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A Conversation With Toby Keith: Day 5

According to ‘Forbes’ magazine, Toby Keith earned $48 million in 2007 – more than any other music act expect for The Police and Beyoncé.

Considering that Keith’s already done a duet with the top-earning act (or at least its lead singer – Sting and Keith’s 1997 version of ‘I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying’ reached No. 2 on the country charts), would he consider recording with the second biggest earner? Yes, but Beyoncé probably would have to come to him.

“If it was something really cool,” Keith says. “If they came to me with the right thing, I’d probably work with anybody.”

Don’t think the notion’s too preposterous. Earlier this year, Keith sang Barry White’s ‘Never, Never Gonna Give You Up’ on an album by former NBA star/bassist Wayman Tisdale. And Keith and rapper Ludacris appeared together on a 2005 ‘USA Weekend’ cover.

Keith says he gets lots of attention from acts outside the country realm.
“I just got an email here a few months ago from a cat named T-Pain,” he says. “They asked him, ‘What do you want to do now?’ He said, ‘I want to go do a song with Toby Keith.’ They said, ‘Why?’ ‘Because he’s a badass.’”

Toby’s make-up person came to him with news of another fan from the hip-hop world.
“She said, ‘I did a video for Pharrell the other day, he asked me who else I worked for, I told him you, and he goes, ‘That guy don’t give a sh– what anybody says about him!” Keith says. “It’s that street cred. People admire somebody who will stand up and go, ‘You know what? This is what I think about it, and I don’t care what you think.’ Looking back, that wasn’t a persona I created. I was always like that. Just being yourself will carry you a lot further than being somebody’s poster boy that they’re propping up. ‘Cause it will show up in ‘Forbes,’ it’ll show up with your fans, it’ll show up in your longevity, it’ll show up in your music. It’ll show up across the board.”

But back to that $48 million – what does a guy do with jack like that, anyway?
“Glenn Beck asked me the same question. At the end of his show, he does some rapid fire questions, and that was one of them. He said, ‘How much money did you make last year?’ I said, ”Forbes’ said I made 48 million.’ He goes, ‘What do you do with that?’ I go, ‘Same thing I did with the first dollar I made. I saved most of it.’

“I’m pretty thrifty. You look at what all I’ve got – yeah, over a 15-year career of being very successful, I’ve got a lot of stuff. I’ve got racehorses and jet planes and all that. But it wasn’t like I got rich and ran out and bought all that. I’ve accumulated that – my plane, my homes and things – as I could, as I could afford them. I never got above my means. I invested wisely and tried to fund my empire.” An empire that, of course, includes Toby’s own record label, Show Dog.

“Every three months, you hear a little rumor though that Show Dog’s merging with somebody, or Show Dog’s going out of business. That’s just people not wanting me to succeed. The thing they have to realize is that record sales have never been in my top five or six of income of everything I do. Even when I sold four or five million records at a time with DreamWorks, my take of that was never more than four or five, six million bucks. That doesn’t hit the register when you make the kind of jack I’m making. You’re glad to make it, but do you think it outperforms my portfolio? Do you think it outperforms my ticket sales, my merchandise, my restaurants? What they don’t understand is if there were no more record sales, and all they had to do was promote my singles at radio, I would still have this office open. It costs me a million-and-a-half, two million, three million a year to keep that place open – that’s my nut.”

Clearly, Toby knows, as the saying goes, you’ve got to spend money to make money.
“If I’ve got to spend two or three million to get my records played so I can come out here next year and play those three singles that I released this year because they got played on the radio, and I can do big business out here on the road, then it’s worth it to me to do it. In the process of that, if we make a little money selling albums, or if I break a new act by accident, so be it. But the gears are already paid for. That’s all I do, is just use my money to run my machine.”

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