- Ariana Grande has signed away 90% of her royalties from “7 Rings,” the controversial (yet wildly popular) second single from her most recent album.
- “7 Rings” interpolates the melody of “My Favourite Things,” an iconic song written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for “The Sound of Music” in 1959.
- According to the New York Times, Grande’s label Republic cut a deal with Concord, the music company that has owned the late songwriters’ back catalogue since 2017.
- The percentage is remarkably large cut to give songwriters for a sample, particularly in the absence of a lawsuit, but it’s not unprecedented.
Ariana Grande’s controversial single “7 Rings” returned to No. 1 this week, marking six total weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart since its release in January – but, financially, the pop star will reap much less from the the success than one would expect.
The New York Times reports that Grandehas signed away 90% of her “7 Rings” royalties to the estate of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the iconic songwriting duo who died in 1959 and 1970, respectively.
“7 Rings” interpolates the melody of “My Favourite Things,” famously written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for “The Sound of Music” in 1959.
Grande transformed Julie Andrews’ list of simple, innocent pleasures into a braggadocious anthem of financial freedom: “Brown paper packages tied up with strings / These are a few of my favourite things” becomes, in Grande’s voice, “Lashes and diamonds, ATM machines / Buy myself all of my favourite things.”
Rodgers and Hammerstein are two of 10 songwriters credited on Grande’s song – currently her second-biggest hit on the chart, just behind the album’s lead single “Thank U, Next” – which has also drawn comparisons to songs by rappers like Princess Nokia, 2 Chainz, and Soulja Boy.
According to the New York Times, Grande’s label Republic cut a deal with Concord – the music company that has owned the late songwriters’ back catalogue since 2017 – just a few weeks before the single was released in January.
Concord reportedly requested 90% of the songwriting royalties and Grande’s team “accepted without further negotiation.”
The Times also reports that “Concord stands to make millions of dollars from the song.” Grande and her label declined to comment on the report.
While it’s common for a label to sacrifice a percentage of the royalties when a pop song relies on a sample, 90% is a remarkably large cut – particularly in the absence of a lawsuit.
Gwen Stefani’s 2006 song “Wind It Up,” which sampled “Lonely Goatherd” from “The Sound of Music,” owes Rodgers and Hammerstein’s camp just 50% of the royalties.
In 2018, when Marvin Gaye’s family prevailed in a lawsuit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams – which claimed their smash hit “Blurred Lines” was too similar to Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” – the judge also awarded the Gayes 50% of future royalties.
However, Grande’s small slice is not entirely unprecedented.
Back in the ’90s, The Verve was forced to forfeitall royalties from the band’s biggest hit ever, “Bittersweet Symphony,” which partially sampled from a symphonic version of the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time.”
Despite the fact that The Verve’s vocalist Richard Ashcroft wrote all the lyrics, Rolling Stones’ manager Allen Klein claimed they used too much of the original song and won his plagiarism suit.
“We were told it was going to be a 50/50 split,” Verve bassist Simon Jones later said. “Then they saw how well the record was doing. They rung up and said we want 100 per cent or take it out of the shops, you don’t have much choice.”
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