How Much Money Artists Really Make From One-Hit Wonders, And What Happens To Them After

by Dylan Farella

The one-hit wonders. You'll be familiar with their hooks and jingles long after you forget the faces behind them. Some take over radio, set records and change the music industry. Others leave nothing more than wedding band favorites and long lasting punchlines.

How much do these hits make? It could only be assumed that the one-and-done leaves artists with a lifetime fortune, but that isn't the case most of the time. More times than not, the 15 minutes of fame is just that. The ones that take royalty checks to the banks are ones to first slip your mind.

Think "Happy Birthday To You." Time Warner owns the rights to the only "Happy Birthday" song, and it reportedly brings in $2.5 million per year. When you hear a wait staff sing to a child with a birthday cake, it's because that restaurant paid up to $30,000 for licensing.

Pop culture's obvious one-hit wonders don't have that same luxury. Revenue streams include movies, video games, advertisements and (once upon a time) ringtones. All of which are less lucrative than what musicians with long and steady careers endure.

You'll probably always remember the barks of "Who Let The Dogs Out," but that isn't doing the Baha Men any favors. Or the creepy "Butterfly" video you saw on TRL, but that couldn't keep Crazy Town out of rehab. You still may be partying to "Tipsy," but that isn't paying J-Kwon's child support bills. Your "This Is Why I'm Hot" ringtone that pissed off too many high school teachers isn't doing MIMS any favors either.

Baha Men - "Who Let The Dogs Out?"

The one-hit wonder to end all one-hit wonders, Baha Men's "Who Let The Dogs Out?" was everything so right and so wrong about Y2K.


"Who Let The Dogs Out?" sold over 3 million copies in the United States, becoming certified triple platinum. Beyond direct sales, the record pulled in revenues from all angles.

It was the theme song for "Rugrats In Paris: The Movie," the theme song for the New York Mets' playoff run altered as "Who Let The Mets Out?" and even went on to win a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. If there's any indication of what the record grossed during its heyday, it's the $500,000 Baha Men paid the song's original creator, Anslem Douglas.

Where are the Baha Men now?:

There was still life in the Baha Men after their breakthrough. Just not so much in the United States. They followed with slight success in the UK, but ultimately retreated back to Bahamian roots where their "Junkanoo" genre was best served.

As of 2007, the members were filing lawsuits over bad checks and being cheated out of nearly $200,000. Lead singer Isaiah Taylor claims to have "lost his home to the bank for lack of funding." There's still no word on the mystery of who, in fact, let the dogs out.

 J-Kwon - "Tipsy"

"Tipsy" was J-Kwon's first single to peak on charts and become a hit. It was also his last. The one-hit wonder that didn't outlive his fake ID.


Remember when ringtones were in -- for a few years in the mid-2000s, at least? When it cost $2.00 per clip from your flip-phone? Where music first met jingling Nokias in 2004, there was "Tipsy."

J-Kwon's first album, which hosted the single, didn't quite break the bank, but ringtones helped back the income from his 15 minutes of fame. Even those figures have been estimated to be underwhelming, considering the track was released during the earliest hours of the ringtone market.

Where is J-Kwon now?:

Somehow, somewhere, someone allowed J-Kwon to release a second album, but there was no salvaging his career. In 2010, the rapper went missing... literally. His label put out a statement that J-Kwon had been MIA for about a month and asked if anyone knew of his whereabouts. As it turned out, he wasn't missing, just spending some time in jail for failing to pay child support payments of $2,500 per month.

D4L - "Laffy Taffy"

Before there was twerking, there was shaking your "Laffy Taffy." D4L intended, literally and figuratively, to be Down 4 Life, but that's not how things worked out.


For Southern hip-hop artists, there was a brief window of time for mainstream success. Atlanta-based D4L took advantage of this with the "Snap Music" sensation with a contagious hit in 2005, when digital sales were skyrocketing with a relatively new iTunes store.

That song was "Laffy Taffy," and it became one of the biggest of the year. It set the single-track record for most digital downloads in one week with 175,000 copies, eventually selling over 3 million. Do the math; 3 million singles multiplied by its price of 99 cents, divided between the group's four members -- not terrible.

Where are D4L now?:

Of the members, Shawty Lo's pursuit of music lasted longest. He released a solo album three years after the "Laffy Taffy" stopped shaking and was signed to G-Unit in 2011, whatever that's worth. Fabo went on to finish his high school degree, then enrolled in college for business courses. While he, too, took another swing at rap, he missed. Remaining members Mook-B and Stoney are assumed to still be living on this planet.

Crazy Town - "Butterfly"

Arguably the creepiest, most questionable love song gone popular, "Butterfly" launched Crazy Town to radio and MTV (while it still played music videos).


When released in 2000, the band had no prior fan base or establishment despite being formed in the 90s. Still as they had a one-hit wonder on their hands, it was no breadwinner. The single failed to sell one million copies, but its album managed to just go platinum.

Where are Crazy Town now?:

Post-"Butterfly," Crazy Town's members went on to pursue their own ventures. Founder Bret Mazur launched his own production company, The Pharmacy. Seth Binzer parlayed a drug addiction into two seasons of "Celebrity Rehab" and two seasons of "Sober House." Rust Epique attempted to start a new band, but died of a heart attack before it could become a reality.

The group made their first live reunion in over five years in August, 2009, playing a show together in Los Angeles. Only two days later, Adam Goldstein -- the band's most successful solo act, also known as DJ AM -- passed away from a drug overdose.

MIMS - "This Is Why I'm Hot"

The epitome of ringtone rap, MIMS' "This Is Why I'm Hot" was heard everywhere. Everywhere being the pockets from anyone with a cell phone.


MIMS broke into the ringtone game at the perfect time, and caught a world of better luck than J-Kwon. The trend became an industry with sales valued at north of $4 billion in 2006 and a hip-hop sub-genre had even been coined "ringtone rap."

So when the rapper released the hot-hooked "This Is Why I'm Hot" in 2007, it was hitting cell phones everywhere. It didn't matter that the full song became a number one single or that it failed to push album sales to gold status; its ringtone sold well over 1 million downloads while such prices were at a premium.

The financial success of "This Is Why I'm Hot" could be summed by just one of its lyrics: "I don't gotta rap, I could make a mil' saying nothing on the track."

Where is MIMS now?: 

The rapper hung around for a couple of years, but was lingering awkwardly in the hip-hop community once artistic talent reclaimed superiority over the fad. He bowed out with one more album in 2009. Only last year, it appeared as if he'd seen the last of his ringtone earnings, as he filed a lawsuit against Capitol Records claiming to have never received his half of the $15 million earned between 2007 and 2008.

Afroman - "Because I Got High"

Chain smoke blunts, make a song about all the mistakes you make when you're high, get nominated for a Grammy... Afroman really made it look that easy during his moment as a one-hit wonder.


"Because I Got High" was a success world wide, with an odd range of countries taking a liking to the stoner anthem, from Belgium to Norway. The single saw less chart success in the United States, but became a one-hit wonder with a cult following enough so to draw mainstream attention. Although a stoner favorite with an ever-lasting 420 anthem, "Because I Got High" failed to net Afroman over six figures.

Where is Afroman now?:

Afroman now lives a more normal life with his children in Cincinnati, though he claims to remain a "full-time rapper" as he still banks on appearances and music to make a living.

Not only does he still have his Afroman persona to ride out, but he's developed a gospel character of the name J. Edgar that he uses to sing gospel songs. He says to be smoking higher quality weed since cashing in, but it remains unknown if he's ever cleaned his room.

Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe"

"Call Me Maybe" peaked on charts in just about every corner of the globe, but it's been a long fall from the top for Carly Rae Jepsen since her viral sensation.


The 20-something went from third-place contestant of "Canadian Idol" to household name in 2011. The infectious "Call Me Maybe" wasn't only critically acclaimed -- with its Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance Grammy nominations -- but became one of the best-selling digital downloads in history.

The single has sold almost 13 million copies worldwide to date. Within its first year, its 4 million plus domestic sales pulled in a reported $4 million for the singer.

Where is Carly Rae Jepsen now?:

Only this summer, it was reported that Carly Rae was at a pawn shop looking to trade in a handbag for $25,000, bringing about the notion that she's gone broke.

Or at least that her one-hit wonder fortune is long gone. Still, at 28, the singer is still in pursuit of a pop career. While her more recent music picked up little to no traction, it's hard to count her out with the Scooter Braun Projects team that backs her.

Photo Courtesy: Instagram