Bob Marley’s estate is still wildly profitable. So much so, in fact, that Marley’s 2020 net worth placed him on the list of this year’s highest-paid dead celebrities, which is mostly comprised of musicians. But what exactly keeps the musician’s estate so profitable outside of his music?
For stars like Marilyn Monroe, who is 10th on the list, their likeness makes more money than their art nowadays. For Elvis Presley, who is fifth, his music still rakes in a lot of money, but the profits from Graceland are a massive contributor as well.
Bob Marley’s life and career
Robert Nesta Marley was born on Feb. 6, 1945, in in Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica. He began his music career in 1963, when he formed a band called The Wailers with childhood friend Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith. It didn’t take long for the group to find success. By 1964, they had their first No. 1 single in Jamaica, “Simmer Down.” And in 1974, Marley began his solo career.
He released his first solo album, Exodus, in 1977, which got him global acclaim and laid the groundwork for his future success in music sales. Even 39 years after his death, Marley is still the icon of the Rastafari movement and Reggae music. He’s sold over 75 million albums worldwide, leaving an indelible legacy behind for his wife, Rita Marley, and his 11 children.
The tricky thing about Marley’s estate is that he never created a will. His Rastafarian faith barred him from doing so. Under Jamaican law, Rita was to receive 10% of his earnings, eventually being allowed to receive 55%. When Rita dies, her children were to inherit the estate. But Rita got into a legal battle over her late husband’s estate after she, per the suggestion of advisors, forged Marley’s signature on a document reportedly predating his death, according to Celebrity Net Worth.
A Jamaican court eventually ordered for the estate to be put in the care of Chris Blackwell, the owner of Island Records, Marley’s record company. In 2001, Rita and her and Marley’s 11 legally recognized kids were given control of the estate.
Bob Marley’s 2020 net worth
The reggae singer/songwriter is still one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. According to Celebrity Net Worth, the “Three Little Birds” singer was worth $11.5 million when he died of an acral lentiginous melanoma in 1981. He was 36 years old. When accounting for inflation, his 1981 net worth would be $32 million today.
According to Forbes, the “No Woman, No Cry” singer’s estate earned $14 million this year, making him the eighth highest-paid dead celebrity. The profits are largely from his music, but his likeness is also used for various pieces of merchandise, such as lighters and T-shirts, and the House of Marley sells its own line of turntables, headphones, and speakers. The outlet reports that these products accounted for $3 million worth of the estate’s profits this year.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, there are millions of dollars worth of unauthorized products using Marley’s likeness. Between the authorized and unauthorized licensing fees, there is reportedly $500 million of revenue annually.
This year, his estate has also been releasing music videos for Marley’s songs. In February 2020, the Bob Marley LEGACY Series premiered on YouTube.
According to Marley’s YouTube channel, the LEGACY Series is “A year-long audio and visual odyssey, featuring 12 newly crafted stories exploring Bob Marley’s impact today. The series will also include Marley Sessions with live covers by today’s artists, and the Visual Legend with 14 all new music videos.”