How Much Are Loretta Lynn’s Royalties Worth?
Loretta Lynn, who died Tuesday at 90, has long been one of country music’s queens, with 16 No. 1s and 51 top 10s on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart throughout her six-decade long career. All told, the singer and songwriter’s catalog — best known now for “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” and “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” — generates about $1.62 million annually, according to a Billboard estimate.
Lynn’s recordings — which are largely owned by Universal Music Group through deals she struck with Decca and MCA, before leaving to work with a variety of labels in the 1990s and onward — generated about $1.18 million in revenue last year, based on Billboard’s estimates. Those recordings bring in about $440,000 in publishing revenue.
Among her catalog, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “You Ain’t Women Enough” and “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” — all from the first 12 years of Lynn’s career — account for more than half of her music consumption in the U.S., according to Luminate, based on 2021 song-equivalent activity that quantifies combined sales and streams. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is the favorite with 93,000 song units, followed by “You Ain’t Women Enough” with 61,000 song units and “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” with 40,000 units. Combined, the three songs totaled 205,000 song equivalent units, or 55% of her catalog’s total of 375,000 song equivalent units in 2021.
Globally, though her music is consumed less than in the U.S., her consumption is more spread out. The three songs comprise about 30% of her activity abroad — where song-equivalent units are not calculated — breaking down to 29.8% of her 32,000 catalog’s track downloads and 31.7% of her total 88.6 million global on-demand streams.
While Lynn recorded some 570 songs over her storied career, she did not write all of them, or even the vast majority. Among those top three songs, she is the sole songwriter on “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” She split credits with Peggy Sue Williams on “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” as she did with many other writers over her career, including greats Conway Twitty and Glen Campbell. And others, like favorites “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” and “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” were written entirely by others. As such, Billboard estimates her writing share of her recordings at about 20%, with most of her writing happening from the start of her career in the 1960’s through 1973 when she was published by Sure Fire Music. While that started out as a typical 50/50 split, nowadays, Lynn gets 60% of publishing revenue and the publisher gets the remaining 40%, according to the BMI song database.
Starting in 1974, Lynn started running her own publishing companies for her music, sources say, but her songwriting slowed down. Of the 15 albums she released from 1974 to 1989, she only wrote a song or two on four of those albums, according to various discographies. After 1990, however, she became an active songwriter again, especially on the last five studio albums of her career, where Billboard estimates she had about a 53% songwriter share. For example, on 2004’s Grammy-winning Van Lear Rose, produced by Jack White, Lynn was sole writer on 11 of the tracks and co-writer on the remaining two.
If we look at her career prior to 1974, when she was still in a traditional publishing deal, Billboard estimates her revenue would total about $144,000. For the years later in her career when she owned her publishing, Billboard estimates her publishing comes to $196,000. That gives her a publishing total take of about $341,000 for 2021.
While Lynn’s most popular tunes account for 55% of song equivalent activity in the U.S., those top three songs — “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough” and “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” — were responsible for generating about 27% of her total global publishing revenue, Billboard estimates. That adds up to $120,000 of a $440,000 total, with her share of that coming to $65,000 — or 19% of her $341,000 share of the catalog’s total publishing revenue.
Also, these totals don’t include publishing revenue from Lynn’s covers, which were plentiful. And her publishing earnings likely also included fees for administering songs she co-wrote and possibly some of the publishing for other other songs on her albums that she didn’t have a hand in writing. For example, the title track for Lynn’s Back to the Country album, written solely by Tracey Lee, is published by Lynn’s Coal Miner’s Music publishing company, according to the BMI song database. That means, through business savvy and her lasting influence as a songwriter, her total earnings are even higher.