As a country music star and pop culture icon, it can be easy for some casual fans to forget that Dolly Parton is also one of the most prolific and successful songwriters of all time. As if that weren’t enough, Parton has also made some shrewd business moves over the course of her six decades and counting in show business, not the least of which was starting her own music publishing firm when she was just 20 years old, and retaining the rights to her entire back catalog.
The music industry, whether you’re in Nashville, Memphis, New York City, or Los Angeles, is infamously tricky with artists, especially young songwriters like Parton was in 1966. By starting her own company and retaining control of virtually all her publishing rights, Parton has maintained ownership of a goldmine packed with hits, including songs that went on to become famous and super-lucrative as performed by other artists, like (most notably) Whitney Houston’s iconic rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”
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Sometime after Parton turned that song into a hit single herself in the 1970s, she was approached by none other than Elvis Presley to let him do his own version of the song. But because Presley’s management wanted Parton to sign over half of her publishing rights to the song, Parton refused and the cover never materialized. That’s just one example of Parton’s business acumen and one of the reasons her song catalog is now valued at some $150 million.
Every time you hear a song Parton wrote — and she’s written more than 3,000 of them — on the radio, on TV, in a movie, in a commercial, or on streaming, Dolly Parton is getting paid.
Thanks to Parton’s enduring popularity, her catalog passively earns her a reported $6 million to $10 million per year!
That’s what people in the music business refer to as “mailbox money,” but it’s far from Parton’s only source of income. She’s done a little TV and movie acting over the years, but her Nashville amusement park empire Dollywood Parks and Resorts is a massive going concern, and her stake in the company that bears her name is reportedly worth $165 million. That’s not including the several restaurants and other leisure related businesses she owns in the area.
Parton has put much of that total net worth of $650 million to good use, donating to COVID-19 vaccine research and “Imagination Library” which provides free books to kids in need. Amazing as it might seem, at least part of that philanthropy is possible thanks to a business decision she made when she was only 20 years old.
Read more: Dolly Parton Is Still Making Untold Millions From her Songwriting Catalog
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