If someone wants maximum income for minimum effort and they have some song writing talent, then penning a hit song is a great way to fund a pension.
Christmas is one of the peak earning times for song writers as the royalties come pouring in as radio, TV and seasonal films endlessly play their tracks.
But take note – the big earners are the lyricists, not the musicians who lay down the tracks, even though every time a track is played brings in some cash.
Fairytale Of New York by The Pogues and All I Want For Christmas by Maria Carey also earn six-figures sums every year.
By Christmas Day, Noddy Holder of glam rock band Slade will have coined £800,000 in royalties this year alone for his 1973 hit Merry Christmas Everybody.
And Holder is nowhere near the top 10 big song writing earners.
Beatles lose millions
Happy Birthday, written by the Hill sisters in 1893 is the top earner, bringing in more than £30 million in royalties. In fact, a snatch of the song in a film brings in music publisher Warner Chappell £15,000.
Beatles Paul McCartney and John Lennon missed out big time by selling the rights to their songs early in their career – which were eventually picked up by pop idol Michael Jackson for £29 million. He merged his publishing empire with Sony‘s music publishing business.
The move was not too bad for his family – his 50% stake in the company is now reckoned to be worth almost £1 billion.
Writing a best-selling song played thousands of times and recorded by cover bands brings in royalties for the lyricist’s lifetime plus 70 years, so provides a pension for composers and their families.
Top 10 Songs by Royalty Earnings
1. Happy Birthday (1893) – Hill Sisters – £30.5million
2. White Christmas (1940) – Irving Berlin – £22million
3. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (1964) – Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Phil Specter – £19.5million
4. Yesterday (1965) – John Lennon and Paul McCartney – £18million
5. Unchained Melody (1955) – Alex North and Hy Zaret – £17million
6. Stand By Me (1961) – Ben E King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller – £16.5million
7. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1934) – Haven Gillespie and Fred J Coots – £15million
8. Every Breath You Take (1983) – Sting – £12.5million
9. Oh Pretty Woman (1964) – Roy Orbison and Bill Deeds – £12million
10. Christmas Song (1944) – Mel Tormé – £11.6million