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Do they know it's Christmas?

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Well, if you are an author of a Christmas song then you certainly will, as it's at this time of the year that the royalties start flowing.

Father Christmas singing into a microphone
Image licensed by Ingram Image

According to the BBC4 programme, 'The World's Richest Songs', no less than 3 of the top 10 highest earning songs of all time are of the Christmas variety.

Why do they earn so much for the writers? Well, because they are played constantly every year. I will make an educated guess that in the next few weeks, if you have been shopping, or walked into a store, you would have heard the dulcet tones of Noddy Holder shouting “it's Christmas” at the top of this voice or the oompah, oompah and Jona Lewie asking you to stop the cavalry.

This year it’s likely that Band Aid will be the number one Christmas song with the profits going to a good cause. But the income from this song will fall short of the earnings from the most valuable.


In at number 10, is 'Christmas Song', also known as 'chestnuts roasting on an open fire'. Written by Mel Torme back in 1944 it is estimated that that this song has made over £12.5 million and has been covered by over 500 artists from Barry Manilow to Cee Lo Green.

Next, at number 7, we have 'Santa Claus is coming to town' by J F Coots and H Gillespie, with an estimated £16.5 million.

But the most popular, is of course 'White Christmas'. Written by Irving Berlin and made famous by American crooner, Bing Crosby, the royalties from this song are in excess of £24 million and counting.


Copyright generally lasts for a period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. The income from these songs will continue for a number of years.

What happens to the copyright after the author dies? It is important to be aware that copyright, just like personal property, can be inherited, either by intestacy or via a will. So if you are a copyright owner, make sure you have made the necessary arrangements.

Anyway, back to Slade and their smash hit 'Merry Xmas Everybody', originally launched in 1973. It is estimated that each year through airplay, downloads, and sales, that one song is worth over £500,000. So from Wham to Shakin' Stevens, Wizzard and not forgetting Sir Cliff, writing a popular Christmas song can certainly bring its rewards.

But with the good, there are also the bad and maybe even the ugly! Ever heard of 'Please Daddy (don't get drunk this Christmas)' by John Denver or the 'Christmas Conga' by Cyndi Lauper? Me neither. But I don't think these get very many plays.

And the best selling song of all time? It's not a Christmas song but it is to do with celebrations!

Of course, it's Happy Birthday. No not the Stevie Wonder one, the one everyone sings at birthday parties. Dating back to 1893, written by the Hill sisters, it has estimated earnings of over £30 million.

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