The business of Dolly Parton

The 77-year-old country superstar’s empire is built on music, theme parks, books, products, and the fact that people love her.

Country music legend Dolly Parton dropped her first rock album today, featuring nine original songs, 21 covers, and collabs with Paul McCartney, Lizzo, Joan Jett, and others.

Dolly Parton sings into a microphone with her hands outstretched next to a bag of money on a rainbow background.

Parton has already put out 48 studio albums, but hey, what’s one more?

Long before the Taylor Swift economy, Parton was the blonde country superstar building an empire — despite humble beginnings in a log cabin with 11 siblings.

Her philanthropy, noted kindness, and ability to avoid politics and drama have made her a near-universally beloved celebrity for decades. In that time, she’s savvily built a sprawling business. As of June, Parton was worth an estimated $550m, per Forbes.

Unpacking Parton’s reign

Her extensive catalog of 3k+ songs is worth ~$150m, and generates $6-$8m annually in royalties.

At 22, she refused to sign over half the rights to her future hit “I Will Always Love You” to megastar Elvis Presley, later joking that she earned enough from Whitney Houston’s version to buy Graceland. (That one song has garnered her an estimated $10m in royalties.)

She also has:

  • Partnerships with brands, including Williams-Sonoma and Cracker Barrel.
  • Merchandise, including her pet line, Doggy Parton.
  • Acting, starring in films including 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias.
  • Books, including her memoir, a cookbook, and a thriller co-written with author James Patterson.
  • Media: Parton was previously a co-owner of Sandollar Productions; credits include Father of the Bride, Sabrina, and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

But her biggest venture is the Dollywood Company. Its portfolio of entertainment venues includes Dollywood — the Tennessee theme park she opened in 1986 — a water park, hotel and spa, and more.

What does she do with her money?

Parton has long joked that “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap,” referring to her numerous plastic surgeries.

But she’s a prolific philanthropist, launching the The Dollywood Foundation in 1988. Its causes have included education, conservation, natural disaster relief, health care, and Parton’s Imagination Library, which gifts books to children.

Fun fact: Jeff Bezos gave The Dollywood Foundation $100m in 2022 to spend as it saw fit.

Topics: Celebrity

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