How do Rappers get Paid? (Best Mo’ Money Guide)

Like LL Cool J says: 

“You wanna get paid? You wanna get laid? Pimp Yearlings in 360 ways. Live your life in an ill real way Got 6 rides in your little drive-way” – Wanna Get Paid, Album: Phenomenon

Yes, I admit to being a bit of a rap fan. I grew up with the hip-hop culture and the sounds of the above-mentioned favourite artist including Wu-tang ClanPublic EnemyEminem and N.W.A to name just a few. I’m sure everyone who listened to this iconic music has tried to have a go at rapping themselves, either in front of your mirror or just drop a few beatboxing beats in the shower, I have!

Like many artists, becoming one that is famous enough to be calling it a job and make a decent living off it is by no means an easy task. The highly competitive world of music is littered with artists who are trying for their breakthroughs. We analyze in this post how rappers ultimately are being paid. And yes, we might hit a few music recommendations while we are at it. 

Key Points

  1. There is no clear-cut way how to become a rapper
  2. Being unique is key to becoming a rapper
  3. In general, hip-hop artists can get paid anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens and in special cases hundreds of thousands of dollars to perform.
  4. The amount of payout that streaming platforms pass to the artists can vary quite a bit and is often linked to the artist’s overall sellability and popularity.
  5. According to the latest recent figures, star rappers such as Kanye West is currently the world’s highest-paid hip-hop musician, earning an estimated $175 million in the year leading up.
  6. Only established hip-hop artists can command upfront performance payments.
  7. Your popularity, recent music sales and the size and capacity of the venue you are performing in are the dominant factors determining your income.
How do Rappers get Paid?
Jay-Z, Source: Spotify

How do you become a rapper?

According to the history books the modern use of rap originated in the Bronx, in the 70s. Rapping evolutionized itself from the task of the well known master of ceremonies (MC) at parties. It was the primary job to entertain and create the vibe at packed parties between DJ sets. The overall terms Rap is usually defined as the lyrical accompaniment of a beat. The typically unique and repeating beat, is normally chosen by the individual DJ.

There is no clear-cut way how to become a rapper. As for any artist you have to start somewhere, work your way to fame and also have that little bit of luck to be discovered. Many rappers started out as MCs in cultivating a feel for what music people like when they are DJ-ing at parties. The lyrical mastery is the real distinguishing factor of how you successfully merge beats with the rap lyrics you are prosing in order to underline a song. 

Many rappers who have become hip-hop stars become successful exactly because of their special way of using their voice and ability to rhyme in an unforgettable way. Think of Busta Rhymes for example, who can “spit” lyrics in a fast-speed way while maintaining pretty decent baritone notes. It’s unique and immediately recognizable. Or think of Eminem, who is even faster in delivering words, that, when you listen carefully are telling an entire story about his life and views, more often than not in a confrontational way. 

Being unique is key to becoming a rapper. Therefore work on your magic, your lyrics and the messages you want to deliver all the while finding catchy beats and twists in the music that blends in perfectly with your vocal performance. It is no easy task but certainly fun to have a go. And who knows you might be discovered by a famous label or agency soon!

How much do rappers get paid to perform?

As we have analyzed in a previous post about comedians, this question really depends on your general popularity at any given point in time. The more you are liked and the more albums you are able to sell the higher will be the price tag you can command for performing live gigs. 

In general, hip-hop artists can get paid anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens and in very special cases even 100s of thousands of dollars to perform.

Below is a list of the currently top 10 rappers and their perceived earnings per performance

Artist$ per performance
Kanye West3 million / private performance
Jay-Z3 million / private performance
Eminem3 million / private performance
50 Cent2 million / private performance
Lil Wayne350,000
Snoop Dog250,000
Wiz Khalifa100,000

So it really pays to do private performances it would seem but to get there you will have to be really in the top of the best rappers list of pretty much all-time. In addition to the overall earnings, it also needs to be considered how much needs to be given to supporting staff, musical band members and management or agencies. We estimate that only the top performers can keep around 75-85% of the overall revenues with lower-paid artists only being able to keep 30-50% of generated income. 

How much money do independent rappers get per song?

It should not come to you as a surprise that most music is being streamed these days. In the old classical selling of album days, recording artists would typically get anywhere between 10% and 25% with new artists generally finding their cut closer to the bottom of this range. So if you sell 1 million albums, which is a platinum status, assuming you are charging $20 per album sold you would end up between $2 million and $5 million in your bank account. 

The game, however, has dramatically changed over the past decade. The now well-known paid subscription service model has taken over taking over the world by storm. It estimated that total physical album sales have dropped by an astounding 30%, while paid subscriptions grew 12% from the previous year. The trend is and evolution is therefore pretty obvious.

Artists, however, can still make a good living from so called royalties. The very well-known streaming platforms are convincing artists to put their songs onto their libraries and in exchange pay them each time their song or album is being downloaded or streamed. Sounds good right? 

The amount of payout that on-demand streaming platforms or video music sites pass to the artists can vary quite a bit and is obviously linked to the artist’s overall sellability and popularity. For example, Apple Music pays $0.01 per stream while Spotify pays $0.0033 per stream. Meanwhile, Tidal, a “high fidelity sound” streaming service, pays the most, giving artists around up to $0.013 per stream.

The math, therefore, is relatively simple. If you are looking at selling your music through Spotify you will generally get paid $3,300 for 1 million streams. The table below summarizes the various platforms and payouts. This doesn’t include digital album sales. 

PlatformPay per stream Streams for $1,000
Apple Music$0.01100,000
Amazon Music$0.004250,000

Do hip-hop artists make a lot of money?

The answer is yes, making money is easy if you belong to the very top level and are probably an all-time great already. According to the latest recent figures, independent rappers such as Kanye West is currently the world’s highest-paid hip-hop musician, earning an estimated $175 million in the year leading up. Jay-Z came in second with 100 million, Drake came in third with 75 million, and Diddy came in third with 70 million. These are obviously eye-watering numbers which don’t look as rosy if you are an average. It’s also extremely essential to keep in mind that a lot of the earnings come from endorsements and other engagements in the business world which are usually multiples of their earned income. 

According to comparably, salaries of US rappers in the US range from $18,720 to $141,440, with a median salary of $49,920. That is lower than the average US salary of $56,310 according to aggregated labour statistics. All that “blings” is not gold as the classical lyricist William Shakespeare said. 

How much money do beginner rappers make?

As in pretty much any job, especially in the artistic world, you can expect to make very little money when you start out. In many cases, you will also have to work part-time jobs in order to be able to earn the necessary money to record and produce music.

When researching the topic we also learned that many younger and aspiring rappers are paying more established performers to feature on their records and albums just so they get their names out into the world. With many videos suggesting a most luxurious lifestyle, some could argue this is only a facade in order to recruit new entrants into the music industry which necessitates paying up older, more established artists for features in order to boost their own careers. 

Do rappers get paid before they perform?

Only established hip-hop artists can command upfront performance payments. This makes sense in order to book the artist and finance some of the travel-related expenses that might occur. 

Beginner and mid-level rappers, however, will have to wait for their paycheck after their performance. This is also somewhat related to the fact that they are most likely part of a bigger concert where they are acting as supporting acts and hence will get paid by the overall revenues a gig will generate. 

How much do rappers charge for a concert?

Your popularity, recent music sales and the size and capacity of the venue you are performing in are the dominant factors determining your income. If you are famous and enough to fill Madison Square Garden, which has a concert capacity of roughly 20,000 you will be able to command probably $500,000 to $750,000 per gig if you can sell your tickets for $50 each. Rap artists typically charge $25,000-$50,000 for a concert with new entrants that have just had the first smell of success probably earning just a few thousand dollars in the beginning.


Rappers get paid by performing live gigs, selling their music, and through endorsements and other business dealings. The amount of money they make depends on their popularity and success. Beginner rappers make very little money, while established rappers can make millions of dollars. Streaming of music has unevenly distributed the generated income to those artists who are more popular and famous. As a consequence, there is high competition in certain music segments where streaming demand is highest. 

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