Neil Diamond donates royalties from ‘Sweet Caroline’ to Boston victims: How much is that?

April 26, 2013

Neil Diamond is one savvy businessman.

In a heartfelt, spontaneous gesture, the singer-songwriter showed up at Fenway Park last week to lead the Boston fans in the eighth-inning singing of “Sweet Caroline.” Sales of the informal Red Sox anthem spiked, and Diamond tweeted Wednesday that he’s donating the week’s royalties to marathon bombing victims.


Neil Diamond sings “Sweet Caroline” during a game between the Kansas City Royals and Boston Red Sox in the 8th inning at Fenway Park on April 20. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

But how much are we talking, really? The song sold 19,000 units in the past week, up from 2,800 the week before, reports AP. A rough number crunch shows that Diamond’s gift will come to about $5,000 — not chopped liver, but no windfall.

The music business is notoriously secretive and complicated when it comes to money, but we spoke to some industry sources and it breaks down like this: Songwriters get paid every time a song is played or performed; singers get paid separately, and singer-songwriters earn the most. It’s just pennies per play, but adds up fast.

Diamond has sold 1.75 million copies of “Sweet Caroline” since he wrote it in 1969, which earns him “$300,000 to $500,000 a year, depending on how much licensing there is,” estimates a music executive. That includes commercials, touring, overseas rights, etc. And that’s just one of Diamond’s many hit songs.

Washington, DC - July, 7: Bill Danoff, who penned the '70's hit Afternoon Delight, sung by the Starland Vocal Band, at Clydes' on July, 07, 2011, in Washington, DC, where he wrote the song. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
Bill Danoff, who penned the ’70′s hit Afternoon Delight, in 2011. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Or consider Bill Danoff. In the ‘70s, the D.C. songwriter and his ex-wife wrote the John Denver mega-hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” then he hit #1 with “Afternoon Delight.” The two songs took on lives of their own: “Afternoon Delight” keeps popping up on TV shows and in movies; “Country Roads” is the theme song for the West Virginia Mountaineers (played at every game) and an international favorite, too. “My overseas royalties far exceed my American royalties — especially in Germany where everyone sings it at Oktoberfest,” Danoff told us. The two hits, along with his other songs, bring in more than $200,000 a year. And everyone in the music business knows the Dolly Parton story: She wrote “I Will Always Love You” in 1974 and hit #1 on the country charts. But she made a real fortune — estimates range from $6-$10 million in writer’s royalties— when Whitney Houston’s recording made the song a global hit. The all-time top moneymaker? “Happy Birthday” which is still under copyright and earns $5,000 a day. Reps for Diamond didn’t get back to us for comment.

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