Diddy wants the world to know that Sting never asked or requested that he pay him $2K – $5K from his hit “I’ll Be Missing You.” In case you weren’t keeping up, when that song went No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1997, Diddy hadn’t exactly asked for permission to use The Police sample.
The Police, for those of you 35 and under, was the ’80s band fronted by the English singer/songwriter. Diddy sampled their 1983 no. 1 hit “Every Breath You Take,” which ironically is not a song about grief; it’s about a stalker. Well, it’s about a man missing his ex and letting her know he’s watching every move she makes, which is basically the same thing.
Last week, a resurfaced interview with Sting on the Breakfast Club went viral, with many people arriving late to the fact that, yes, when you sample a major part of someone else’s song, you have to pay for it. The relevant term here is copyright, which in this case, was worth a lot of money because, back in the day, people actually paid to purchase singles.
But now, Diddy wants you to know he was just joking when he said Sting makes $5,000 a day from the song. He wants you to know that Sting did not ask for the payment, because his lawyers likely handled that. And because when you OWN most of the rights to a song, you will get paid well and handsomely regardless.
Now, let’s do some musical math. Back in 1983, when The Police first released the song, it won two Grammys and stayed at the top of the pop charts for eight weeks, becoming the best-selling single of the year. In 2019, “Every Breath You Take” was honored by music publisher BMI as the most-played song in their catalog of 14 million songs.
In both incarnations, as the original and as the Diddy-sampled song, it amassed over 15 million radio plays, all of which a songwriter gets a piece of. Even though streaming pays much less, “Every Breath You Take” has over a billion plays on YouTube. “I’ll Be Missing You,” the video from Bad Boy Entertainment’s official channel, has 75M views. Diddy’s version was also a no.1 hit and won him a Grammy.
As Sting owns all or most of the publishing – you do that math and remember the power of copyright.
The biggest losers on the song – Police guitarist Andy Summers and songwriter/producer Sauce Money. You see, it is Summer’s guitar part that Diddy looped for “I’ll Be Missing You.” The only thing you hear in the retooled song are that guitar riff and Faith Evans and 112 singing the chorus.
Yet Summers does not receive a royalty – for either song. Though Sauce Money co-wrote the lyrics for “I’ll Be Missing You,” his royalty was impacted when Sting retained the publishing. So all things being equal, Diddy is probably right because Sting has made gazillions on that song in both versions.
Ladies and gentlemen, remember what Prince tried to tell you – own your copyrights and your masters.
Class dismissed. See how Twitter’s reacting to Sting’s payday below.
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