The Britney Economy
A back-of-the-napkin calculation of just how much the scandal-plagued star is worth to the multitudes who make money off her.
To the casual tabloid reader, Britney Spears' life looks like a train wreck. To the Britney Industrial Complex, comprising everyone from paparazzi to perfume vendors, she is a gold mine. Whether she's shaving her head or battling for custody of her children, Britney seems to grow more fascinating (and to some people, more lucrative) every time she stumbles. Recent court documents suggest she's amassed a $125 million fortune and continues to rake in about $737,000 a month, or nearly $9 million a year. But that's chicken feed compared with the overall Britney economy. (View slideshow.)
Britney has sold 83 million records since the release of her debut album in 1999, bringing in more than $400 million to Jive Records, her recording company. Even her 2007 album sold well, despite her troubles. Her tours have grossed nearly $150 million; the average take for her 265 solo shows is $583,138, according to Pollstar, which tracks touring data. But there's a lot more of Britney for sale than her music: Pure Nightclub in Las Vegas reportedly sold seats at a table next to hers for $50,000 at a recent bash, and she still commands between $250,000 and $400,000 just for showing up at events. Elizabeth Arden has sold nearly $100 million worth of its Britney perfumes-Believe, Curious, and Fantasy. PepsiCo determined that it was worth paying her a reported $4 million to $10 million for a short-lived ad gig.
Estimated annual take for record company, promoters, licensers, and others: $30 million to $40 million
A Britney photo garners anywhere from $250 (for a run-of-the-mill shot of her at Starbucks) to $100,000 or more. The photo agency X17, which has a team trailing her 24-7, estimates that Britney accounts for 30 percent of its revenue: It sold $2.5 million worth of Britney photos in 2007 alone, including $500,000 for its exclusive Bald Britney pics. Competitor Splash News says that Britney accounts for 10 to 15 percent of its business, boosted this year by $200,000 for photos of Britney in a hot tub. All told, Britney probably makes up a full 20 percent of the paparazzi business.
Estimated average annual take: $4 million
If it seems like every time you see a newsstand, Britney is on the cover of another magazine, that's only because.she is. A celebrity tabloid with Britney Spears on the cover sells 1.28 million newsstand copies, some 33 percent more than the average. Between January 2006 and July 2007, Britney was a cover subject of People, Us Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style, OK!, or Star a total of 175 times in just 78 weeks. During that period, newsstand sales of issues with her on the cover amounted to a staggering $360 million. She's also topped the annual Yahoo Search rankings in six of the past seven years, slipping to No. 2 only in 2004, when Paris Hilton briefly stole her crown. Searches for Britney were up 60 percent in 2007, the year of her divorce, shaved head, and car wreck. "If there was no Britney, would all Web traffic stop?" asks Vera Chan, senior editor at Yahoo. "I would hesitate to give her that much power, but it's hard to argue with the facts."
Estimated average annual take: $75 million
The most famous ex in America, Kevin Federline is living large off his Britney-fueled image. Nightclubs reportedly pay him about $30,000 just for appearing. And he gets $35,000 a month from Britney in spousal and child-support payments.
Estimated average annual take: $1 million
The Bottom Line
Britney's peak touring and recording years are surely behind her, but the public's fascination with her chaotic life continues to mint money for those selling her image.
Estimated annual value of the Britney Spears economy: $110 million to $120 millionVisit Portfolio.com for the latest business news and opinion, executive profiles and careers. Portfolio.com© 2007 Condé Nast Inc. All rights reserved.