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Billy Joel is one of the wealthiest musicians of all time, but it took him some time to climb to the top of the heap. While Joel’s 2023 net worth is in the hundreds of millions now, he was once a struggling teenager taking piano bar gigs in his native Long Island to help support his family. Even once he started to make a name for himself with his breakthrough album, 1973’s Piano Man, he wasn't on easy street, financially speaking.
"Piano Man was not a hit record," Joel said during a 2015 appearance on Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s the Thing” podcast. "It was a turntable hit. In other words, it didn’t sell through, but this is back in the early ’70s. In those days, they still had FM progressive radio. Disc jockeys could spin whatever they wanted."
Joel finally saw commercial success with the release of 1977’s The Stranger, which included the hits “Only the Good Die Young,” “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” “She’s Always a Woman” and “Just the Way You Are.” The Stranger won two Grammys and remains Joel’s best-selling non-compilation album to date.
Joel’s catalog is now surely worth many millions more than he already has, but he’s said that he’s not tempted to sell it, as musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan have done. “I’ve never had an appraisal done. There have been offers for me to sell it, which I haven’t accepted,” Joel told Howard Stern in 2021. “Right now, I still have control of how these songs are used. If I sell my catalog I give that power up. I give my control up.”
He might, however, be tempted for the right price. “If somebody came to me with a billion dollars, what am I going to do? Say no?” Joel quipped. “I’m from Levittown.”
Keep reading to find out more about Billy Joel’s net worth in 2023 and learn how he made his fortune.
How did Billy Joel get famous?
Billy Joel rose to fame as a singer-songwriter. While his first album, Cold Spring Harbor, debuted in 1971, and his second LP, Piano Man, contained his eventual classic song of the same name, Joel’s breakthrough didn't really come until the 1977 release of The Stranger.
Over the course of his lengthy career, Joel has recorded 13 studio albums and seven live albums and won five Grammys, an American Music Award, and a Tony Award. In 1999, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by fellow legendary pianist Ray Charles, and in 2014, the Library of Congress awarded him the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
What is Billy Joel's net worth?
Billy Joel’s net worth in 2023 is estimated to be in the vicinity of $225 million. As one of the best-selling musicians of all time, much of Joel’s wealth comes from record sales, but plenty more of his millions come from his many tours. His Madison Square Garden residency, for example, has grossed him up to $3 million per show, according to Billboard—and he’ll have done more than 100 when he wraps it up in 2024.
How does Billy Joel make his money?
Billy Joel’s massive fortune comes from his music career, which kicked off in 1971 with the release of his first LP, Cold Spring Harbor. He hasn’t released a new studio album since 2001, but he remains one of the highest-selling artists of all time thanks to classic songs like “Piano Man,” “Uptown Girl,” and “Only the Good Die Young.”
While Joel is one of the few artists to become enormously rich thanks to his recordings, a large portion of his wealth comes from his live shows. He toured extensively in the 1990s, sometimes with Elton John, and has been touring regularly since the early aughts. Most recently, he embarked on a joint headlining tour with Stevie Nicks. Earnings numbers for that tour aren’t available yet, but in 2021, Joel’s solo tour grossed $17.4 million, landing him at No. 29 on Pollstar’s Top 100 Worldwide Tours Chart that year.
How much does Billy Joel get paid per concert?
Billy Joel rakes in an enormous amount of cash from his concerts. When his Madison Square Garden residency began in 2014, he reportedly earned about $2 million per show. In the years since, that figure has climbed to about $3 million per show, thanks in part to the dynamic pricing system now used by Ticketmaster. Per Billboard, the residency has grossed over $200 million and sold more than 1.6 million tickets over the past nine years.
All that money means that Joel is able to travel to and from the Garden in style. In 2018, he admitted that he sometimes takes a helicopter to the arena from his house. “That’s a great way to go to work, man, let me tell you,” he told Pollstar. “Do the show, run back to the helipad, fly home, that’s it.”
How many records has Billy Joel sold?
Billy Joel has sold more than 150 million records worldwide over the course of his career. In the United States, he is the fourth-best-selling solo artist of all time, behind only Garth Brooks, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.
Joel’s first album, Cold Spring Harbor, debuted in 1971 and was followed by career-defining albums like 1977’s The Stranger and 1978’s 52nd Street. Joel last released a studio album in 2001, but his most recent live album, Live at the Great American Music Hall 1975, dropped in April 2023.
Why did Billy Joel sue his ex-manager Frank Weber?
Billy Joel filed a $90 million lawsuit against his former manager Frank Weber in September 1989, accusing him of fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and federal racketeering statute violations. Among other things, Joel accused Weber of double-billing him for music videos, cheating him on travel and loaning Joel’s money to businesses owned by Weber. Joel ultimately received about 10 percent of what he asked for in a settlement, per Forbes.
Is Billy Joel retiring?
Billy Joel isn’t retiring just yet, but he is ending his iconic run of solo shows at Madison Square Garden. In June 2023, Joel confirmed that he will end his record-breaking residency in July 2024 with his 104th show in the series, which began in 2014. The event will mark his 150th lifetime performance at the storied New York City venue.
“I’m kind of flabbergasted that it lasted as long as it did,” Joel said at a press conference at the arena. “My team tells me that we could continue to sell tickets, but 10 years, 150 shows—alright already!”
His rep noted that the end of the MSG residency is not equivalent to a retirement announcement from Joel, but the man himself has said he’s not interested in continuing to perform too far past his prime. “I’m still exhausted from the other night, which didn’t used to happen,” he told The New York Times in 2018. “I don’t think I’ll have the physical wherewithal to do it five years from now. And if I can’t do it as well as I want to, I’ll take myself out of the lineup. I love the game too much to not play it well.”