Split Decisions: Olivia Rodrigo Has Given Up Millions in Publishing Royalties
All of the interpolations found on 'SOUR' have proven costly for Olivia Rodrigo, who's given songwriting credits to Taylor Swift, Haley Williams, Jack Antanoff and more.
Olivia Rodrigo hasn’t been shy about sharing her musical influences on her Billboard 200-topping debut album, SOUR. And since its release, she’s been sharing with them a good deal too.
Last week, Olivia Rodrigo retroactively added Paramore‘s Hayley Williams and Joshua Farro to the songwriting credits for “good 4 u” due to an interpolation of the band’s “Misery Business,” which hit No. 28 on the Hot 100 chart in January 2008. It was the second time since SOUR‘s release that the 18-year-old Rodrigo has added writing splits on her songs due to similarities between her work and other previously released songs. In July, Rodrigo shared credits on her second single, “deja vu,” with Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff, and Annie Clark (also known as St. Vincent) for its reminiscence of Swift’s “Cruel Summer” from 2019’s Lover.
That also followed Rodrigo granting Swift and Antonoff writing credits on the album cut “1 step forward, 3 steps back” before SOUR‘s release for including an interpolation of Swift’s 2017 Reputation track “New Year’s Day.” (Fans have also noted similarities between the guitar riff on the album’s opener “Brutal” and Elvis Costello‘s 1978 hit “Pump It Up,” but Costello tweeted in response, “this is fine by me. It’s how rock & roll works” and will not be seeking writing credit.)
All of these interpolations have proven costly for Rodrigo. Although most of the album was written by Rodrigo and co-writer/producer Daniel Nigro, the duo now cedes half of the publishing revenue for “good 4 u,” “deja vu” and two thirds of it for “1 step forward, 3 steps back” with these other writers who were likely inspiration but had nothing to do with the songs directly.
In the case of “good 4 u,” Williams and Farro now make just as much in publishing royalties as Rodrigo and Nigro, holding a collective 50% ownership of the composition.
The single to date has generated at least $2.4 million in global publishing royalties, Billboard estimates, accounting for streaming, sales, and some airplay activities from MRC Data, but excluding synchronization payments, radio airplay from outside the U.S, and general licensing. This means Williams and Farro share about $1.2 million in royalties so far for “good 4 u,” the same amount also shared by Nigro and Rodrigo.
Although the addition of Williams and Farro was retroactive, sources say the Paramore team had been in touch with Rodrigo’s about the single prior to its release.
With “deja vu,” which earned at least $1.3 million in worldwide publishing royalties ($1.26 million of which was made in the U.S.), Billboard estimates, Swift’s writing team was retroactively granted 50% of the songwriting credit for the single. Swift has 25%, Antonoff has 20%, and Clark has 5% for the interpolation of their work on “Cruel Summer.” This totals out to be at least $325,678 in global publishing royalties for Swift, $260,542 for Antonoff, and $65,135 for Clark. Rodrigo and Nigro split the remaining 50% of royalties equally, meaning both pocket at least $598,575 each in total publishing revenue globally.
Though “1 step forward, 3 steps back” hasn’t reached the same level of success as the other two singles, it has still earned more than $258,379 in publishing royalties, Billboard estimates. The song is one of the few from SOUR solely written by Rodrigo. But after sharing those credits, she holds 33.34% composition ownership, while Swift also holds 33.34% and Antonoff holds 33.32%. So far, each have earned about $86,000 from the song’s publishing.
Combined, that adds up to more than $2 million in publishing royalties given up by Rodrigo and Nigro. But aside from building good will with these other notable writers, Rodrigo has possibly avoided much more costly copyright infringement lawsuits with some of the biggest names in music. Previous infringement cases have ended badly for many defendants, namely Robin Thicke‘s “Blurred Lines” trial which resulted in a hefty penalty of $7.3 million (later reduced to around $5 million), paid to the estate of Marvin Gaye for the interpolation of “Got to Give It Up.” The highest judgment for a copyright infringement case involving music in history, the “Blurred Lines” suit has been the impetus for many artists and writers in the last few years to settle disputes out of court.
Additional reporting by Ed Christman.