LOS ANGELES -- Warner/Chappell Music Inc. announced Wednesday it has signed pop star Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin to the biggest music publishing deal in history, with a cash advance of $39 million.
The deal covers 12 years and gives Warner/Chappell, the music publishing division of Time Warner Inc., the right to administer all of the British songwriting team's post-1974 material, plus songs from John's next four studio albums.
Some of the team's hits during their long-standing careers include 'Philadelphia Freedom,' 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart,' 'Candle in the Wind,' 'I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues,' 'The Bitch Is Back,' 'Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me,' 'Sad Song,' 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' and 'I'm Still Standing.'
The deal gives Warner/Chappell, which took in about $400 million in earnings last year, the right to administer the John-Taupin catalogue, which will give the company an estimated 15 percent to 20 percent of royalties.
The writers retain ownership and the remaining royalty payments, but the $39 million advance payment means that over the next 12 years the publishing company will deduct the John-Taupin portion of the royalties until the advance is paid off.
Les Bider, chief executive officer of Warner/Chappell, said the deal was signed because of John's ability to produce popular hit songs on a consistent basis. 'He is multi-dimensional and reaches the world's audience -- we are extremely pleased that he is part of the Warner/Chappell family,' Bider said.
Bider compared the worldwide appeal of the John-Taupin songs to those written by the songwriting teams of George and Ira Gershwin and Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein.
'I don't think we'll see another deal like this, because the base of Elton John's song audience is so large,' Bider said, noting that he expects seven times as much revenue from the deal to come from overseas than from the United States.
Besides records and tapes, the royalties include payments for use of the songs on radio, television, movies and commercials.
John is the only artist to have at least one release in the Billboard magazine Top 30 for 23 uninterrupted years. His latest album, 'The One, ' is his 33rd and hit the top 20, marking his biggest success in years.
Bider said the contract has been in negotiation for about six months.
John records for MCA Records and reportedly plans to switch to PolyGram after his current deal expires.
The advance to John and Taupin is more than twice the previous highest advance, an estimated $19 million paid to Prince in September by Warner/Chappell for publishing rights.
Published reports have estimated that rock group U2 received $20 million this year from PolyGram for the right to administer its catalogue plus material from several upcoming albums and that Warner/Chappell paid Madonna $10 million in April for the right to administer her catalogue plus songs from five upcoming albums.
Prior to the deal, John was earning between $5 million and $10 million annually from publishing.
The deal does not cover John and Taupin's pre-1974 catalogue, which includes 'Candle in the Wind,' 'Daniel,' 'Your Song' and 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.' Those songs are owned and administered by PolyGram Music Publishing, which purchased the copyrights from Dick James in 1990.