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Dividing the Money in the Rock and Roll Business

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The ex-manager of Guns N’ Roses, Doug Goldstein, made waves recently when he opened up about how the band divided their songwriting income in the early days of their fame.

It’s a topic that doesn’t get talked about very often – arguing about the split isn’t exactly “Rock and Roll”, after all, but it is nevertheless a subject that needs to be discussed for a band to be happy and successful.

The contemporary music industry is a whole different world when compared to that which existed in the early days of Guns N’ Roses.

New bands looking for exposure today will often experiment with releasing royalty free music via popular platforms, but those outlets did not exist when Axl Rose and co first set out on their musical careers.

At that time, getting signed to one of the major labels was the only way to get significant worldwide exposure, and such a signing would guarantee the band an advance – but what next?

“Appetite for Destruction”

The first Guns N’ Roses album was titled “Appetite for Destruction” and was a worldwide smash-hit upon its release in 1987. For many, this single album was responsible for a wholesale rethink of the entire rock and roll genre, an unprecedented feat for a debut release at the time.

The record has gone on to become one of the best-selling discs of all time, but it was only the beginning of the success of Guns N’ Roses.

Doug Goldstein was the manager of the band for more than 17 years but has rarely spoken about any behind-the-scenes business that he witnessed during that time.

In a rare 2019 interview with GNR Central, Goldstein revealed that the band originally operated on a 20%/20%/20% split between Duff, Slash, and Izzy, with the remaining 40% being split 25%/15% between Axl and Steven. Steven’s split was the most controversial, with Axl declaring it more of a gift than a wage as Steven apparently “Never wrote anything but would still try and force me into even splits”.

As many will know, the controversy eventually spilled over into legal action. When Guns N’ Roses reformed in 2018 and Slash rejoined the group, there were many who would have loved to have seen drummer Steven Adler return as well.

Ex-manager Doug stated that this may well have been possible were it not for the legal actions Adler took against the band: “I think that, had he not sued everybody, it would have been a possibility. But once that was thrown out there – it’s amazing; once you have to reach into your own pocket to spend money for a legal defense, those are huge numbers.”

Goldstein was not immune from Adler’s legal actions, and personally spent almost half a million dollars on his own defense before settling with the drummer on the courtroom steps. The settlement figure between the two was never disclosed but the early settlement will undoubtedly have saved a great deal of money for everybody involved.

Fast Forward – Band Members Net Worth

The “classic” band members of Guns N’ Roses released five albums together during their run, whilst the 2008 release “Chinese Democracy” featured an entirely new lineup except for founding member Axl Rose. This is a relatively short discography, and yet the band has still sold over 100 million records worldwide at last count.

Unlike most Rock and Roll bands, Guns N’ Roses were blessed by the fact that many of their best-known songs have featured in countless commercials and movie soundtracks over the years, which has provided a huge additional revenue stream on top of regular music sales.

After over a hundred million record sales and more than 200 licensing agreements spanning several decades, the Celebrity Net Worth website lists the net worth of the “classic” Guns N’ Roses members as follows:

  • Axl Rose – Vocalist & founding member, Axl has been a part of the band since 1985 and is currently estimated to have over 200 million dollars in the bank.
  • Slash – Guitarist & founding member, Slash performed as part of the band between 1985 and 1996 and later rejoined from 2016 until present. He is estimated to have a fortune in the region of 90 million dollars.
  • Duff McKagan – Bassist & founding member, Duff also rejoined the group in 2016 until the present and is believed to be worth somewhere in the region of 70 million dollars.
  • Izzy Stradin – Guitarist who performed in the band between 1985 and 1991, currently believed to be worth 28 million dollars.
  • Steven Adler – The original drummer who later caused a great deal of legal issues for the band. He worked with Guns N’ Roses between 1985 and 1990 and is believed to have a fortune of 15 million dollars.
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