Could you "retire" off of royalties from one hit song?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by guppy270, Dec 4, 2019 at 11:24 AM.

  1. guppy270

    guppy270 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Levittown, NY
    This was inspired by the Eric Carmen thread, in which someone quoted an article that claimed Carmen made $600,000-$800,000 a year in royalties

    That seems like a huge amount. If you are the writer (and/or publisher) of just one or two hit singles, would you be able to retire for the rest of your life?

    I've always heard of course that songwriting is where the money is. I'd imagine Ringo Starr made more off if having songs on The White Album and Abbey Road netted him more money than anything else up to that point.

    But I recall seeing episodes of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and seeing "one hit wonders" with mansions.

    Obviously it helps if the song is still played on the radio and/or licensed for commercials, films, etc. But, without touring....could you "retire" off of one or two hits?
  2. Grower of Mushrooms

    Grower of Mushrooms Omnivorous mammalian bipedal entity.

    I seem to recall Noddy Holder of Slade saying Merry Xmas Everyone, or whatever it is called, is his pension plan.
  3. Strummergas

    Strummergas Forum Resident

    Queens, NY
    Apparently Norman Greenbaum gets six figures/year off of "Spirit In The Sky" based on a 2005 interview. I'd take that!
    lc1995, MYQ1, melstapler and 23 others like this.
  4. Peace N. Love

    Peace N. Love Forum Resident

    Makes me think of Lee Mavers from the La's. Always wondered if he's more or less living off the royalties from "There She Goes."
  5. Grower of Mushrooms

    Grower of Mushrooms Omnivorous mammalian bipedal entity.

    Great song with good memories for me. Glad it worked out for him.
  6. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Central PA
    That's a pretty broad question. But you've got the right issues, considering how much that hit makes getting into commercials and movies. Also consider how it's used in that film...background of a car chase, or to illustrate the freedom Tom Cruise feels with his parents away, dancing in the hallway in his underwear. These iconic moments can instill lasting imagery to a simple composition.

    Then, of course, there's the covers - and the shelf life of the covers as well.

    Not to mention the other writing gigs that come, from hitting it big with that first meteoric fluke. Carly Rae Jepsen probably got a sh**-ton of Hollywood types calling her maybe, to write a ditty for their next rom-com.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019 at 11:45 AM
  7. Oatsdad

    Oatsdad Oat, Biscuits and Abbie: Best Dogs Ever

    Alexandria VA
    Christmas songs are the real evergreens. They get played to death every year!
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  8. Stephen J

    Stephen J Forum Resident

    Baton Rouge, LA
    IIRC, Billy Squier has made more than $20 million in royalties off a song called "The Big Beat", which wasn't even a hit when it was released but has been licensed hundreds of times for sampling in rap songs.

    I could retire on that, LOL.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019 at 11:47 AM
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  9. Chuckee

    Chuckee Forum Resident

    Upstate, NY, USA
    Heard a newer cover of that, much prefer the original.
  10. Paul H

    Paul H Forum Resident

    Nottingham, UK
    I'm not sure how much of this is urban myth but I recall reading that McCartney earns more from Wonderful Christmastime than he made from the Beatles. Whether that was at the time or ever, I don't know.
    melstapler and Lance LaSalle like this.
  11. peskypesky

    peskypesky Forum Resident

    Harry Chapin's family makes hundreds of thousands a year from royalties for "Cat's in the Cradle"
  12. rikki nadir

    rikki nadir Gentleman Thug

    London, UK
    Have we all read About A Boy?
  13. mmars982

    mmars982 Forum Resident

    Pittsburgh, PA
    Wasn't this the whole premise of the movie About a Boy? And in that, it was the songwriter's son who was living comfortably off of royalties from the one Christmas song. Has to be a kernel of truth there.
    Dondy, C6H12O6, Fullbug and 4 others like this.
  14. JoeRockhead

    JoeRockhead Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    depends. on the song, on the publishing deal, on what royalties you are referring to,etc. Carmen has written a lot of songs, and has a lot of hits. songs in films, commercials, tv shows. songs on time life compilations. Couple all of that with him being more astute about the business than the average artist, and he's probably doing more than ok.
    mark winstanley likes this.
  15. Sneaky Pete

    Sneaky Pete Forum Resident

    I remember an interview with Fred Wesley of the JBs where he recounted James Brown telling him, “If we take care of the music now, it will take care of us later on.”

    He stated that he didn’t fully understand what James meant at the time but he gets it now, because he’s still receiving money from the music.

    Principal songwriters and music publishers can profit handsomely for years off of hit songs. Back in the seventies I remember reading an interview with the writer of Jingle Bell Rock and he said he was making about $35,000 a year off that tune alone. At the time that was pretty good money. I could use an extra $35k a year right now!
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  16. JakeKlas

    JakeKlas Impatiently waiting for an 8-track revival

    United States
    I see different numbers but the range for Merry Xmas Everybody is 500,000 - 800,000 pounds a year. They typically mention Noddy Holder, but I thought Jim Lea co-wrote the song. So they either split that amount each year, or maybe they both get it.

    Either way, they’re probably not pinching pennies.

    Of course, in Slade’s case, they had a number of hit songs (and got a bonus when Quiet Riot covered them), but I think that one Christmas song outshines them all.
  17. Bassist

    Bassist Zungguzungguguzungguzeng

    Depends what you mean by retire. If you mean buy your home outright and then live like a normal working person for the rest of your days then sure it was very possible. It was routine in the 90s that one international hit could set you up though few had that kind of discipline where an artist could view a big hit as a lottery win rather than the start of a dynasty. It was more common in the 90s than before or after because of a combination of better deals for artists and songwriters on the one hand and an industry still riding the cd boom on the other. Not so easy now. 100m streams might bring in $500k after fees etc if you wrote everything and own everything. Also keep in mind that the crazy life-changing advances for publishing that were flying around in the 90s have more or less dried up. No one really gets paid for the hits they haven't yet had any more.
  18. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    Nick Lowe seems to imply just that about what he got from P,L, & U in The Bodyguard.
  19. Peace N. Love

    Peace N. Love Forum Resident

    Yes, same here. (original '88 single version preferably) Also, Lee likely scored some decent royalties from Pearl Jam covering "Timeless Melody."
    karl.dyer, longdist01 and Chuckee like this.
  20. Streaming will have slashed these figures..
  21. pokemaniacjunk

    pokemaniacjunk Forum Resident

    south paris maine
    probably with Yesterday
    efegarcia likes this.
  22. Chuckee

    Chuckee Forum Resident

    Upstate, NY, USA
    Born To Be Wild seemed to be in a lot of movies for a while, wonder how much that pulled in.
    MitchLT likes this.
  23. jimod99

    jimod99 Daddy or chips?

    Vienna, Austria
    Nick Lowe confirmed he made a packet from "What's so funny......" on The Bodyguard soundtrack
    vonwegen and veloso2 like this.
  24. Well, only for a month. And cover songs of classics like Silent Night aren't particualrly big money makers. It's the relatively rare new holiday song that can generate some cash to whomever owns the publishing.
  25. DTK

    DTK Forum Resident

    Overall, that song is more representative of his music making than The Beatles, so it seems fair :).

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