Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Here on the Kentucky-Tennessee border, close to Nashville, country music is plentiful. Thus inspired, I have written some country songs that I'd like to promote. However, can you tell me what percentage of sales goes to the writer?

Before I pursue my writing passion any further, it would be nice to know how the job pays.
—Henry Mulholland, Guthrie, Ky.

DEAR HENRY: There are many variables, but I'll try to cover the most common arrangements.

A writer who does not have collaborators, or co-writers, with whom to share the compensation can expect about four cents of the take from each sale. That amount will double if the writer is also the song's publisher.

The cut of the over-the-counter sales can be significant, but it is media air play where writers reap what are known as performance royalties.

Each Performing Rights Organization (PRO), such as ASCAP and BMI, has its own complicated formula to calculate royalties, all of which are far too convoluted for this column.

Easier to understand is a song that tops the charts, resulting in lots of air play, can earn its writer $250,000 to $500,000, with a like amount going to the publisher.

Remember, too, everything is negotiable.

The ultimate goal is always to pen a classic. Something along the lines of “Unchained Melody,” “Yesterday,” or “White Christmas” would do nicely.

Performance royalties are why song writers would prefer one tune that is a hit single than several songs on an album, even one that sells well.

DEAR JERRY: Which member of the Beatles had the biggest hit as a solo artist? I refer only to ones made after the group disbanded.
—Astrud Soares, Milwaukee

DEAR ASTRUD: Since an e-mail from Michael Costanza, of Tampa, Florida, asks pretty much the same question, it must be time to deal with it.

Let's first list the biggest hit for each of the four:

Paul McCartney (excludes duets with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, etc.): “Silly Love Songs.”

John Lennon: “(Just Like) Starting Over.”

George Harrison: “My Sweet Lord.”

Ringo Starr: “Photograph.”

From the final four, the winner and answer to your question is Lennon's “(Just Like) Starting Over,” which ranked No. 6 at the time of John's assassination. Three weeks later it reached No. 1.

DEAR JERRY: I was quite the fan of Gale Storm when she had many hit records as well as a couple of popular TV shows.

On the net recently, I discovered a song by Gale that I don't ever remember hearing, titled “Making Believe.” It is so good that I can't imagine it not being a smash.

What is the story about “Making Believe”?
—Glenda Keller, Federal Way, Wash.

DEAR GLENDA: “Making Believe,” every bit as great as you describe, did not become a hit earlier because it surfaced for the first time about 10 years ago.

Credit Varese Sarabande's Cary Mansfield, and Gale herself, for unearthing this track and including it on the 1994 CD, “Dark Moon - The Best of Gale Storm” (VSD-5523).

It is good you found “Making Believe” on your own, since the only copies of that out-of-print CD I have seen lately are priced at about $100.

The song first became a hit in 1944 for the Ink Spots & Ella Fitzgerald, but with the title “I'm Making Believe.”

IZ ZAT SO? The TV shows to which Glenda refers, “My Little Margie” (1952-1955) and “The Gale Storm Show - Oh Susana!” (1956-1960), made Gale a prime time staple for most of the '50s.

What many may not know is that in the twelve years before becoming TV's “Margie,” few in Hollywood were busier than this beauty. Gale Storm appeared in about three dozen feature films between 1940 and '52 — roughly three per year.

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