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British songwriter and producer Pete Waterman, now 62-years-old, could never have predicted that the Rick Astley hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" would become a phenomenon some 20 years after he co-wrote it, so it must have come as some surprise to see the song get 150 million plays in 2008 alone. He also couldn't have predicted that so much 'air play' could earn him so little money, yet that's exactly what has happened.
"There was I sitting at Christmas thinking, 'I must have made a few bob this year with the old Rickrolling'," Waterman said at a press conference to mark the launch of a website campaigning for a fairer deal for songwriters whose music is featured on YouTube. "I rang my publisher and they said 'You'll be all right,' until I saw the royalty statement. £11. If 154 million plays means £11, I get more from Radio Stoke playing Never Gonna Give You Up than I do from YouTube."
In U.S. currency, Waterman's royalty payment converts to just $16, which hardly seems fair given how much exposure the song has received. The PRS for Music organization doesn't think it's fair either and wants Google and YouTube to pay higher royalties to songwriters for use of their work online.
"We absolutely believe that artists and songwriters should make money from the use of their material," a YouTube spokesperson said. "We previously had a license with teh PRS to enable this to happen and we are very committed to reaching terms so that we can renew our license."
Looks like Waterman got screwed, but we found a way he may be able to collect on those royalties after all. If you're reading this Waterman, click this link.