Paul Mc­cart­ney


Forbes - - CON­TENTS -

In the mid-1980s, Michael Jack­son and I were hang­ing out, and he asked me for ca­reer ad­vice. I said, “Okay, three things: First of all, get your­self a re­ally good man­ager. You’re re­ally hot now, there’s go­ing to be a lot of money com­ing in, and you re­ally need some­one to help you man­age it. Sec­ond, think about get­ting into videos.” (Shortly af­ter that, he did “Thriller,” so I thought that was cool, he took my ad­vice.) Then I said, “And fi­nally, be care­ful about your songs—own your work—and get into song pub­lish­ing.” And he said, “Oh, I’m go­ing to get yours!” I kind of laughed; I didn’t think he was se­ri­ous. But he was.

It all goes back to the very be­gin­ning of the Bea­tles, when we signed the mu­sic pub­lish­ing con­tract. We didn’t care what it was: We were just like any other writ­ers; we wanted to get pub­lished. It turned out to be ba­si­cally a slave con­tract; no mat­ter how suc­cess­ful we made the com­pany, we didn’t get a raise. Af­ter John died, I talked to Sir Lew Grade, who owned North­ern Songs, the com­pany that held our pub­lish­ing rights. I said, “Lew, if you’re ever go­ing to sell North­ern Songs, you’ve got to come to me first.” He said, “I’m never go­ing to sell.” And I said, “Fair enough. But if you do, come to me first.” He later came to me and said, “Yeah, I am sell­ing it—for $20 mil­lion.” I said, “Okay, I think that’s a fair val­u­a­tion.”

But I didn’t want to be the guy who bought John out. So I went to John’s peo­ple, and I said, “We’ve got this op­por­tu­nity to buy North­ern Songs, fi­nally. It’s $20 mil­lion. And so that’s $10 mil­lion from me, $10 mil­lion from you. And we should do this, what do you think?” The re­sponse: “Oh, no, we can get it for $4 mil­lion.” I said, “I’m not sure about that.” It ended up fall­ing through, and Michael later ended up buy­ing it off this Aus­tralian guy Robert Holmes à Court for $47.5 mil­lion. I wasn’t will­ing to pay that much for my own songs. It’s dif­fi­cult, when you’ve writ­ten them for noth­ing, to pay $50 mil­lion to get them back.

It’s so im­por­tant to have good peo­ple around you. That’s why I’m any­where near this list. My lawyers, John and Lee East­man, are re­ally smart, both great guys, and I lis­ten to them. In re­cent years, they’ve helped me re­cover my copy­rights. (There’s a U.S. law that al­lows me to get them back.) If I’m wheel­ing and deal­ing, life be­comes very dif­fi­cult for me. I’ve got to re­serve a por­tion of my brain for writ­ing songs.

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