Inside the Rolling Stones' Billionaire Lifestyle: Finance, Real Estate and the Wild Life
It has been 55 years since the Rolling Stones made their first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. Mick Jagger’s gyrating hips and the band’s bad-boy attitude shocked the CBS audience. Thousands of angry viewers called in to express their disgust with the newest act from Britain, leading Sullivan to declare the following morning that he would never have the Stones back on his show. They were back on Sullivan’s show less than a year later.
Since that appearance, the Stones have become the most iconic rock-and-roll band in history. They’re notorious for their antics and revered for their talents. And along their half-century of rocking and rolling, the Stones have made oodles of money.
Come check out some of the Stones’ more scandalous moments and take a peek behind their bank account to see just how successful this mega-successful band has been.
Their Last Tour Made $415.6 Million
Three-hundred and two years. That’s the collective age of the Rolling Stones’ four core members, with the average age of a Stone being 75-and-a-half. Old, sure, but time is still on the Stones’ side. Their three-year “No Filter” tour, which spanned Europe and the United States, sold 2,290,871 tickets and grossed $415.6 million. Near the end of the tour, on April 30, 2019, Mick Jagger needed to replace a valve in his heart, halting the tour. By late June, he was up on stage gyrating his hips.
The “No Filter” tour became the eighth highest-grossing tour of all time.
Their Tickets Have Always Been Expensive
People who purchased a “No Filter” ticket paid a minimum of $131 and upwards of $600 for some shows, and sometimes even more on the secondary market. Yet people have been complaining about Stones ticket prices since 1969, when shows cost between $5.50 and $8.50 — about $38.50 and $60 today.
“Can the Rolling Stones actually need all that money?” A critic from the San Francisco Chronicle asked. “Paying five, six and seven dollars for a Stones concert at the Oakland Coliseum for, say, an hour of the Stones seen a quarter of a mile away because the artists demand such outrageous fees that they can only be obtained under these circumstances, says a very bad thing to me about the artists’ attitude towards the public. It says they despise their own audience.”
Their Tour Rider Is…Not So Nuts
After the Stones wrapped up their 2015 “Zip Code” tour, TMZ obtained some of the band’s demands. The guys asked for tinted windows, extra butlers, after-hours dry cleaning, continual access to alcohol and enough Marlboro Reds and Marlboro Lights cigarettes to satsify the immortal Richards (although he now uses a smokeless ash tray so as not to annoy Jagger). Additionally, the band requests instructions on how to work all the room’s electronics. Because even though the septuagenarians can still work the stage, electronics are an entirely different beast.
In fact, the Stones have cleaned up their act since the late-’80s and early-’90s. Instead of mountains of booze, their dressing room was stocked with Evian, fresh juice and tea. Video games, a pool table and a cappuccino machine have been substituted for hard drugs, according to a 1990 New York Times article.
They Were Busted After an LSD Party
In 1967, 18 police officers descended on Richards’ West Sussex countryside estate in a raid. Keith Richards, Jagger and several other people were recuperating from acid trips and whatever else. When the cops knocked, Richards looked out the window and thought a group of dwarves, all wearing the same clothes, had come to the house.
“Wonderful attire! Am I expecting you?” is how he greeted them, he recalled in his autobiography, “Life.” The police came in and searched the place but found barely anything — some roaches, a bit of legally purchased amphetamines, and heroin, which belonged to the Stones’ art dealer friend, Robert Fraser.
According to Richards, Richards’ chauffeur had sold the Stones out to the now-defunct paper The News of the World, which in turn colluded with the cops. Or maybe it was Jagger’s dealer. Yet despite the cops’ meager findings, the courts wanted to punish the Stones’ most notorious members as harshly as possible.
But They Only Spent Four Total Nights in Jail
To make things worse, their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, bugged out and fled the country. Jagger and Richards were released on bail but attacked by the press, including an incident wherein the News of the World attributed a prior drug incident from Brian Jones to Jagger. Jagger told the tabloid to retract the article or face a lawsuit, but the paper only doubled-down on its efforts to get the two convicted.
But in the end, things rolled the Stones’ way. Jagger and Richards faced three months and 18 months, respectively, but a bail-out came from an unusual source. According to Fred Goodman, author of a biography on Allen Klein, the editor of The Times (then more conservative than it is now) “published a scathing essay decrying the thinness of the case and the injustice and idiocy of the sentences.” The editorial roused the public to the Stones musicians’ defense, and the two spent four days in prison, collectively — Jagger three and Richards one.
Keith Richards Snorted His Father’s Ashes
Some people bury their parents, or scatter their ashes to the sea. Other people are Keith Richards. Ok, that’s not entirely fair. It’s not like snorted all of his father’s ashes.
According to Richards, he had been holding on to his father’s ashes for five or six years after he had passed away in 2002. His father had told him that he didn’t want his bones to be “taking up space” in the ground, or in a cemetery—his father thought cemeteries were stupid, Richards told CBS. His father would rather have his remains put to good use as fertilizer.
So Richards opened up the box of his father’s ashes, ready to fertilize a sapling oak. A bit of the powder dusted onto the table. Richards, knowing that his father liked a little blow from time to time, thought it would be fitting to snort his ancestor. So he “had a line of dad,” he told Rolling Stone.
They Hired the Hells Angels as Bodyguards
And it was a terrifying disaster. For $500 worth of beer, the Stones hired on the Hells Angels to work security at the 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Concert. This was not exactly a professional group of people the Stones were dealing with. The Angels went ahead and got trashed, as did the audience. Throughout the night, the Angels clashed with the audience, using bike chains and sawed-off pool cues to keep the audience away from the stage (and themselves), which was way too close to the floor.
Everything went south halfway through the Stones’ set, when 18-year-old Meredith Hunter either tried to rush the stage or get a better vantage point by jumping on top of a speaker box. An Angel grabbed his hair, threw him down and punched him in the mouth. The Rolling Stones were playing “Under My Thumb.” Hunter went to his car and came back with a gun and brandished it in the air. An Angel jumped him from behind and stabbed him to death. In total, four people, including Hunter, died at the Speedway that night — two others were killed by a driver while they sat by a campfire, and another drowned in a ditch.
‘One Song, One Bump’
The Stones’ 1975 tour “was fueled by Merck cocaine,” Richards wrote in his autobiography.
“It was when we initiated the building of hideaways behind the speakers on the stage so that we could have lines between songs. One song, one bump was the rule between Ronnie and me.”
We’re guessing the habit was a bit expensive. For reference, an ounce of coke in 1975 cost between $1,000 and $2,000, according to The New York Times. That’s equal to about $4,800 and $9,600 today.
The Hells Angels Tried to Kill Jagger
Horrified by the Altamont Speedway incident, Jagger publicly denounced the Angels and said he would never work with them again. This cut through the biker gang’s thin skins, and a group of them decided they were going to murder the lead singer.
According to the BBC, the Angels planned to take out Jagger at his holiday home in the Hamptons by getting on a boat and storming Jagger’s property through the back, avoiding security. Angry, high and forgetting to read the weather reports, the Angels took off through the waters. But a storm came in and washed the plan away, sending the Angels overboard but killing none. The Angels retreated and apparently never tried again.
Jagger never even knew death was coming in from a tuned-up gang of denim-clad bikers from the sea. The plot was revealed during an investigative BBC series on the FBI in 2008.
The Real Estate: Keith Richards’ Connecticut and New York City Homes
Richards and his wife, Patti Hansen, have lived in an 8,000-plus-square-foot colonial in Weston, Connecticut, since 1985. While pictures of the home are scarce, the home reportedly has an enormous library with thousands of books. Weston is a very small town of about 10,000 residents, and is mostly farmland and woods with a small town center dotted with boutique shops. Richards’ Weston house is set deep in the woods, surrounded by trees and gated.
Richards and Hansen have bought and sold penthouses in New York City, about 90 minutes away from their main house. Most recently they had a penthouse in Manhattan, which took sold in 2018 for $2 million less than its original asking price. It went for $9.95 million.
The Real Estate: Keith Richards’ Redlands
After taking an errant path in the West Sussex countryside, Keith Richards came across a small house surrounded by a moat. Intrigued, he ended up buying the property for £20,000 in 1966 (about £313,000, or $412,000, in 2019). The estate is where Richards met his father for the first time in 20 years after leaving home as a teenager.
The Real Estate: Mick Jagger’s Downe House
Mick Jagger has bought and sold a number of properties in Los Angeles, New York City and England. The most famous of his houses is Downe House, a property which he and ex-wife Jerry Hall bought for £2.25 in 1991 and is now worth north of £10 million. But after a newspaper revealed that Jagger had knocked up Brazilian model Luciana Gimenez Morad, the two divorced in 1999 and Hall was thought to own the home.
Except it’s not quite so clear. Apparently, both were still on the home’s title as of 2013, and Jagger reportedly doesn’t want to give up the 26-room house. According to the Telegraph, Jagger has a real estate portfolio of $250 million.
The Real Estate: Charlie Watts
Stones drummer Charlie Watts and his wife own a stud farm in Dolton, a tiny village of just 900 people located in Devon, England. The farm is called Halsdon Arabians and the Watts sell horse-rearing vials for up to $2,600.
Mick Jagger Rents Out a House for Up to $46,500 per Week
Yeah, the Stones might make just an absolute enormous amount of cash just from one concert, but Jagger has never been one to leave money on the table. He owns a six-bedroom mansion on the West Indies island of Mustique, where up to 10 guests can stay on a per-week basis. Rates range from $17,000 to $46,500.
According to Norman’s biography, Jagger “personally vets each application and automatically excludes rock stars because of the mess they make.”
The Real Estate: Ronnie Wood
Ronnie Wood’s most notable home is also no longer in his possession. The youngest of the Stones — he’s 72 — had lived with his wife in a Gothic-style mansion with 19 bathrooms and a massive indoor pool, but the two split in 2008, and the mansion went up for sale at £13m in 2010. Wood, who is also an artist, has been restoring and turning a 19th-century cottage into an artist’s studio for the past three years.
Jagger May Have Bought an Estate While on Acid
Somewhere in the realm of unpublished manuscripts, there just might be a secret autobiography written by Mick Jagger. London-based publisher John Blake says he has the 75,000-word manuscript, but Jagger won’t authenticate it. In one teased anecdote, Blake says that Jagger purchased Stargroves, an historic countryside mansion, “while high on acid and trying out the life of horse-riding country squire.”
Jagger bought the estate for £55,000 in 1970, equal to about $1 million today. He sold it in 1979 for £200,000.
Bill Wyman Can’t Live Off of Stones Royalties
Although Bill Wyman left the Stones in 1993 after the Steel Wheels tour, he had been the band’s bassist since 1962. Since then, he formed Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, which still tours (Wyman is 83). He couldn’t rest on his laurels collecting royalties.
“The big money wasn't there yet,” Wyman told the Telegraph, relating recalling his departure from the band. “I had a small nest egg and I can live nicely but I can't rely on Stones royalties to support me. I have to work and I'm not in the same league as the boys who stayed on. But I wanted to have fun. Playing with the Stones there was always such a lot of pressure. The next album or single always had to be the best, or at least sell more.”
Wyman also sells branded metal detectors.
The Band Is a Money-Making Machine
The “big money” that Wyman alludes to was certainly there in some form, and had he held out, he would have received much more cash. According to Phillip Norman’s biography “Mick Jagger,” the Rolling Stones have earned “an estimated £2 billion gross from records, song rights, merchandising, touring and sponsorship, while the Lapping Tongue brand appears on around fifty products, including a range of lingerie by Agent Provocateur.”
Want to Use a Stones Song in a Commercial? $4 Million, Please.
Since 1989, Jagger and Richards’ songs had earned over $56 million by 2012, according to Norman. Microsoft paid $4 million to use “Start Me Up” to market Windows 95, while Apple paid an undisclosed amount to use “She’s a Rainbow” for its campaign to sell colored iMacs.
In fact, “She’s a Rainbow” has seen a resurgence in new ad campaigns, with the Stones licensing the song to both Acura and Dior in 2018. According to Variety, the fee for that song “is still within range” of that $4 million from the 1990s.
How They Got Their Name
The late Brian Jones formed The Rolling Stones in 1962. When he went to place an ad in a paper called Jazz News advertising the band’s services, according to Richards, the person asked what they were called.
“‘The Best of Muddy Waters’ album was lying on the floor — and track one was ‘Rollin’ Stone Blues.’ So the band’s name was picked for us by Muddy Waters,” Richards said in “According to the Rolling Stones,” a book published by the band in 2009.
They’re On Mars
Just not in human form. NASA spotted a stone rolling across the surface of Mars from its interplanetary robotic lander and nicknamed it the Rolling Stones Rock. Robert Downey Jr. revealed the news to everyone, including the Stones, during the band’s 2019 Rose Bowl concert.
Despite its Fame, the Band Was Hard up for Cash in the ‘60s
“Satisfaction” released in June 1965, and the Stones’ popularity was soaring. But the brand was broke. According to “Old Gods Almost Dead: The 40-Year History of the Rolling Stones” by Stephen Davis, the band had sold five million albums by July 1965 and earned $5 million from tours, but they were only making 50 pounds a week in salary. It was hard to find someone to trust, and their manager was just a 21-year-old kid. They needed someone they could trust to negotiate a new contract. Their manager chose a thief.
Their First Contract Was Legendary
In July 1965, the Stones’ manager hired Allen Klein, a foul-mouthed New York accountant, to renegotiate the Rolling Stones’ new recording contract. For his first move, Klein put the Stones in sunglasses and told them to stand behind him, silently, while Klein ranted and raved. The head honcho of Decca Records caved. The Stones walked out with a $1.25 million contract, along with 9.25 percent of royalties. It was bigger than the Beatles’ contract and was, then, the biggest record contract in history.
It would make Allen Klein very, very rich.
But They Were Still Fighting for Cash
That $1.25 million contract guaranteed $7,000 per year (about $57,000 in 2020 dollars) for each of the Stones for 10 years in advances. But Klein kept their salary and funneled it into his newly-formed company, Nanker Phelge USA. And it was legal. The contract said that Klein did not have to release that money to the Stones for 20 years. The Stones had also signed over all of their master recordings and publishing rights to Klein.
When the Stones wanted to make a big purchase, like a house or car, Klein loaned them their own money, with interest. But by 1968, Klein was completely withholding money. Numerous requests for cash went unanswered as the Stones’ bank accounts ran dry. The rent was past due and the electricity was in danger of being shut off. Overdraft fees piled up.
They Don’t Own Some of Their Biggest Hits
By the 1970s, Klein was fighting numerous lawsuits, including several with the Stones. The band finally settled in an out-of-court deal in 1975 for $1 million of past-due royalties in exchange for an additional album. ABKO, the company which Klein founded in 1968, still owns Stones songs released before 1971. That includes “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” and “Satisfaction.”
Jagger May Have Helped Break up the Beatles
Beatles fans are probably familiar with Allen Klein. He’s the manager who further poisoned the already souring relationship between the Beatles during the late-1960s and early 1970s. After signing the Stones, Klein was a force in the music industry. He wooed the Beatles to become their new manager — especially earning the affinity of John Lennon and Yoko Ono — and went about making more dubious deals, which revolved around the fine print. Eventually the Beatles and Klein would become engaged in numerous, multi-million dollar lawsuits. Paul McCartney hated him from the get-go. Did he break up the Beatles single-handedly? No, but he certainly had a hand in it.
But Beatles fans may not be familiar with how Klein got his start. Jagger had recommended Klein to the Beatles, and in bad faith. According to singer-songwriter and Jagger’s former girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, Jagger used the Beatles as a ploy to take Klein’s attention away from the Stones so the band could escape his grasp. In John McMillian’s “Beatles vs. Stones,” he recounts some previous revelations from Faithfull’s own writings:
“Mick called up John Lennon and told him, 'You know who you should get to manage you, man? Allen Klein.' And John, who was susceptible to utopian joint projects such as alliances between the Beatles and the Stones said, 'Yeah, what a f[*****] brilliant idea.' It was a bit of a dirty trick, but once Mick had distracted Klein's attention by giving him bigger fish to fry, Mick could begin unraveling the Stones' ties to him. It was just a matter of time before the relationship was severed."
Jagger Paid £50 for the Band’s Iconic Logo
Annoyed with the dismal offerings provided by Decca, Mick Jagger took it upon himself to find some good-looking cover art for the Stones’ next album. In 1970 he found a student, John Pasche, at the Royal College of Art in London and offered him £50 to whip something up.
Pasche produced the iconic tongue logo; the band was so enthused they gave him an extra £200 two years later. It first appeared on the “Sticky Fingers” album of 1971.
Pasche sold the original drawing for $92,500 in 2008. It’s not the exact same as the logo we’re all used to seeing, as it was redrafted before its final form. Some say it’s a bit similar to a 1969 piece from “Beatles Illustrated” by Alan Aldridge.
They Fled England to Avoid Taxes
The British Invasion wasn’t just about British bands making money in America. It was also about keeping it. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, the U.K. had enacted income tax rates, which taxed the country’s top earners as high as 98 percent. In protest, the band fled the country in 1971; their album “Exile on Main St.” is a reference to the Stones living abroad to avoid the British taxman.
Their Biggest Concert Drew 1.5 Million People
In 2006, the Stones played a free concert at Copacabana Beach in Rio De Janeiro in February. It was days before Carnival; beachfront hotels were sold out, and the Stones played a two-hour, 20-song set to a staggering 1.5 million people, according to the New York Times. And while the people didn’t need to pay, the Stones weren’t playing for free. Two telecommunication companies footed the bill and broadcasted the show live on television. The Rolling Stones have the event on YouTube.
They Earned Nearly $1 Billion in Ticket Sales During the Last Decade
From 2010-2020, the Rolling Stones pulled in $929,196,083 in box office ticket sales, according to Pollstar. Only U2 made more. Bono’s band pulled in over $1.038 billion. Both bands had five tours.
They’ve Sold Millions and Millions of Records
The Stones have sold 66.5 million records in the United States and, according to Chart Masters, have sold 237.1 million total equivalent album sales worldwide (that data takes streaming and downloads into account, as well as compilation albums).
After a Heroin Bust, Keith Richards Was Ordered to Play a Free Show
In 1977, several Royal Canadian Mounted Police slapped Keith Richards awake. Or at least they tried to. “They couldn’t wake me up. By law you have to be conscious to be arrested,” Richards wrote in “Life.” The police dragged him about the room and slapped him about for 45 minutes before Richards finally awoke. At the station they told him he was being arrested for trafficking 22 grams of heroin (and then a bit later he was also charged for cocaine possession; there were traces of the drug found in the room). Richards said, “Ok, Fine. Give me a gram back.” The police said no.
A year later, Richards pled guilty to possession of heroin. The charges of trafficking and cocaine possession were dropped. By this time, Richards was trying to kick the habit and was rehabbing for his 20-some-gram-a-day habit. According to The Star, Richards’ lawyer argued that he “was already getting treatment and had enough money that he didn’t need to turn to crime” so jail time wasn’t needed.
The judge agreed. Richards received a one-year suspended sentence and a year’s probation. The judge also ordered Richards to “give a special performance at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind within six months.” The free concert took place on April 22, 1979.