Royalties Mariah Carey Earns from Her Christmas Song | Decoded

Posted by Nadia C. Vanderhall in InfluencersDecember 13, 2021(Last Updated November 24, 2022)4 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Mariah Carey has earned over $60 million in royalties from the song “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Along with earning money in streaming, merchandise, specials, and more. 
  • She earns 20% royalties from all of her albums, one of the highest percentages that most artists make in the music industry. 
  • Most musicians are starting to move into NFTs and cryptocurrency to build audience and wealth beyond the label.
Are you ready to make some real money moves?

Mariah Carey knows how to grow the bag! An icon in the music industry, Carey knows how to make her net-worth soar. From her brand endorsements and partnerships to topping the charts, Carey is known for her high-pitched octaves and successfully maneuvering income streams. 


Another thing Carey knows how to do is snatch royalties! Carey has been on fire since her 1990 debut, with more than 200 million albums sold. So if there is one song that will for sure be added to your holiday playlist, it will most likely be a Marah Carey Christmas jingle. 


Carey is popularly known for increasing her net worth throughout the years, especially during the holiday season. Here are a few ways she continues to build wealth through royalty payments as a musician.


The Gift That Keeps On Giving


The legendary song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” makes the jump-off for the holidays, but it’s truly Carey’s season! If you hear that song playing in the mall or a store, you know the holidays have just arrived. 


Image Credit: Everett Collection Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

Mariah Carey on location for Mariah Carey Tapes Performance for Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting 

Ceremony, Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY December 3, 2013.


However, for Carey, this song rings the bells of her bank account. Did you know that the hot Christmas jingle, “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” was written in only 15 minutes alongside Walter Afanasieff?


Who knew those 15 minutes would make Carey and Afanasieff $60 million in royalties between 1994 and 2016? According to The Economist, Carey and Afanasief are currently averaging $2.6 million per year. 


Although royalties are a huge hit when it comes to Carey’s bank account, this isn’t the only way she is getting paid. She earns money through streaming her Christmas music, television specials, performances, merchandising, and more.


In 2019, the “All I Want For Christmas Is You” hit became the most-streamed Christmas song of all time - with more than 602 Million plays that year on Spotify. Carey banked more than $2 million in royalties when the song was added to Spotify’s catalog. Plus, the song has had more than 700 million views on YouTube since it was uploaded to the platform in 2009. So imagine what those numbers look like across multiple platforms? 


This doesn’t even include how much she brings in from her holiday-themed merchandise, concerts/specials, a book, an Amazon Special, and an animated film all connected to this infamous song.


Lessons In Leverage


One of the ways that artists go about obtaining their wealth is through royalties. However, one of the core things artists aim to do beyond obtaining their contracts is to own the masters to their music catalogs. 


Royalties within the music industry are like getting a piece of the (financial) pie when it comes to a song. The payouts can go to recording artists, songwriters, composers, publishers, and other copyright holders for the right to use the song’s intellectual property (IP). 


Carey belongs to the 1% of music artists who receive a higher percentage in royalties. She gets approximately 20% in royalties from her albums. For any artist in the industry, that alone is iconic! 


Another thing that artists strive for is owning the masters of their music. A masters or master recording is the official original recording of a song, sound, or performance. For artists, owning their masters gives them income now and later. 


This provides the owner of the master recording the legal rights to their music. With the master recording, the owner can license out the recording to third parties, like TV shows, films, commercials, or even for sampling use by other artists in songs. 


Several artists strive to obtain their masters for licensing opportunities. Masters can range from “Reproduce and make copies of the original work” (a digital download and physical formats) to “Distribute copyrighted work to the public” ( release the song through music distributor, digital download, or record label). Royalties allow you to get paid a percentage, while Masters allow for licensing. 


A New Dawn, A New Way 


Streaming is just one of the ways that music artists are starting to see as a pathway to gain wealth beyond the record. Many artists are expanding their wealth by jumping into the crypto and NFT industries.


Image Credit: Chris Bardgett / Alamy Stock Photo


For example, UnitedMasters and Coinbase teamed up to allow independent music artists to get paid in Cryptocurrency. Another example is Republic, a crowdfunding platform, which recently launched a new area of their platform that allows artists to offer up their songs for users of the platform to invest in music royalties. 


This is being done by NFTs (non-fungible tokens), making this an interesting move in the music industry. The insight around this was for artists to “have more control over their art” by directly funding their own productions while fans earn money by investing in the success of their favorite music artists.


While NFTs are growing in popularity, artists see them as a way to see gains and growing audiences. NFTs prices are often increased by the audience, the influence of the project, and potential resale. 


Let the Wealth Build


“All I Want For Christmas Is You” set the tone for how music artists can obtain wealth through many ways within the industry. Carey was innovative in maneuvering her pen, pitch, and pivot of this song to help curate a paper trail for her career to see green. From that hit and still today, she has effortlessly made that song timeless while optimizing its earning potential. 


Music artists have since looked to her and others for inspiration on how to handle their careers regarding wealth accumulation and money management. This ongoing masterclass just isn’t seasonal but can be applied throughout the year!



Main image | Editorial credit: Stephen R. Johnson / Alamy Stock Photo

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