There’s some serious money in song writing


I don’t know how you’re feeling today but I’m still stuck a little bit in long weekend mode, so I thought I’d take it easy today and share an article with you that I read over the weekend which answered a question that I have often wondered the answer to and that question is this, ‘How much money does an artist or songwriter get each time they have a song played on the Radio?’.

The reason this question interests me is that I’ve written a couple of songs in my time and I’d say that for any guitar player or songwriter out there, the idea that you might one day make some money from a song you’ve written would be a dream come true, wouldn’t it? Now I’m not for one second saying that any of my songs are anywhere near good enough for that but you never know, one day I might just manage to write a one hit wonder and as the article points out, there is a lot of money to be made if you happen to do just that.

The BBC article focussed on a song that was covered by Lily Allen for a recent John Lewis television advertising campaign. It was a cover of the song ‘Somewhere only we know’ by the band Keane. The song and the advert went huge and I think everyone assumed that Lily must have made some serious money out of it. Actually though when you delve into the figures it seems that the really big winners from the success of Lily’s cover were the songwriters themselves, Keane.

How much money per radio play and who gets it?

So let’s get down to numbers and to the one that really surprised me. According to the people at BBC Radio 2, just one play of Lily Allen’s cover of ‘Somewhere only we know’ triggers a royalty payment of £76.20. It may surprise you to hear that not one penny of that goes to Lily Allen, Lily’s record label or anybody else for that matter, 100% of that cash goes to the songwriters, Keane. When you consider that a song on Radio 2’s playlist gets played up to 20 times per week, well that’s roughly £1500 a week and that’s only from one radio station. It seems that different radio stations have to pay different amounts in royalties but it just goes to show how much money song writers can make and it also explains how some people manage to live out the rest of their days on the proceeds of a one hit wonder.

What about streaming?

The difference in royalty payments between one play of a song on the radio and one play of a song through a streaming service like Spotify is also quite astounding, with one play of a song on Spotify only generating an average royalty micropayment of around £0.0035 per play. Still, I bet even that figure soon adds up when you consider how often a popular song gets streamed. If you want to learn more about the other sources of revenue like CD sales and YouTube then be sure to have a read through the BBC article.

Would you have expected that figure?

I have to be honest and say that the figure of £76.20 in royalties for one play on Radio 2 really took me by surprise but interestingly it didn’t surprise my wife at all. In fact, when I asked Mrs.B how much she thought one radio play would generate in royalties she said around £200. So what about you? Does the figure of £76.20 per radio play take you by surprise or would you have expected it to be more?

6 Responses to There’s some serious money in song writing

  1. So, that’s just over $45….and I’m honestly surprised it’s that high. When I think about how many times I hear a popular song in a week on just one station I can’t imagine the number that translates into royalties! But then again….if you want people to listen to your station….

  2. I have a professional singer friend and he is also a song writer. I think he got his talent from his father who was a former band member too. He didn’t tell me exactly how much money he made by writing a song, but he told me that it’s a good amount that can cover some of his expenses.

  3. That’s some serious coin! Looks like I am in the wrong industry – I now just have to find some talent…

  4. constance@.saving.dollars says:

    I know someone who is living a very comfortable life on song writing alone, if you are good at it or can land your song into popular singer you can get yourself a big pay day

  5. I wish I could; not possible. Give me words and I can craft something, give me tones and it is cacophony.

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