How Much Are DMX’s Royalties Worth?
Music royalties for DMX’s master recordings and publishing are currently valued at $17.7 million, according to Billboard's…
When DMX died on Friday at the age of 50, the iconic Ruff Ryders rapper left behind a legacy of one of the top emcees of the 1990s and 2000s with five Billboard 200 chart-topping albums to his credit. Beyond his cultural impact, that legacy has financial value too — by Billboard‘s estimates, royalties for his master recordings and publishing would be valued at $17.7 million.
Following DMX’s death, rumors began swirling around plans for his master recordings and that they had been sold to various parties, including Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Frequent DMX collaborator Swizz Beatz, who was also reported to have purchased the masters, later shot down the rumor on social media. Meanwhile, plans for his estate are still unknown and representatives for the late rapper declined to comment for this story.
Billboard’s calculations were made after conferring with sources who said the rapper doesn’t own the masters for his biggest hits. Meanwhile, most sources said that DMX didn’t own the publishing either on his biggest hits, although one suggested the possibility of a co-publishing arrangement. Nevertheless, Billboard is calculating the valuation of his music assets using a straight publishing deal, in which the publisher gets 50% and the writer gets 50%.
As a result, if DMX’s heirs — which include a total of 15 children — did decide to cash in on his rights now, they would be limited to selling the royalty income streams from his master recordings and publishing.
To arrive at those numbers, Billboard calculated that DMX’s master recording catalog has averaged about $4 million in annual revenue over the last three years, with two-thirds coming from the U.S. and almost one-third coming from overseas. That’s much larger than most hip-hop foreign shares, but DMX is popular in countries like the U.K. and Germany, among others. Assuming that the rapper gets an 18% royalty on physical sales and a 22% royalty on digital sales, his royalty income stream would come in at about $925,000 annually if he was totally recouped. (While that dollar amount works out to a blended royalty rate of almost 23%, his income is also weighted by DMX receiving 45% of royalties generated from his programmed digital radio streams.)
Meanwhile, DMX’s publishing royalties average about $1.025 million in annual revenue. Because he doesn’t own the publishing on his biggest hits, that would leave his writer share at a 50% cut, or $513,000. With Billboard estimating that DMX typically averaged a 50% share of the songwriter cut and his co-writers splitting the other half, that would put his annual publishing take at around $256,000.
While hip-hop is currently trading at a 10 to 12 times multiple, DMX has some enduring hits, so Billboard applied a 15 times multiple to his music and publishing royalties. That puts his master recording royalties at a $13.86 million valuation and his publishing royalties at $3.84 million, or combined $17.7 million. If it turns out DMX had a co-publishing stake, Billboard’s valuation for his songwriting would come in at $5.8 million, which would appreciate the overall valuation of DMX’s music assets to $19.6 million.
Moreover, with hip-hop on the rise as the dominant genre in the U.S. and its popularity growing globally, while also showing up more and more in synchronizations, it’s likely DMX’s catalog will substantially increase in value in the coming years. In that sense, hip-hop is well on its way to catching up to the rock genre, whose biggest artists enjoy a publishing multiple more of more than 25 times. While it arrived several decades later than rock, the genre’s continued growth in mainstream culture sets up its early classics for major gains. Should DMX’s heirs hold onto the rapper’s royalty income stream from his music catalog for a few more years, his music assets are likely to appreciate in value and start hitting rock music valuation levels of anywhere between 18 times and 22 times, according to Billboard estimates.
There’s also an even longer-term approach to consider: If they can do it, DMX’s heirs could consider holding onto the rapper’s songwriter share of the publishing royalties. In the U.S., creators are entitled to file copyright terminations 35 years after their music came out — in effect providing an opportunity to take back U.S. rights to their publishing catalogs. In other words, if his heirs retain the songwriter share and follow proper procedures, they can effectively double both the catalog’s annual publishing income stream and valuation of the U.S. portion of his catalog.
After all, his first hit singles emerged in 1998, so they would be eligible for reversions in 2033; and the window to file for termination with the Copyright Office would begin in 2023.