6 Surprising Sources of Celeb Income


Most top tier celebs know how to rake in the dough. In fact, the amount of money celebrities make will always shock the masses. Take for example, actor Robert Downey Jr., who made $80 million in 2015. And pop singer Katy Perry, who earned $135 million in 2015.

However, some celebs aren't just making money from exercising their craft. Here are six surprising sources of celebrity income. (See also: Zooey Deschanel Never Pays Late Fees and 5 Other Smart Money Lessons From Celebrities)

1. Cruises

If you think that all cruises are just packed with retirees or large families, think again. Many celebrities have jumped on the celebrity cruise bandwagon. Celeb cruises promise to give fans the chance to spend quality time and party with their favorite stars, as long as they are willing to pay the hefty admission fee.

  • For seven years, musician Kid Rock has hosted the Annual "Chillin' the Most Cruise." For 2016, his cruise is scheduled to set sail from Miami to Jamaica.
  • In 2011, for $1,245 you could sweat it out with fitness legend Richard Simmons on his "Cruise to Lose."
  • Dance to "Step by Step" and belt out "Tonight" aboard the New Kids on the Block NKOTB cruise from New Orleans to Cozumel, Mexico. '80s kids, this is for you.
  • Not to be outdone by their older counterparts, the Backstreet Boys also offer their own cruise experience, visiting several European locations this year. It's almost sold out!

2. Bizarre TV Ads in Japan

From actor Christoph Waltz wanting you to play Clash of Clans on your phone, to singer Katy Perry asking you to "plumpify" your lashes with Covergirl mascara, there's nothing surprising about celebrities hawking products on American TV. However, things get a bit weirder on Japanese TV. For the promise of an easy payday, celebrities are willing to do things they wouldn't even dare to do on national TV. Here's a sample:

  • Actor Nicolas Cage showed extreme symptoms of "Pachinko fever" in a five-part series of commercials for Sankyo.
  • Channeling his inner Men in Black character, actor Tommy Lee Jones played an alien investigating life on Earth for 38 TV ads for Boss Coffee.
  • Mega movie star Bruce Willis did TV commercials for Eneos service stations, showing us that you can "electrify" billboards and football players.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger merges with a woman to form some kind of powerful flying creature for V&V drink.

However, some stars aren't too happy that people find out about their appearances in Japanese TV. In 2013, Leonardo DiCaprio filed a cease and desist letter against Japander.com for hosting a video of his ad for Jim Beam.

3. Video Game Royalties

Rock legends Aerosmith have been performing since 1970. With over 150 million records sold worldwide, 25 gold albums, 18 platinum albums, and 12 multi-platinum albums, Aerosmith should be making most of their money from record sales, right? Turns out that their version of Guitar Hero (Guitar Hero: Aerosmith) made the band more money than any of their records. The popular video games sold over 3.6 million copies in the first two years and boosted a 40% increase in album sales across both their old and new albums.

Following Aerosmith's lead, many musicians, including Metallica, Van Halen, and Lenny Kravitz, participated in additional releases of Guitar Hero. Punk rockers Green Day receive royalties from the Green Day: Rock Band. Over 100 songs, including hits from Eminem, Jay-Z, and Daft Punk, were licensed for the DJ Hero game.

4. Restaurants

From former basketball players, to singers, to actors, few celebrities resist the temptation of opening a restaurant. Here is a short list:

  • Michael Jordan's Steakhouse offers a fine-dining experience at its New York, Connecticut, and Chicago locations.
  • Former N*SYNC frontman, musician, and actor, Justin Timberlake, is part owner of Southern Hospitality BBQ and Bar in New York, New York.
  • Desperate Housewife and movie star Eva Longoria joined efforts with celebrity chef Todd English to create a Latin take on the classic steakhouse at Beso in Hollywood, California.
  • Country singer Toby Keith has nine locations of his I Love This Bar and Grill Southern food restaurant chain.
  • Rapper Ludacris offers a mixed fare of Southern, Caribbean, and West African foods at Time Restaurant and Lounge in Atlanta, Georgia.

5. Teaching

As masters of their craft, some celebrities are able to cash in by teaching others how to improve their own skills.

Actor James Franco is one of the most enthusiastic celebrities about teaching. First, he was a graduate film professor at New York University (rated 3.8 out of 5 by some of his previous students!). He also offered an online course on screenwriting for short films. Then, he taught a class on the practice of adapting novels into screenplays at UCLA. Finally, he taught a film class to 24 students at his high school alma mater in Palo Alto, California.

Other celebrities that have made money teaching (not considering those that were teachers before reaching fame) are opera singer Placido Domingo (Adjunct Professor at UCLA, California in 1994), actor Kevin Spacey (Theater Professor at Oxford University in the U.K. in 2008), and film director Spike Lee (Film Professor at New York University since 1993!).

6. Financial Advice to Celebrities

Getting financial advice from his Guns n' Roses bandmates didn't work too well in the early years of drummer Duff McKagan. But after a near-death experience in 1994, McKagan realized that he needed to clean up his act and make better money decisions. He took a couple of university courses on finance and business management and they paid off. His first $100,000 in stock investments in 1994 was a bunch of winners: Starbucks, Microsoft, and Amazon.com.

By proving his investing and managing chops (he helped negotiate the record deals for his bands, Velvet Revolver and Duff McKagan's Loaded), he became an advisor to other celebrities. Proving that it truly "takes one to know one," in 2011 he founded Meridian Rock, a wealth management firm for musicians.

Know of other surprising sources of celeb income? Let us know what they are in the comments below.

Like this article? Pin it!

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Guest's picture

We can learn from these successful millionaires. There’s a lot to take away from their good habits.

Damian Davila's picture

Indeed! The main takeaway from these celebrities is the importance of creating multiple streams of income. Thank you for stopping by, Faaastcash.