I recently did a radio interview on the subject of Christmas music. “Why are so many musicians recording Christmas songs now?” asked the host.
“Simple,” I replied. “If you get it right and your Christmas song or album is a hit, it becomes a seasonal annuity. Every year, people buy it. Every year, you get a big royalty cheque. Just ask Michael Bublé who’s been raking it in with his Christmas album ever since it was released in 2011. It could end up being the most important revenue generator of his career.”
Bublé’s Christmas gambit paid off and now he’s headed towards the pantheon of artists who don’t have to work another day in their life because of their Christmas music.
Take Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” a song he wrote around the pool at the La Quinta Hotel in La Quinta, California, in about fifteen minutes. After Bing Crosby recorded it in 1942, the song caught fire and is said to be the biggest-selling record of all time, clocking in at somewhere north of 100 million copies. I’d love to know what Berlin’s royalty rate is/was. And because “White Christmas” still isn’t in the public domain, someone is making money from it. (If you want to record “White Christmas” or any other song published after 1923, here’s what you must do.)
So who else is profiting immensely from a Christmas song?
Slade also hit the jackpot when they dashed off “Merry Xmas Everybody” in 1973. It’s been a perennial favourite in the UK ever since, generating on average £500,000 every year.
It’s hard to get an accurate figure for “All I Want for Christmas” but a decent estimate is that the song has generated at least $50 million royalties since it was released in 1994. Wouldn’t you love to be Walter Afanasieff? He co-wrote the entire thing with Mariah on his computer.
“Fairytale of New York” was one of those songs that didn’t want to be written (the story can be found here), but has since become a beloved Christmas classic since is release in 1987. Want to know how Shane McGowan can afford to keep drinking? The song generates about £400,000 annually.