Next contestant on The Voice?

It’s down to the final weeks of the latest season of The Voice, and they’ve started talking about how the artists who’ve made it to the final rounds will now be able to have a real career in the music industry.  This got me thinking about what success means in other industries, particularly my own.  I think I’ve been successful thus far in my career as a programmer, but am I as lucky as a winning contestant on The Voice?  Let’s see if we can answer that.

There are a few different aspects of success to consider: fame, fortune, freedom, health, and happiness.  I’ll start with fortune, since that’s the easiest to measure, thanks to the website Celebrity Net Worth.

To start with, we’ve got celebrities from The Voice.  Adam Levine, Shakira, Usher and Blake Shelton are the coaches for Season 6.  I also included winners form previous seasons if I could find net worth info: Danielle Bradbery (Season 4 winner), Cassadee Pope (Season 3 winner), and Javier Colon (Season 1 winner).

The cart below shows everyone I just mentioned, along with several other celebrities, and two other references: the median net worth for US Citizens (as reported by CNN Money), and “the average net worth for the above average person” according to Financial Samurai.

From the chart, you can see that the winners from past seasons of The Voice are 50x-100x above the net worth of the average citizen.  For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to identify 4 categories on the net worth chart, each having roughly 10x the net worth of the previous category: average, above average, star, and superstar.

I’d guess that most people in the tech industry fall in or near the above average category.  Interestingly, this category contains Jimmy Wales (CEO of Wikipedia, and notorious for refusing to make it a for-profit company), and Garrison Keillor.

In the star category, we have the winners of past seasons of The Voice, US Senators and Presidents, some other notable musicians like Diana Krall and Fiona Apple, and notable entrepreneurs Timothy Ferriss and Gary Vee–I’m actually surprised they don’t have more money.

For the superstars, we’ve got The Voice coaches, Dr. Dre, Paul McCartney and Herb Alpert, and Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook.  We’ve also got Donald Trump weighing in at a mere $3.9B, nowhere near the top of the chart!

So where do programmers fit in?  I was able to find a few stars: Jim Buckmaster from Craigslist, and Steve Wozniak from Apple; and a few superstars: Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux; DHH, creator of Ruby on Rails; and John Resig, creator of jQuery (and who currently works at Kahn Academy).

So I’ve had fun collecting and analyzing the data, but to get back to my original question I think I’ve been able to get an idea of what the equivalent of winning The Voice would be for a compute programmer (at least financially): it would be just a bit short of starting Craigslist.