Today’s blog is for all the aspiring songwriters lurking within the Live Music Management team of wedding bands and cover bands . They will all know that the big money is in song writing but may find this blog about the songs that have made millions quite interesting.
The financial world of song writing and publishing is shrouded in mystery.Even the song writers themselves do not know exactly how much a particular song has made them. This is not surprising as song writing revenue comes from so many different sources and a well loved song will have made money from radio plays , sync rights , youtube plays , advertising , mobile phone ring tones, record (or CD/ Digital) sales , DJ plays and a hundred other areas. Of course a popular song lives on and on and so the money it accumulates will change on a daily basis. It is reckoned that Sting earns around £2,000 per day from the use of Every Breath You Take on radio.
The top ten list of the songs that have made millions below is taken from a BBC Four documentary which was aired over the Christmas 2012 period in the UK. The figures quoted are “best guess” estimates constructed by industry analysts but probably contains the most accurate information about the songs which have made the most money for their writers or for others! A cautionary tale contained within the programme was that of the Van Morrison song “Brown Eyed Girl” which had racked up over 10 million plays on US radio by the mid nineties and yet allegedly earns it’s writer very little money due to the deal he signed back in the mid sixties.
With a song currently earning £16 per minute per song for plays on Radio One even the most casual observer can see how a song like Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” will be a cash cow for it’s writers. It is interesting though to see the top ten songs that have made millions as there are a few surprises on there not least of which is the number one song, Happy Birthday, which on first instance you would think was in the public domain and secondly you would assume was mainly sung by amatuers at private parties and so wouldn’t make much money. Warner Chappel valued it’s copyright so much that they payed a reported £25,000,000 for it some years ago and then legally managed to extend it’s copyright in the USA until 2030 so that every time it is used in a musical greeting card or a movie or on radio or in one of the thousands of other circumstances this song is used in they earn money.
It makes you think doesn’t it!
10.The Christmas Song. (Bob Wells / Mel Torme) £12.5 million
9.Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison / Bill Dees) £13 million
8. Every Breath You Take ( Sting) £13.5 million
7. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (Gillespie / Coot)s £16.5
million (200 cover versions)
6.stand by me (king/leiber and stoller) £15 million
5. Unchained melody (North/Zaret) 650 cover versions £18 million
4. yesterday ( lennon/ mcartney) 3,000 versions £19.5 million
3. You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling (Mann/Weil/Spector) £20 million
2.White Christmas (Berlin) £25 million
1.Happy Birthday (The Hill Sisters) £30 million