Diddy's "I'll Be Missing You" Royalty Payments To Sting Are Even Higher Than We Thought

By on April 6, 2023 in ArticlesMusic News

Back in 2013, I wrote an article titled "Imagine Making $2,000 A Day From Something You Did 30 Years Ago." That article told the story of how Sting ended up earning around $2,000 in royalties EVERY SINGLE DAY for decades thanks largely to something Diddy did back in 1997. Or, I should say, thanks to something Diddy FORGOT to do back in 1997. And as it turns out, Sting's daily royalty earnings were even higher than we thought. And we know this thanks to Diddy himself.

Here is a recap of the former story to bring you up to speed:

As you probably know, Sting first gained fame and fortune as the lead singer of the Police. Back in 1982 Sting and his band mates co-wrote a little song called "Every Breath You Take." Actually the previous statement isn't accurate and that's where this story starts to get interesting.

Despite the fact that all three members of the Police contributed to its composition, the song credit (and therefore ownership) for "Every Breath You Take" is 100% credited to Sting. Sting wrote the lyrics, Stewart Copeland played the drums, and – this will become importantAndy Summers wrote the famous guitar riff that you're probably thinking of right now as you read this sentence.

According to Andy Summers years later, he came up with the famous riff after getting into a heated argument with Sting which ended with Sting telling him "go and make it your own." Perhaps because he was exhausted from fighting or just didn't care, but Andy never requested a share of songwriting credit on "Every Breath You Take."

As the song's sole composer, for the next 40 years Sting earned the vast majority of royalties generated whenever the song was played on the radio, sampled or included in something like a commercial or a movie.

(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for NARAS)

Enter: Puff Daddy

You are probably aware that Diddy – who then was going by Puff Daddy – sampled "Every Breath You Take" for his 1997 song "I'll Be Missing You." The song, which was a tribute to his late friend the Notorious B.I.G, was a MASSIVE hit. It would go on to win a Grammy and, more importantly for our purposes, was one of most-played songs on the radio for several years to come and is one of the best-selling singles of all time, at a time when people actually bought singles.

Great news for everyone, right?! Diddy, Sting, Andy and Stewart all must have been showered with royalties, right?!


You already know why Andy and Stewart didn't receive any royalties thanks to "I'll Be Missing You." This fact is especially annoying to Andy Summers because if you listen to Diddy's song, Sting's voice isn't present and Stewart Copeland's drums are missing. The only musical element that was actually sampled from "Every Breath You Take" to create "I'll Be Missing You," was Andy Summers' guitar riff. So even though his creation fueled what became a massive hit, Andy gets nothing from the Diddy version.

Unfortunately, Diddy also basically gets nothing. All because he forgot to do something very important before creating the track.

As it turned out, no one from Bad Boy Records (Diddy's company) remembered to secure permission from Sting to sample "Every Breath You Take" for what became "I'll Be Missing You."

Had Diddy asked permission first, he likely would have been required to hand over 25% of I'll Be Missing You's publishing royalties to Sting. By forgetting to ask permission before the song was released, Sting was able to demand and receive 100% of the remix's publishing royalties.

I'll Be Missing (Royalties)

So how do we know Sting was at one time earning $2,000 A DAY in royalties thanks to "Every Breath You Take"?

In a 2010 interview, Sting's own business manager revealed that the musician earned an average of $2,000 in royalty income every day from that one song alone. That works out to $730,000 per year, for a song at the time of the interview had been composed 30 years prior.

Sting's manager further claimed that this one song had been responsible for a quarter of all the lifetime publishing income earned by Sting up to that point, roughly $40 million.

$5,000 A Day

Recently, a 2018 interview with Sting on "The Breakfast Club" radio show made the rounds online.

In the clip, which we'll embed below, Charlamagne Tha God asked Sting directly about the legend of his $2,000 daily royalty earnings coming mostly thanks to Diddy not asking permission. When asked if the story is true, Sting replied with a simple:


When Diddy himself saw this clip circulating on Twitter Wednesday morning, he replied with:

"Nope. 5k a day."

Now, in fairness, it's not clear if Diddy is just being cheeky. Though, I also wouldn't be surprised if the royalties generated in 2023 were significantly higher than in 2013. A decade ago people were still largely not paying for music. Today artists earn royalties every time their song is streamed on Spotify, used in a TikTok, played on YouTube…

If Diddy's revelation is true, $5,000 a day would work out to $1.825 million per year. Not a bad little income for something Sting did 40 years ago.

But there's yet another twist in this story!

Sting Cashes Out

In February 2022, Sting sold his entire song writing and publishing catalog rights to Universal Music Publishing Group for $300 million. The sale included his entire song catalog from his time with The Police and as a solo artist. So in other words, if "Every Breath You Take" generates $5,000 per day in royalties today, those checks now go to Universal Music Group 🙂

Before we leave you – Consider the previous statement from Sting's manager about how 1/4 of all of his royalties are related to "Every Breath You Take." If that remained true, one can presume that around $75 million of his $300 million catalog sale was attributable to that one song alone. And that's one top of the tens of millions Sting had already earned prior to February 2022. So let's call it… conservatively… $120 million in royalties generated for Sting by that one song. All thanks to something he did 40 years ago.


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