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5 min read

How Much do Artists Earn from Their Christmas Hits?

Tis the season to be merry. This is certainly true for pop stars whose festive anthems dominate the charts each year, earning them up to £1 million in royalties. This sounded like a pretty sweet deal to us. So, we did some investigating to find out which smash hits make the most cash.

A woman singing festive songs at Christmas time.

It’s not easy to find this information as the Performing Rights Society (PRS) keeps it confidential to protect the privacy of the artists. However, in an article by Lucy Waterflow for the Daily Mail in 2016 she noted that according to Channel 5’s A million Pound Christmas, sales of the best-selling Christmas songs generated the following in royalties:

£1 million: Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade

Stealing the top spot is Noddy Holder and Jim Lea’s Christmas classic, ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’. Bringing home £500,000 for each of them on a yearly basis, this certainly will make them merry at Christmas time. Holder was even quoted in a BBC article saying ‘It’s definitely a pension plan, yes. It was never designed to be that way, but it has taken on a life of its own, definitely’. So, you heard it here first. Bring out a catchy Christmas jingle and you’ll never need to work again.

£400,000: All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey

This upbeat pop anthem was released in 1994 and was the first song ever to be a number 1 hit in 4 separate decades, so it’s no surprise that it earns a handsome £400k in royalties each year.

£300,000: Last Christmas by Wham!

This festive heartbreak anthem first hit the charts in 1984 and has returned annually ever since. The song originated one Sunday when George Michael and Andrew Ridgely were visiting Michael's parents. Ridgely recalled to The Mail On Sunday in 2017:

We'd had a bite to eat and were sitting together relaxing with the television on in the background when, almost unnoticed, George disappeared upstairs for an hour or so. When he came back down, such was his excitement, it was as if he had discovered gold which, in a sense, he had.

It is also noted that the following Christmas classics were also among the top earners in 2015:

£400,000: Fairy-tale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

This iconic Christmas belter started life as a bet between Pogues’ producer Elvis Costello bet Shane MacGowan and Jem Finer that they couldn’t write a Christmas hit that wasn’t slushy. It tells the tale of broken dreams and bitterly cold recriminations and has become a festive favourite since 1987.

The track was re-released in 2005 where the proceeds were donated towards homeless charities and Justice for Kirsty campaign that aimed to find out the truth behind MacColls’ mysterious death in a powerboat accident in 2000. It has since been in the top 20 every single year!

£328,000: White Christmas by Bing Crosby

White Christmas is a festive playlist staple. However, it wasn’t always this way. Although it has always been a hit record in the US, it only became a number 1 single in England in 1977 when Crosby passed away.

£260,000 Wonderful Christmas Time by Paul McCartney

This merry single was actually written on a boiling hot day in July, according to Paul McCartney who recorded the song entirely solo, contributing the vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, drums and percussion to the track! So, at least he earned his annual £260,000!

Further reading