How Much Money Can You Make With a Christmas Flair?

It is a universally recognized truth that a single that becomes a big Christmas hit will return its creator good fortune.

This truth was the basis of Nick Hornby’s novel About a Boy and its 2002 film adaptation, where Hugh Grant’s character Will Freeman leads a life of comfort and idleness funded by endless royalty of a Christmas hit his father wrote in the 1950s.

A Christmas hit, the kind that swirls through our consciousness every December (please stop), can prepare you for life; it is, says Noddy Holder, “like winning the lottery every December 25 for the rest of your life.” Holder, the lead singer of Slade, and his oft-forgotten bassist Jim Lea, wrote Merry Christmas Everybody (Lea wrote the chorus), a number one Christmas in 1973 and 1989.

The British Performing Right Society (PRS) has described it as the most heard song in the world, and is estimated to bring in almost 1.17 million euros (£ 1 million) per year in royalties. That must be true, because a 2016 Channel 5 show (Eamonn & Ruth: A Million Pound Christmas) said so. According to Channel 5, Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas in 1994 grossed over € 469,000 (£ 400,000) (its popularity was undoubtedly bolstered in 2003 by its use in Love, Actually), and Wham’s Last Christmas ( famously beaten to first place in 1984 by Band Aid’s Do They Know it’s Christmas?) earns € 352,510 (£ 300,000).

The 2016 recap also includes Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York grossing over € 469,000 (£ 400,000), Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas time € 305,582 (£ 260,000), Stay Another Day by East 17,117,531 € (£ 100,000), 2,000 Miles from The Pretenders € 119,882 (£ 102,000), Mistletoe and wine from Cliff Richard € 117,531 (£ 100,000).

For those who have been paid for years where the bells are ringing to the sound of repeat business, the often huge recurring income is split between the label or producer, songwriter and performer (sometimes the last two are the same) .

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, the most famous sung by Bing Crosby, was considered the best-selling single of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records

Keith Johnson of the Irish Music Rights Organization explains how “generally all contributors to the song, if it is a major hit, will get their share,” although they may not agree on the song. appropriate share.

The sharing of royalties may be “different because every contract would be different.” Some contracts, especially in some of those perennial hit Christmas songs, are said to date back decades. Some authors have greater bargaining power when it comes to dividing royalties over the selling price of a CD or vinyl. It could be very different if you are a former actor or someone who is just starting out. “

Singers Kirsty MacColl (1959 – 2000) and Shane MacGowan with toy guns and an inflatable Santa Claus. In 1987, the couple collaborated on the Pogues Christmas song Fairytale of New York. Photograph: Tim Roney / Getty Images

Revenues also break down differently depending on where the royalties come from. “In some situations the performer will do better than their songwriter, and that could generate a different source of income, where the writer will get a better deal. There is no fixed formula.

It’s a neat trick to deal with a few of these simultaneously. Jona Lewie’s Stop The Cavalry (1980), played seasonally because of the heartbreaking ‘I wish I was home for Christmas’, earns over € 141,038 (£ 120,000) a year, “50% of my income real, ”he said. . “The thing is, I do everything on the track. I write the lyrics and the melody, so that’s the whole post. And because I’m a musician, I can do the whole backing track, so that’s the whole recording fee. I was a one-man show. And if you can get a lead associated with Christmas, you get annual regurgitation and earning potential every year.

On the other hand, while Shakin ‘Stevens is said to make around £ 10,000 from the radio plays of Merry Christmas Everyone (1985), most of the estimated annual royalties of £ 130,000 go to songwriter Bob Heatlie.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, the most famous sung by Bing Crosby, was considered the best-selling single of all time by the Guinness Book of World Records. It has sold over $ 100 million worldwide and was estimated in 2016 at € 385,723 (£ 328,000) in royalties per year.

We just wrote a great song that just happens to be Christmas, “MacGowan said,” it’s a no-frills song, no bullshit about a couple fighting, but it was open.

And the Christmas nightmare: “If I had to spend time figuring out what the record company has – and those of this team of people around us – I’d lose my mind,” Boney M singer Liz Mitchell (Mary’s Boy Child – Oh My Lord from 1978) told The Guardian years later. Apparently, each of the four Boney’s got “maybe a seventh of a percent” on sales of over 1.2 million.

And then there’s Pogues’ Fairytale Of New York, brutal and bittersweet, trotted around this time of year so incongruously and continuously that heartache and sense have almost been beaten. Almost. Even singer Shane MacGowan, who co-wrote it with Jem Finer, acknowledged “it’s just musical wallpaper now,” although “I hear it and it doesn’t make me sick. Well.”

They wrote it over a few years after Elvis Costello challenged MacGowan to write a non-sticky seasonal duet to sing with bassist Caitlin O’Riordan (although it was eventually recorded in 1987 with the late Kirsty McColl).

“We just wrote a great song that just happens to be Christmas,” MacGowan told Patrick Freyne (when he and Anna Carey were trying to define the formula for Christmas success themselves). It is, MacGowan said, “a no frills, no bullshit song about a couple fighting, but it was open.”

It’s also a source of money, according to this 2016 analysis, collecting € 470,434 (£ 400,000) in royalties per year. As of September 2017, it had 1.5 million combined sales in the UK alone.

While the big Christmas hits we hear all the time “make decent money” online, says Keith Johnson at Imro, “in most cases, for a song to be very successful now and generate income. in the long run, it should be shown on radio and television performances in addition to streaming. In the first year you might sell a lot of physical CDs or vinyls, but if it’s a hit song and has lasting radio or TV coverage, this is where you see the long term income stream.

Mind you, he points out, the market is changing and some big hits on platforms like Tik Tok may never hit the radio, but could generate royalty income in the future for creators.

But for example, “a song like Last Christmas by George Michael generates a large part of its income from radio plays. Fairytale of New York will be similar. It would still get decent streaming numbers, but you just need to turn on the radio and it’s probably on the hourly hourly somewhere around this time of year. You walk into any store or restaurant, it’s lit in the background, and that also generates a lot of income. Or other people performing the song in concert. When we go back to concerts.

Singer Mariah Carey's hit, All I Want for Christmas, is featured on most Christmas playlists every year.  Photograph: Mark Erickson / Getty Images

Singer Mariah Carey’s hit, All I Want for Christmas, is featured on most Christmas playlists every year. Photograph: Mark Erickson / Getty Images

So what are the top earners among those songs that drive us crazy with their ubiquity, and yet find ourselves humming along because they trigger a seasonal hormone in our brain?

In addition to those 2016 estimates, the Celebrity Net Worth website in December 2020 listed what it considered to be the top-grossing Christmas carols, both in terms of annual royalties and cumulatively. They were the following:

Highest Paid Christmas Songs (Annual Royalties)
Slade: Merry Christmas Everyone (1973): € 745,533 ($ 840,000)
2 The Pogues: New York Fairy Tale (1987): € 559,150 ($ 630,000)
3 Mariah Carey: All I Want for Christmas Is You (1994): € 532,524 ($ 600,000)
4 Wham! : Last Christmas (1984): € 443,770.00 ($ 500,000)
5 Band Aid: Do They Know It’s Christmas (1984): € 115,380 ($ 130,000)

Best Christmas Songs Ever
Irving Berlin: – White Christmas (1940). Estimated profit: € 57,694,000 ($ 65 million)
2 Mariah Carey and Walter Afanasieff: All I Want For Christmas Is You (1994). Estimated profit: € 53,256,000 ($ 60 million)
3 Haven Gillespie and Fred J Coots: Father Christmas Comes to Town (1934). Estimated profit: € 44,380,000 ($ 50 million)
4 Mel Torme: The Christmas Song (which we think of as chestnuts roasting over an open fire) (1944). Estimated profit: € 39,942,000 ($ 45 million)
5 Paul McCartney: Wonderful Christmas (1979). Estimated profit: € 35,504,000 ($ 40 million)

About Nicole Harmon

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