How Jimmy Buffett Turned a Song Into a $100M Empire

'Margaritaville' isn't just a song—it's an industry
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2013 4:53 PM CDT
How Jimmy Buffett Turned One Song into a $100M Empire
Buffett fans at the Parrot Heads in Paradise Meeting of the Minds convention.   (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Rob O'Neal)

Jimmy Buffett's 1977 hit "Margaritaville" is not the world's most popular song—but it is probably the world's most lucrative. There are now 27 Margaritavilles worldwide, the newest of which, in Atlantic City, is comprised of restaurants, a casino, bars, and stores; these days, you can buy Margaritaville booze, beachwear, and furniture. In 2007, Margaritaville Enterprises raked in $100 million in revenue, reports Businessweek.

The song itself wasn't even that popular. It peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard charts and doesn't bring in the kind of royalties reserved for Christmas carols and "Happy Birthday." But the brand name associated with the song is a gold mine. "If there is anything on the same scale as a 'Margaritaville,' it’s not a song—it’s a motion picture," says an intellectual property expert. "When you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, you have to think in terms of Star Wars, Winnie the Pooh, or Transformers. That’s probably in the same order of magnitude." (More Jimmy Buffett stories.)

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