The technological revolution may have passed more than a century ago, but the last few decades have seen a surge in everyday technological experimentation and advancements like never before. And since 2010, so many inventions have hit the market running that it’s been hard to keep track.
But whether they intended to or not, some of these products changed our everyday lives forever.
It’s never easy to predict exactly how impactful an invention is going to be – but some of these pot-stirrers were a real surprise hit, even to the world that embraced them. Whether or not their success has been the result of ingenious planning, blind luck, or some divinely inspired order being moved along by an invisible hand, these inventions had undeniable and long-lasting traction around the world – on people, the things they create, and the way we all think.
Technically, this private messaging app was launched in 2009, but its impact on the decade to follow makes it important to add to this list. Although it originally cost a $1 annual fee to use, it’s totally free today – and 1.6 billion users have jumped on the opportunity to benefit from its end-to-end encryption, while other tools try to copy it. In early 2014, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion.
Uber (and Lyft, and other alternative cab services)
Hailing a taxi down by hand or trying to order one over the phone always came with a sense of uncertainty and discomfort – not to mention, holding onto the cash you needed to pay for one. But with an app that lets you order a cab, pay by card, and see the vehicle’s status every step of the way, transportation has never felt easier – plus, the prices were competitive with the classic taxi infrastructure. The invention completely changed the world of cab services, and today it has 75 million users and a presence in more than half the countries around the world. By 2018, alternative taxi app services had reached 160 million, topping regular taxi services which fell down to 125 million.
When Instagram hit our smartphones, it marketed itself as a kind of amateur photo filtering toy. But it quickly became so much more: an aesthetically pleasing chronology of a person’s most photo-worthy life moments, simpler and more straightforward than other social media, which gave it a gold social network status. It wasn’t long before it evolved into a monumentally profitable platform for businesses, brands, celebrities, and a monumentally addictive platform for anyone who cares about these things (that would be most people, it seems).
Apple iPhone 4S
Apple has been influential in a million ways, but this particular model of the iPhone launched in 2011 has since made its way into everyone’s home – even those who do not or have never had an iPhone themselves. That’s because its design included three new features that redefined the world of smartphones from that day forward: Siri, iCloud, and a camera with unseen photo and video potential. When’s the last time you saw a digital camera? Now you know why.
Tesla Model S
Even though it wasn’t the first all-electric car, the tesla brought two important things to the auto industry and culture: luxury and a vision for the future. With all the eyes on this company after its first super successful EV, they have made sure that the world knows that they are working on future solutions – and have already developed many other things in the realm. Tesla continues to manufacture revolutionary electric products and take its leadership role seriously.
Ariana Grande – $50 million
Ariana Grande originally found fame on Broadway before moving onto television where she would land a role on the Nickelodeon television series Victorious. After a few other acting gigs, Grande decided to pursue a career in music. That’s when she released her debut single “The Way” in 2013.
To this day, all five of her albums have been certified platinum. Unlike many pop divas, she has been known to write her own songs, and that’s how she has made her fortune.
Paul Simon – $55 million
As part of folk duo Simon and Garfunkel, Paul Simon’s music has captured hearts across the globe. He was responsible for writing some of their most famous hits, including “The Sound of Silence,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
When they decided to call it a day in 1970, Simon continued to write hits, releasing a host of albums under his own name. His timeless solo efforts such as “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” have earned him 16 Grammys!
Michael Bublé – $60 million
Every Christmas, homes and shopping malls across the world are filled with the dulcet tones of Michael Bublé, thanks to his chart-topping festive albums. However, his own music is also highly successful, and he has sold millions of records worldwide thanks to his soulful voice and catchy, swing-inspired pop songs.
In 2018, there were rumors that he was set to retire from the music industry, but thankfully, his manager denied these claims. He shows no signs of stopping just yet!
Bruno Mars – $150 million
Before he was famous, Bruno Mars (born Peter Gene Hernandez) lived a humble life in Hawaii. In 2003, he decided to pursue music and moved to Los Angeles, where he hustled, gigged, and honed his songwriting craft.
It was a fruitful move, and he was signed to Atlantic Records in 2009. Some of his most famous hits include “Grenade,” “Lazy Song,” and “Finesse.” He has also written a host of hits for other artists including Adele, B.O.B, and The Vamps.
Janet Jackson – $275 million
While she may not have made as much money as her most famous sibling, Janet Jackson is still one of the richest songwriters of all time. The youngest Jackson’s first taste of stardom came in 1976 when she performed on their family variety show, The Jacksons.
Her big break came in 1991, when she signed a multi-million dollar recording contract with Virgin Records. Thanks to her powerful stage presence, memorable songs, and dancing ability, she has become a pop icon.
Tim Rice – $200 million
If you’re a musical theater nerd, then you know all about Tim Rice. He’s most famous for being Andrew Lloyd Webber’s right-hand man, co-writing some of the most successful stage shows of all time, such as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
He has also worked with Swedish megastars ABBA and written songs for Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King. In 1992, he was given a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for his contribution to the music industry.
Calvin Harris – $220 million
Born Adam Richard Wiles, Calvin Harris began his career recording music in his bedroom in Dumfries, Scotland. He was discovered by record label execs on early social media platform MySpace, and since the release of his debut album I Created Disco in 2007, he has become an international success.
He has topped Forbes‘ list of the world’s highest-paid DJs for six consecutive years from 2013 to 2018, thanks to his lively, energetic, crowd-pleasing music — spanning genres from EDM to funk.
Justin Timberlake – $250 million
It could be argued that Justin Timberlake has Disney to thank for his career. He started out as a member of The All New Mickey Mouse Club in the early 1990s, appearing on the popular show alongside future stars Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Ryan Gosling.
Since then, he has made pop history as a member of boyband NSYNC and as a solo artist, winning numerous accolades including 10 Grammys, four Emmys, three Brit Awards, and nine Billboard Music Awards.
Herb Alpert – $250 million
Whilst his name may not be as recognizable as some of the pop stars on the list, Herb Alpert’s musical legacy is incredible. A successful jazz artist and trumpeter, he founded The Tijuana Brass band in the 1960s.
However, he has also made a considerable fortune from co-founding reputable label A&M Records with Jerry Moss in the same decade. He has writing credits on many famous songs, such as “Baby Talk” by Jan and Dean, as well as Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World.”
Phil Collins – $260 million
Phil Collins is a multi-talented man. He’s a drummer, singer, songwriter, producer, and actor — who made his name in the 1970s as part of rock band Genesis. His drumming style has influenced percussionists all over the world, with stars such as Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins citing Collins as an inspiration.
Alongside Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, he is one of only three recording artists who have sold over 100 million records worldwide as both a soloist and a band member.
Lady Gaga – $275 million
Lady Gaga is a household name known for her outrageous outfits, elaborate music videos, and powerful voice. Ever since the release of her debut album in 2008, Gaga has captured the public’s attention.
Whether she’s making headlines for wearing a dress made of meat or raising money for her non-profit organization — The Born This Way Foundation — she is always in the press. Nonetheless, her musical talent speaks for itself, making her the fourth highest-earning female musician of the 2010s.
Mick Jagger – $300 million
From a pop diva to a rock legend, Rolling Stones leading man Mick Jagger is another musical icon. His bold stage presence, gravelly voice, and songwriting talents have earned him a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
At the age of 77, he’s still recording music and touring. Jagger’s influence on popular culture is significant, as his music defined a generation. He was even the subject of a series of paintings by famous artist Andy Warhol.
Michael Jackson – $350 million
Michael Jackson is one of the most famous solo artists ever, so it’s no surprise that he is also one of the highest-earning. Having made his name as part of the family band The Jackson 5, his fame skyrocketed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
It was during this time that he released a host of successful singles from his debut solo album Off the Wall, including “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You.” He’s called ‘The King of Pop’ for a reason!
Sting – $500 million
Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner — known by the catchier stage name of Sting — is an English musician, songwriter, and actor. His band, The Police, was one of the biggest acts of the 1980s. Following their split, he launched a fruitful solo career.
His most famous song, “Every Breath You Take,” has been remixed and covered by countless artists, and in 2002 he was awarded the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors.
George Harrison – $400 million
It could be argued that The Beatles is the most famous band of all time. Hailing from Liverpool, their music reached a global audience and had a major impact on the development of pop and rock music.
Whilst his bandmates, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, often receive the most praise, Harrison was an integral part of the band and wrote many of their hits. Following his untimely passing in 2001, he left a considerable fortune due to his incredible career.
Jimmy Buffett – $400 million
Despite the fact that he was born on Christmas Day, Jimmy Buffett’s music is all about life in a summery, tropical island paradise. His feelgood music has made him an American national treasure, with songs like “Margaritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” selling millions of copies across the country.
He is also a savvy businessman, owning a chain of popular restaurants inspired by the island lifestyle featured in the lyrics of his songs. He’s the king of Caribbean rock and roll!
Dolly Parton – $450 million
Her unforgettable songs have made her a country music icon — everyone knows the words to “9 to 5,” “Jolene,” and “Here You Come Again.” You may be forgiven for thinking that “I Will Always Love You” is a Whitney Houston classic, but Dolly actually wrote and originally performed the track!
These hits have made her a household name, earning her place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Her career began in 1956 and is still going strong. Go, Dolly!
Jay-Z – $475 million
Rappers are known for boasting about their wealth and success, and Jay-Z has definitely earned his bragging rights. Not only is he part of one of the music industry’s most famous power couples (#TheCarters!), but he has also carved out an illustrious career as a rapper, songwriter, businessman, and producer — spanning four decades.
He holds the record for the most Grammy awards held by any rapper, and he has sold over 50 million albums worldwide. You simply can’t knock his hustle.
Mariah Carey – $500 million
Mariah Carey is the ultimate pop diva. She signed to Columbia Records in 1988 and released her eponymous debut album two years later. She is known for her incredible vocal range and impressive whistle register.
She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for her contribution to the contemporary pop and R&B genres, with her many hits including “Emotion,” “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” “Hero,” and “Fantasy” — influencing many of today’s popular artists, such as Ariana Grande.
Elton John – $500 million
Elton John is world-famous for his heartfelt piano ballads, selling millions of copies across the globe. In the 1960s, he initially worked as a songwriter and session player for other musicians, until the release of his debut album, Empty Sky, in 1969.
He didn’t achieve mainstream success until his second album, with its first single “Your Song” reaching the top ten in the UK and US. He has also written for musicals including The Lion King and Billy Elliot.
Sean Combs – $550 million
Also known professionally as P-Diddy, Puff Daddy, Puffy, and Diddy, Sean Combs is a man of many names and many talents. His impressive resume lists the job titles of rapper, record label executive, producer, singer, songwriter, and actor.
As a result, he’s one of the wealthiest men in the music industry. Through both his own music and his work with other artists — such as Mary J. Blige and Notorious B.I.G — he has revolutionized the hip-hop genre throughout his career.
Bono – $600 million
The frontman of Irish rock band U2, Bono is a highly influential singer, songwriter, actor, and philanthropist. His musical journey began as a schoolboy in Dublin, after he responded to an ad posted by classmate Larry Mullen Jr, who was looking for musicians to start a band with.
After a few line-ups and name changes, U2 was born. They rose to success throughout the 1980s, with albums such as The Joshua Tree and The Unforgettable Fire selling millions of copies.
Paul McCartney – $800 million
Paul McCartney’s musical legacy is difficult to summarize in a few words. As part of The Beatles, he wrote some of the most iconic pop songs of all time including but not limited to “Penny Lane,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “Love Me Do.”
He has also released several successful albums as a solo artist and member of the band, Wings. A truly eclectic and diverse artist, McCartney loves collaborating with other musicians such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, and even Kanye West.
Andrew Lloyd-Webber – $1.2 billion
This next one may surprise you. It’s not held by a legendary rockstar or pop diva — this songwriter has made his millions from transforming the world of musical theater.
Andrew Lloyd Webber is the man behind iconic stage shows such as Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera, Starlight Express, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat — amongst many others. Without him, London’s famous West End would be a very different place.
Bob Dylan – $200 million
A truly iconic figure in folk music history, Bob Dylan is known for his distinctive voice and emotive, politically-charged songs. His most famous compositions include “Hurricane” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which have been closely linked with protest movements.
Perhaps his most famous song, “Times They Are a-Changin” has been adopted by humanitarian and pro-civil rights causes. In 2016, he was the first musician to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his impact on American culture and tradition.