other than Paul McCartney? His work with The Beatles needs no introduction, while his work as a solo artist is said to generate around $50-70 million per year in touring, royalties, and licensing fees, both from his own back catalog and those of artists whose portfolios are owned by his publishing company, MPL Communications. As of today, McCartney is worth an incredible $1.2 billion.