Depending on your level of familiarity with how publishing rights work in the recording industry, it may surprise you (or not) to learn that despite the resurgence of interest in Linda Ronstadt‘s 1970 hit “Long, Long Time,” the retired singer won’t make any money from the licensing that prompted it.
According to Billboard, streams of the song on Spotify jumped nearly 5,000% after the third episode of HBO’s sci-fi thriller The Last Of Us aired. The episode prominently featured the song, with two different characters singing it during a pivotal moment and two other characters listening to it as the episode ends. Meanwhile, on-demand streaming across all services increased from 8,000 the day before the episode to 149,000 the day after.
So, why won’t Ronstadt get paid for all that?
Well, per the details of her original Capitol Records contract, she never owned the master rights for the song, which was her first Billboard hit (it peaked at No. 25). Meanwhile, the song’s writer, Gary White, will still see his share coming in, for which Ronstadt expressed gratitude: “I still love the song and I’m very glad that Gary will get a windfall,” she said.
Besides, even if she had owned them, in 2021, she joined the slew of legacy artists who sold their master recording ownership rights, meaning Iconic Artist Group. The trend of artists selling their catalogs has swept the industry, consolidating much of music ownership with a handful of investment groups — for better or worse.
Ronstadt doesn’t feel like she missed out, though. According to her manager, the surge of interest will help her upcoming work, such as a planned biopic with James Keach, and her books, the most recent of which was released late last year.