Rapper-producer Jonathan “Lil Jon” Smith is best known for turning everyday words like “yeah” and “okay” into bloodcurdling sonic extravaganzas. He’s crafted hits for the likes of Usher and Ludacris; his first solo effort, Crunk Rock, will hit stores on June 8. But given the state of the recording industry, he’s focusing more on a concept that doesn’t lend itself to his trademark exhortations: diversification.
Lil Jon’s non-music revenue streams include a line of Oakley sunglasses, an energy drink and a wine label. On a recent visit to the DailyFinance studios, Jon estimated that these ventures account for nearly a third of his annual earnings, which total an estimated $11 million, by Forbes’ last count.
“The products start to really take off when I have an album out because I’m on TV more,” he says. “Definitely [the non-music revenues] will come up a little more in this album cycle. Who knows, maybe it will get to 50-50.”
There’s never been a better time to diversify. Last year, album sales fell 12.7% across the music industry and 20.9% in the rap category, according to in Nielsen SoundScan. This decade, industry-wide album sales have plummeted from 800 million in 2000 to 400 million in 2009.
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