Lorde sings about never being a royal, but her signing to SONGS Music gave the boutique publisher the crown in the most hotly contested songwriter derby the publishing industry had seen in years. In November, with “Royals” perched at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, SONGS inked the 17-year-old sensation for a reported $2.5 million advance. Overall, Billboard estimates “Royals” earned nearly $1 million ($987,000) just from U.S. radio performance royalties and mechanical royalties from U.S. album and track sales in the final quarter of 2013 alone, when it was the top radio song. Based on Billboard estimates of typical writer-publisher revenue splits, Lorde’s take was $370,000, with another estimated $123,000 going to SONGS. (Her producer/co-writer Joel Little and his publishing administrator Sony/ATV take home another $493,000.) Beyond earnings, the Lorde signing has proved to be a chart-topping calling card for SONGS as it looks to establish the artist as a hitmaker both for herself and other stars.
“She’s got a couple of A-plus-level things that are going to come within the year,” SONGS president/head of A&R Ron Perry teases. (Lorde’s new BFF Taylor Swift seems like a distinct possibility.) Perry confirms Lorde has worked with The Weeknd, and has spent time with Diplo: “They went fishing in New Zealand.”
Founded in 2004 by CEO Matt Pincus, an EMI vet and former bassist for late-’80s hardcore band Judge, SONGS quickly established a style closer to that of artist management, compared with the volume plays of the three majors. “We talk to our artists every single day,” Perry says. “It’s a hands-on process.”
“They’re the ones that got me in the studio with Kanye,” DJ Mustard says of sessions with Kanye West. “They know how to connect the dots.”
For Perry, one of those dots was a Google alert on SONGS writer/producer Q-Tip, which resulted in a pairing with U.K. dance duo Disclosure. “I got my update and saw that he’s their favorite rapper of all time. So I called Martin Kierszenbaum [founder of Disclosure’s label Cherrytree] and was like, ‘Dude, let’s do this.'”
Also in the works? A pair of top-secret sessions that R&B singer/songwriter Marsha Ambrosius recently completed with Janet Jackson and Dr. Dre. “Of course, I haven’t heard anything from those — surprise, surprise — but she’s excited about them,” Perry says.