Inside the New Royalty Split for 'Uptown Funk': Who Gets Paid What

Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk" featuring Bruno Mars.
Courtesy Photo

A still from Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk" featuring Bruno Mars.

Success, in music especially, has many fathers -- just look at "Uptown Funk!" With a ballooning songwriter count, how do these new names get paid?

Songwriting credits for "Uptown Funk!" went to four people initially: Ronson, Mars, Phillip Martin Lawrence and Jeffrey Bhasker. However, before the song was even released it had gained two more: Nicholas Williams (AKA Trinidad James) and producer Devon Gallaspy, the authors of "All Gold Everything," both receiving a share for a sampling interpolation. This credit was shared at the behest of the original songwriters/publishers; Billboard's sources say the team behind the hit reached out to Gallaspy and Williams without prompting. Gallaspy and Williams spit a 15 percent take, leaving the original four songwriters with a 21.25 percent share each.

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Downloads of "Uptown Funk!" hit sales of 5.5 million units in the U.S., while Ronson's album scanned 95,000 units, according to Nielsen Music -- about $510,000 in U.S. mechanical publishing royalties (at $0.091 per song).

YouTube uploads which feature the master "Uptown Funk!" recording and which have generated at least 10 million views -- five, according to Billboard's search -- show 672,617,094 views. Assuming 40 percent of those views had ads placed against them, and using a blended rate of $0.0045 cents per view, then total revenue on YouTube, both label and publishing shares, was $2.201 million. A publishing synchronization rate of 15 percent would produce royalties of $330,000. These figures don't take into account the many user-generated videos, where the publishing would receive a 50 percent cut of net revenue.

Taking into account both U.S. mechanicals and the five YouTube videos using the master recording that Billboard analyzed, the song will have produced about $840,000 in publishing revenue -- before being split between the publishers and the songwriters.

As sources told Billboard, two months ago Minder Music, on behalf of the Gap Band, put in a claim in the YouTube system, driving its system to flag the song for having ownership claims above 100 percent, causing YouTube to cease payments to all publishers and placing the revenue in escrow until the ownership claims are resolved. That situation resulted in another settlement, which sees the "Oops" songwriters/band members -- Charlie, Robert and Ronnie Wilson along with keyboardist Rudolph Taylor and producer Lonnie Simmons -- each receiving 3.4 percent of the song, a total of 17 percent. Consequently, all four original songwriters now each get 17 percent of the song -- down 4.25 percent each  had prior to the Gap Band's claim.

The money YouTube was holding in escrow is expected to be released soon in light of the settlement.

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Executives from the publishing firms affiliated with "Uptown Funk!" have divided opinions on whether the recent "Blurred Lines" lawsuit (which the principals are asking to revisit) played a role in the further splitting of songwriting credit for "Uptown Funk!" One executive says that, in general, most songwriting disputed claims get settled out of court and when they do a jury trial -- like there was in the "Blurred Lines" case -- is rare.

Danny Zook -- who manages Trinidad James, oversees the artist publishing company Trinlanta, and runs sample-clearing house Alien Music -- says he wasn't privy to the settlement negotiations between the Gap Band/Minder Music and the Ronson/Mars/Lawrence/Bhasker songwriters and publishers. But asked whether he believes the March decision around Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" -- in which a jury ordered its songwriters to pay $7.4 million to the estate of Marvin Gaye -- had an impact on this move, Zook says, "Everyone is being a little more cautious. Nobody wants to be involved in a lawsuit. Once a copyright dispute goes to a trial, [if a jury is used], it is subject to be decided by public opinion -- and no longer resolved based entirely on ­copyright law."

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The "Uptown Funk!" songwriter/publisher payout split is now, sources say:

  • Bhasker/SonyATV: 17 percent.
  • Gallaspy/SonyATV: 7.5 percent.
  • Ronson/Imagem: 17 percent.
  • Gap Band/Minder: 17 percent.
  • Lawrence: 17 percent.
  • Trinidad James/Trinlanta: 5.625 percent.
  • Trinidad James Record label/TIG7 Publishing: 1.875 percent.
  • Mars/Mars Force Music/BMG Chrysalis: 14.875 percent.
  • Mars/Northside Independent Music/Warner/Chappel Music: 2.125 percent.
  • Warner/Chappell, through its January 2011 acquisition of Southside Independent Music, owns 25 percent of Mars publishing -- but collects only its 12.5 percent share (in this instance 12.5 percent of 17 percent, or 2.125 percent) as BMG administers all of Mars' writer share.