Moola for music? Lily’s learned that if you don’t schmooze, you lose

As La Allen’s comeback shows, launching a new bottled water is more lucrative than having a hit song

Lily Allen: these days it’s all about showing up at  product launches

Lily Allen: these days it’s all about showing up at product launches


With a No 1 single in Ireland and the UK and strong showing in all the European charts, Lily Allen did very well with her comeback single last December, a cover of Keane’s anaemic Somewhere Only We Know. But just how well exactly, Lily? “I only made about £8,000 from that song” Allen has said.

She’s under-estimating a bit, but the truth is that a No 1 song no longer amounts to much more than a quick spin around Top Shop and a few drinks afterwards, once the taxman and other interested parties have taken their cut. Somewhere Only We Know spent three weeks at the top of the Irish and UK charts, sold 400,000 copies in the UK alone and had 17 million views on YouTube, which tells you everything you need to know about the glam world of today’s pop/rock star.

Over at the BBC, they lookedat the figures behind the song. There is still money to be made from a pop music hit. For example, one play on BBC Radio will earn £76.20 (and typically a hit song is played about 30 times a week), thogh most of that goes to the writers.

As for all those YouTube hits, the label (not the performer or the writers) gets about €1.50 for every 1,000 views – but only if an advert screens before the video. With Spotify you’re looking at about €0.0050 cent per play.

Lily Allen has been absent from the music scene for the past five years. Hence her shock at only making beer money from a No 1 hit. But she quickly deciphered where the dosh is at these days: “If I’m asked to sing Somewhere Only We Know for some rich kid in Russia’s birthday party, I’ll make money out of it.” Other than private appearances for billionaires, there’s money to be made for just turning up at a product launch: “We all turn up at these launches because we get paid to be there,” she says. “You can make anything from £2,500 to £100,000. Now that people don’t buy music, we have to find other revenues.”

So, if there’s more money available for just posing for the paps at the launch of a new “premium” bottled water, why bother with a comeback single? Doing the John Lewis ad (in which Allen didn’t do anything as vulgar as actually appear in the video) and using an already proven chart hit allowed her to parachute back into the music world, with the No 1 taking the place of a traditional promo budget.

It sketched out a trajectory for Allen’s comeback album – last month’s Sheezus – and the buzz around the John Lewis campaign meant she didn’t have to sit on the BBC Breakfast news couch explaining who she was to people again.

It also put her name in the headlines at the same time festival bookers were getting their line-ups ready. Between now and the end of the year Allen will all be over Europe (including Glastonbury), the US, Canada and Australia.

In fact, covering Somewhere Only We Know for a Christmas ad was hugely profitable in the medium to long term for La Allen. And that’s why pop and rock stars – and even sanctimonious indie types – are jumping through any promotional hoops The Man throws at them. Love: Apple/Beats means the death of the download. Not before time. Hate: The Ordinary Boys reform. Don’t remember anyone asking.

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