Inside Adam Levine's $35 Million-Plus a Year Empire
From fading rock star to network savior, the Maroon 5 frontman and "The Voice" coach shares the secrets of his multiplatform success: "I don't lie, and that's unusual in a world of f---ing liars."
This story first appeared in the March 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.
"This is so goddamn cool." Adam Levine has peeled a jet-black leather jacket off of his tattooed biceps and is marveling from the stage at the 16,000 fans packed into New Jersey's sold-out Izod Center. The Grammy-winning Maroon 5 frontman grins widely as the sea of twentysomething sorority types (and a few of their moms) stand before him cooing, "Aaaadam, Aaaadam."
On this late-February evening in East Rutherford, the eighth stop on the North American leg of Maroon 5's latest tour, variations on "Marry me, Adam," "Team Adam" and "Prom?" decorate signs that dot the arena's rafters. Levine, 33, has been a rock star since he and some of his high school buddies began playing West Hollywood clubs as teens, but there's no denying his stardom has rocketed into the stratosphere during the two years since he began as a "coach" on NBC's runaway hit The Voice. A fourth cycle of the singing competition -- its first with Shakira and Usher temporarily replacing Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green -- begins March 25, and it can't arrive soon enough for NBC, whose ratings have plummeted from first to fourth place without Voice and Sunday Night Football. Its dependence on the show has turned Levine into the improbable face -- if not the savior -- of the network.
At the same time, Levine has parlayed that visibility into a booming business, with legions of young female fans and tentacles extending well beyond music. There's a fledgling acting career, with an arc on FX's American Horror Story: Asylum, a well-received hosting gig on Saturday Night Live and a film foray with John Carney's recently wrapped Can a Song Save Your Life? opposite Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. He recently rolled out a celebrity fragrance line, a planned fashion collection, a lucrative spokesperson deal with acne-product giant Proactiv and a record label to which Glee's Matthew Morrison is signed. At press time, he also was negotiating a first-look overall deal at NBC to serve as a producer on future TV projects. All of that is on top of Maroon 5's fourth studio album (released in 2012) and tour, both cheekily titled Overexposed, suggesting Levine and his longtime bandmates are amused by his ubiquity.
"Adam is now a worldwide empire," says veteran music manager Irving Azoff, whose former Front Line Management counts Levine among its clients. "Between The Voice and Maroon 5 breaking through to a million-dollar-plus-a-night attraction, plus all of his other activities -- writing, producing and more -- he's a big industry." Following Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, Levine has become perhaps the most successful example of the new business model for musicians in an age of declining record sales. By taking a chance on a singing show his rocker brethren might find beneath them, he has been able to showcase his likable personality on a twice-weekly platform that has allowed him to launch a multimillion-dollar business -- lifting his band to new heights in the process. In fact, Levine's growing portfolio likely will earn him more than $35 million this year, according to sources familiar with his many business dealings, with NBC paying him $10 million to $12 million for each cycle of Voice.
Asked two days before the New Jersey show if he has gone too commercial -- perhaps even sold out -- Levine shoots a look he might give if you had just selected Team Xtina over his. "I think that there was this generation before us that was so hellbent on not selling out that it went too far, and I feel like maybe it's history correcting itself because it's more acceptable now to do a lot of the things that musicians would have been terrified to do 10 years ago," he says, acknowledging that hours from now he will give media interviews to peddle a new apparel line for Kmart. "I was never that guy that thought it was uncool for a band to be successful. I always thought, 'Wow, wouldn't it be amazing to be able to pay your bills and also be a musician?' It's just nice that being motivated to be successful is not a crime anymore."
On a frigid afternoon in late February, Levine emerges in the lobby of New York's The Mercer hotel with an apology. He landed funny while performing in Montreal the night before and tweaked his neck. "If I'm somewhat out of it, you'll know why," he says, his head cocked awkwardly to one side. Between sips of a red eye -- a caffeine jolt of coffee mixed with espresso -- he reveals himself at once charming, cocky, self-deprecating, self-aware, funny and grateful.
Accepting a gig on Voice has changed him, says Levine, turning a "lazy" rock star whose days could consist of models and motorcycles into a highly motivated businessman. "The Voice was the first real job I've ever had that wasn't just messing around with music," he says while pulling at the threads of his ripped jeans. "I don't really know what happened, but it initiated some kind of mode in my brain. It put me on this trajectory, and I love it." (To be sure, the Los Angeles native has not given up his penchant for motorcycles, nor has his romantic life taken a hit; Levine, who keeps a yoga instructor on his payroll and shares a Hollywood Hills bachelor pad with an old pal, is dating Victoria's Secret model Behati Prinsloo.)
It was two years ago that Levine's childhood friend-turned-longtime manager Jordan Feldstein, brother of actor Jonah Hill (né Feldstein), reached out to NBC about its new singing show, but at the time Levine required convincing. "I scoffed at it initially," he admits, acknowledging that his bandmates similarly were skeptical. The genre of reality television had been a massive turnoff. "It's just a bunch of f---ing assholes who are fame whores," he says without naming names. (Levine's TV tastes skew more Sons of Anarchy and The Daily Show than Housewives and Kardashians.)