The Secret Is Out: How Much Artists Make on a Hit Like “Blurred Lines”

$16.6 million.  That is the profit that the hit song “Blurred Lines” has generated since its release.  While the profitability of a song is highly guarded secret in the industry, Robin Thicke was forced to reveal the number during the copyright infringement trial.  Of the total profit, he and Pharrell Williams each took over $5 million.

The copyright infringement dispute arose when the family of deceased “Got to Give It Up” singer Marvin Gaye sued Thicke over allegedly ripping off Gaye’s song.  Arguing that Thicke’s hit and “Got to Give It Up” are so similar, the Gayes introduced an expert witness Nancie Stern, a specialist in rights clearance, who testified that the songs were substantially similar in melody, keyboards, and bass lines.  Further the expert stated that

“[i]f you [license] before you release, you can negotiate.  After the fact, it becomes an infringement and you lose your negotiating power. There are many different variables that go into how that will turn out.”

In addition to the song’s profit, Gaye’s family is also seeking a cut from touring money which amounted to about $11 million, according to Creative Artists Agency.  However, to reach into that pocket, the Gayes would probably have to show a causal link between the infringement and the earnings from touring.

At the beginning of the trial in his opening statement, Richard Busch, the attorney for the family, expressed that the alleged damages would be close to $40 million.

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