Friday, May 24, 2024

Madonna Says She Won’t Sell Her Song Catalog, But It’s Because She Doesn’t Own It


Madonna’s getting headlines today because she told Variety she won’t sell her song catalog.

Um, that’s because she doesn’t own it.

Most of Madonna’s hits were written entirely by other people, or she has a co-writer credit. Only three songs in her catalog carry just her name: “Everybody,” “Lucky Star,” and “Burning Up.”

Big hits like “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl,” had completely different writers.

All the other hits have collaborators who actually composed the songs. They are Stephen Bray, Pat Leonard, William Orbit, Mirwais, and Shep Pettibone. “Ray of Light” was a sample from another record.

Madonna could, I guess, sell her half or third of songs she’s credited with. But the other songwriters would have to be involved. When Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame she acted as if she’d written all the songs herself. She never mentioned anyone else.

Does she know all this? Oh, yes. Most of her last tour, the Madame X project that went to theaters, concentrated on newer or more recent music and not so much on things like “Borderline” or the really popular songs because she didn’t want to pay royalties or licensing fees.

Madonna, in fact, is in the same boat as a lot of singers who don’t write their own material. She gets nothing from plays of those original hits on the radio just as a singer. That’s why she eventually started adding her name to credits. Performers are not paid for radio play, only writers of songs. Madonna only got wise to that after her first couple of albums — same as Celine, Mariah, Adele. And that’s why Whitney Houston’s estate is so thin. She did not do that.

Where does all that money come from? Madonna has her fortune from touring, plain and simple. Ditto Barbra Streisand. Unlike Joni, Carly, Carole, who wrote all their songs. Even Aretha wrote a lot of her own hits.

As always, take Madonna’s proclamations with a big grain of salt!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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