Sick of your job? Tired of being broke? Maybe you just want to find a way to earn some extra passive income this holiday season? Well, we have a very simple suggestion: Next time you have a couple hours to kill, go ahead and boil up a pot of eggnog, light up the fireplace, deck the halls with boughs of holly and then sit down at your desk and write a Christmas song. Actually, you can't just write a random Christmas song that no one ever hears. You need to write a hit Christmas song. A song that is so beloved, it will be played for years to come with dozens of celebrity covers and even more appearances in movies, TV shows and on radio playlists. Sound too good to true? Well, we will admit that, generally speaking, it is difficult to write a hit song. But listen to the radio for five minutes and you'll know it's definitely not impossible. And we're here to tell you that if you are going to try to write any kind of hit song at all, you would be very wise to make it Christmas friendly. There is a massive fortune out there up for grabs.
At this point you might be reminded of the 2002 movie "About A Boy", starring Hugh Grant. In the movie, Hugh Grant plays a wealthy loner who spends his time coasting through life entertaining one night stands and buying expensive gadgets. His perfect little life is interrupted when he befriends an awkward neighborhood boy with an insane mom and hijinks ensue. Hugh's character is wealthy thanks to a hit Christmas song called "Santa's Super Sleigh" that his late father wrote. Hugh gets annoyed each holiday season because he can't avoid hearing the song everywhere he goes. The song is played constantly on the radio, at bars, the supermarket… seemingly earlier and earlier every year. And while the holidays may be slightly annoying for Hugh's character, he's still able to live a completely care-free retired life with a fancy apartment, expensive sports car and luxury vacations, all from a single hit song. Is this dream scenario really possible? Can you write one hit song and retire off the royalties? It seems too good to be true, but in reality is absolutely 100% possible. As we are about to demonstrate, writing one hit Christmas song can make you (and your heirs) extremely rich for life.
If you're really curious to learn about making money off music royalties, check out these two articles:
How can it make your heirs rich? Copyright law varies by country, but in The United States, your estate will receive royalty income for 95 years from the point the song was copyrighted. So if you published a song today, your estate would receive a fat royalty check four times per year until December of 2108. Not a bad little pension!
Word of Advice: Make sure take the time to perform, write and produce all elements of your Christmas song. This way you don't have to share the royalties with anyone else. You might have to pay a distribution fee to iTunes, but as Macklemore proved in 2013, you no longer even need a record company to make millions from royalties in the music business. A good example of what NOT to do is Susan Boyle's platinum selling 2010 Christmas song "The Gift". Susan earns relatively little money from the song while the two song writers each take home a nice little $100,000 bonus every year.
Christmas songs might not get played all year round, but they are what the industry refers to as "evergreen". Unlike a typical pop song that has a life span of maybe 3-4 months before being shoved aside for something newer and shinier, Christmas songs keep coming back every year. And yes, there are some classic songs that get played all year round ever year, but there are thousands upon thousands of songs in this category clogging up all the airwaves and, more importantly, all the revenue streams. A hit Christmas song on the other hand, is the real gift that keeps on giving (insert Uncle Eddie impression here). Christmas songs on the other hand, have relatively little competition. Furthermore, Christmas songs are arguably the most covered type of song in the world. Every year, hundreds of popular artists from every musical genre around the world, line up to pay top dollar for the rights to cover a popular Christmas song. So, how much money could you be looking at if you successfully write a classic Christmas song? Below is a list of the most profitable Christmas songs of 2013 and of all time:
Top Earning Christmas Songs of 2013:
#1) Slade – "Merry Christmas Everybody" (1973): $840,000
#2) The Pogues – "Fairytale of New York" (1987): $630,000
#3) Mariah Carey – "All I Want for Christmas Is You" (1994): $570,000
#4) Wham! – "Last Christmas" (1984): $500,000
#5) Band Aid – "Do They Know It's Christmas" (1984) – $130,000
Top Earning Christmas Songs of all Time:
#4) Paul McCartney – "Wonderful Christmastime" (1979). Estimated earnings: $15 million
Before Paul McCartney and The Beatles became famous, they signed a particularly horrible record contract that entitled the song writers (Lennon and McCartney) a relative pittance for every dollar that was earned. After that debacle, Paul had learned his lesson and set about to ensure that he owned 100% of every song he wrote from then on. Ironically, this is the same lesson that McCartney taught Michael Jackson that resulted in MJ buying the entire Beatles catalogue behind Paul's back decades later. But that's a different story. McCartney was very careful to write, produce and perform all aspects of "Wonderful Christmastime" and today it earns him $400-600 thousand dollars in royalties per year.
#3) Mel Torme – "The Christmas Song" (1944). Estimated earnings: $19 million
You probably know this song by its opening line "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire". Ironically, Torme is Jewish and wrote the music and the song in under 45 minutes during a blistering hot Chicago summer. He was just 19 years old. The song has since been covered by hundreds of huge artists including Michael Buble, Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, NSYNC and many more. Despite having written more than 250 songs during his career, "The Christmas Song" was by far Mel's biggest financial success. He often referred to it as "my annuity".
#2) Haven Gillespie & Fred J Coots – "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" (1934). Estimated earnings: $25 million
The second of three Christmas songs on this list. The day after the song debuted, over 100,000 people ordered copies of the sheet music. 400,000 copies had sold within a few months. The song has been covered by a wide range of artists including Justin Bieber, Bruce Springsteen and Mariah Carey.
#1) Irving Berlin – "White Christmas" (1940). Estimated earnings: $36 million
No song captures the heart of the holidays like "White Christmas". This is ironic when you consider the fact that it was written by a Jewish immigrant from Russia. Bing Crosby's version is by far the most famous but countless other artists have recorded the song. Crosby's version is one of the bestselling pieces of music in history, with over 100 million copies sold worldwide to date. The Guinness Book of World Records recently named "White Christmas" the bestselling single of all time.
So there you have it. Time to start writing Christmas songs! Oh, and if someone out there is inspired by this article and end up writing the next "White Christmas" could we get a cut? We're not greedy. Just a little taste of the backend so we can retire and do nothing all day with you!