VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Turns out money ISN'T everything. For this list, we're looking at popular musicians and bands who turned their backs on extremely lucrative offers. Our countdown includes ABBA, Chance the Rapper, Lady Gaga, and more!
Top 10 Musicians Who Turned Down Crazy Deals
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Musicians Who Turned Down Crazy Deals.
For this list, we’re looking at popular musicians and bands who turned their backs on extremely lucrative offers.
Let us know what YOU would have said to these deals in the comments!
#10: Ja Rule
In 2017, Ja Rule made headlines for his role in the disastrous Fyre Festival, which definitely left a dent in his reputation. However, this entry is about a much earlier decision he may regret … The popular rapper had a minor film role in 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious”, for which he was reportedly paid $15,000. When it came time for the sequel, “2 Fast 2 Furious,” he was offered the role of Tej Parker and would have been paid half a million dollars. But according to director John Singleton, Ja Rule thought he was “too big” for the sequel and declined. He was replaced by Ludacris. Given the numerous sequels, Ja Rule likely turned down a lot more than $500,000.
#9: Lady Gaga
Gaga was at the peak of her fame in the early 2010’s, riding high on the success of her debut and sophomore albums “The Fame” and “Born This Way”. In 2012 she was reportedly courted by the American Action Network to perform at the 2012 Republican National Convention. The advocacy group wanted to offer her $1 million and donate $150,000 to a domestic violence shelter in return. However, Gaga presumably turned the offer down - no surprise considering her own political views and more liberal fanbase. Journey and Lynyrd Skynyrd took her place. The RNC distanced themselves from the idea, stating that it had been all the American Action Network’s.
#8: NLE Choppa
After the video for this rapper’s first single, “Shotta Flow”, went viral in 2019, major record labels saw green. They embarked on a bidding war that went as high as $3 million. However, Choppa turned down the multimillion dollar offers, choosing instead to keep his master recordings and sign with a private distributor called UnitedMasters. It was through this label that Choppa released his debut EP, Cottonwood, in December 2019. However, Choppa has since partnered with Warner Records, who released his single “Walk Em Down” with Roddy Ricch.
#7: Chance the Rapper
Here’s another rapper who loves his creative freedom. Chance has made a name for himself thanks to his popular mixtapes, including Acid Rap and Coloring Book, which won the Best Rap Album award at the 2017 Grammys. Chance has repeatedly denied the...chance to sign with a major record label, preferring his autonomy over conforming to a stringent record deal. The exact amounts are not known, but one can safely assume that Chance has been offered some big bucks - especially with three Grammys under his belt. Even his debut album, The Big Day, was entirely self-produced and self-released, albeit to a rather negative reception.
#6: The Smiths
When The Smiths released their last album in 1987, they’d actually already broken up due to the continued animosity between vocalist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr. However, that doesn’t mean that fans gave up on the possibility of a reunion - even decades later. Despite Morrissey’s steadfast and vocal opposition to the idea in interviews, Coachella was keen enough to offer the band $5 million to reunite and perform. The band obviously turned the lucrative offer down, with Morrissey saying, “Money doesn’t come into it.” Easy for the man worth $50 million to say...
Guns N’ Roses was one of the biggest rock bands of the 80s and 90s, thanks to the multi-platinum albums Appetite for Destruction, G N’ R Lies, and Use Your Illusion. Axl Rose knew how big they could be and reportedly turned down an early offer of $50,000 to leave and join another band instead. Decades later, Slash was declining money to return to the band. And a lot more than $50,000! Slash told GQ that he had repeatedly declined “excessive...seven, eight digit kinds” of offers to reunite with Guns N’ Roses. However, it seems like Slash eventually came around, as he officially rejoined the band in 2016 to embark on the ironically-named Not in This Lifetime... Tour.
#4: Rihanna, Cardi B & Jay-Z
Maroon 5’s performance at the Super Bowl LIII halftime show received largely negative reviews, with critics arguing that the NFL was playing things too safe. At the time, the NFL was in the middle of a controversy involving player Colin Kaepernick, who famously kneeled during national anthems to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Numerous musicians turned down the offer to perform at that year’s Super Bowl, including Rihanna, Cardi B, and Jay-Z. They declined the offer as a show of solidarity, with Rihanna saying, “I just couldn’t be a sellout. I couldn’t be an enabler.”
#3: The Doors
Jim Morrison was adamant that The Doors’ music would not be used in advertisements. For him, it was a principle of artistic integrity - to not sell out for a quick buck. The story goes that back in 1967, The Doors were offered $75,000 by Buick to use “Light My Fire” in an Opel commercial. Morrison vehemently declined. Even now, decades after his death, the surviving members of The Doors fight over the commercial use of their music. Drummer John Densmore has tried to keep Morrison’s artistic integrity alive, and it’s estimated that the band has declined nearly $20 million in deals.
#2: Franz Ferdinand
This indie rock band was especially big in 2004, winning the Mercury Prize and earning the top spot on The Village Voice’s famous Pazz & Jop poll with their single “Take Me Out.” At the height of their musical power a couple of years later, the band was approached by an unnamed company who wanted to use their music for an ad campaign. They were willing to spend $50 million on the campaign, with a not-insubstantial portion going to the band. It was also estimated that the campaign would quadruple the sales of their album, You Could Have It So Much Better. However, Franz Ferdinand turned the mystery company down, stating, “We had to surrender all of our identity and integrity to this product.”
#1: The Beatles
This band was a worldwide phenomenon. So, naturally, Lorne Michaels offered them a whopping $3,000 to reunite on “Saturday Night Live!” We’re just kidding, Lorne’s offer was meant as a joke, and our actual #1 involves a LOT more money …
This offer may sound like a joke, but it was anything but. ABBA was incredibly popular in the ‘70s, and they have remained relevant throughout the years thanks to their insanely catchy tunes - not to mention the success of “Mamma Mia!” The play debuted on West End in 1999 to rave reviews and great success, and a consortium saw potential. They offered the band a frankly unbelievable $1 billion to reunite and tour for 100 shows across the world (or 250, according to Agnetha Fältskog). And while Benny Andersson admits that “it’s a hell of a lot of money to say no to,” the band decided against it. Sometimes you just have to let your legacy speak for itself.