The finances behind successful songs

Gold records on the wall.The Richest Songs in the World is an excellent programme from BBC4, available on iPlayer. Introduced by the excellent Stuart Maconie, it a must-see for anyone vaguely interested in music.

As well as explaining the finances of songs, the show reveals the, at times, surprising top ten richest songs in pop music and their fascinating stories.

I didn’t know that “Yesterday” started life as “Scrambled Eggs” and is thought to have played a part in the eventual break-up of the Beatles, because it was the only song Paul McCartney wrote on his own, although it was credited, as per normal, to Lennon McCartney.

I was most enchanted by the story of “Stand by me”. It has earnt $28 million. $14 million of that has gone to the publishers. And, if I have done my maths right, $7 million went to Leiber and Stoller, two of the writers, and $7 million went to Ben E King, the main writer. Not bad for one song, eh?

Ben E King, bless him, has ploughed some of his earnings from the song into the Stand by me Foundation to help educate underprivileged children.


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