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The Noël Coward Music Index

APPENDIX 3   (The Relative Popularity of Coward's Works)

Introduction
For the basis of much of the information in this section we are indebted to officers and staff of Warner/Chappell Music (the controlling publishers) and the Performing Right Society (controlling licensers for broadcasting, live and recorded performances), who facilitated access to their records and shared much useful information about their licensing operations.
           
The basis for the information on Coward's own works was the statements of royalties paid four times a year over a four-year period 1993-1997 from The Performing Right Society (PRS) to the Coward Estate.  These PRS "distributions" cover payments of royalties for broadcasts, recorded and live public performances of all kinds except stage performances, and film soundtrack uses of musical works.  As Coward was a member of PRS, they also cover both the UK market and all such performances overseas, where each country has a similar royalty collection society, all of which collect royalties on each others' behalf and which are then forwarded to the composer's "home" Society.  The PRS statements deal in some detail with the precise origin and type of performance giving rise to each royalty payment, and the vast majority of such payments are clearly attatched to a particular title.   

It was therefore comparatively easy to arrive at a straightforward rank order of the "worth" of the Coward titles worldwide.  We then "tested" a ranked list of titles on various friends with varying levels of knowledge of the Coward repertoire, and sorted the list into broad categories defined both by the works' earnings and their fame (or lack of it).   There was sufficient demarkation between the totals of amounts earned by the "Top 28" titles for them to emerge into a  precise rank order, but for the most part this was not attempted even had it been feasible.  We have used the music business's term "Standard" to denote those songs leading the list, which have both become generally popular and which have consistently achieved good commercial returns over a period of time.

We also wanted to 'place' Coward among his contemporaries (e.g. Porter, Gershwin, Berlin, Kern, Novello, etc.) in terms of the relative levels at which their work is being performed, broadcast and recorded today.  Unfortunately, due to the complex web of the world of royalties and rights it has not been possible to form any serious judgement in this regard.  Most of the composers in question belong to overseas royalty-collection agencies, and many also share royalty payments with lyric-writing partners, facts which very much complicate the issue.  Moreover, most rights are enjoyed by Estates and/or publishers who are not willing to divulge information about royalty payments, and the co-operation of the Coward Estate with this project stopped short of approving any attempt to make a comparison of the general use and popularity of Coward's music in relation to his "competitor" composers.  While a reasonable "guesstimate" might be made along such lines from information gleaned from unofficial and unattributable sources in the music business, it would be so apocryphal and based on incomplete information as to be practically worthless.  It may, however, be worth noting that Warner/Chappell Music reckon the Coward catalogue to be among their top half-dozen or so U.K. "standard" properties.

The popularity analysis of Coward compositions is at best no more than a partial and limited snapshot.  Many titles on such an analysis will, with the passing of the years, drop in and out of the lowest categories, since an occasional single featured broadcast performance can generate relatively generous royalties, particularly if the programme is networked.  An entry in the lowest category of all may denote only a single performance during the four-year period, or at best only a few modest-earning performances. The higher up the list you go, however, the more reliable it becomes.

The Grass is Greener and The Astonished Heart, and the ballet music London Morning  come quite high purely in terms of royalty-earnings, as the music used  tends to be of rather longer duration than the average song, and the rates of royalties paid for TV broadcasts or film performances of such works are relatively generous.    It does not however  mean that the music is at all well known, and this level of royalties is actually consistent with only a few performances annually worldwide.  The score forThe Grass is Greener combined a newly-written theme with other background music using existing NC songs.

It may be considered slightly surprising that the two “music-hall dude” numbers from Red Peppers (‘Men About Town’ and ‘Has Anybody Seen Our Ship?’) and the apparently not-much-performed song ‘There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner’ appear in the second-highest category.  This may also be due to an occasional anomaly, such as a featured TV performance or performances somewhere in the record during the analysis period.

*The situation regarding 'Mad About the Boy' is that in terms of earnings before 1991 it sat fairly comfortably in the 'broadly-known and very regularly performed' category.   Licensing of its use in advertising film soundtracks began during 1991, and sudden pre-eminence was achieved during 1992 when it was exposed worldwide in the soundtrack to a Levis Jeans advertisement.  Due to the success of that advertising campaign, not only did other (particularly but not exclusively) European advertisements use it, but it has continued ever since to generate respectable amounts of royalties on the mechanical rights from all subsequent re-recordings of Dinah Washington's cover version.  More exposure of the song in this context has also boosted the level of live and broadcast performances.  At the time of compiling the original information for this index the song is earning at least four times as much as the next highest number on the list.  The song recently (summer 2004) featured as the subject for the lead programme in the ‘Soul Music’ series on BBC Radio 4, which may be said to reflect its current status as an iconic song.

*The key for abbreviations of Show Titles (in capital letters in brackets after the title) is given in the Notes and Explanations.  Non-show songs are shown with their dates of composition.
           
Everything not mentioned below did not appear on returns during the analysis period

RARELY PERFORMED:
           
Beatnick Love Affair (SA)
Bright Young People (C31R)
City (C31R)
Clear Bright Morning (ATB)
Come Be My /This Time It's True Love (TG)
Curt, Clear and Concise (TG)
Don't Take Our Charlie for the Army (TG)
The Dream is Over (1933)
Evening in Summer (AoC)
Family Album/Hearts and Flowers (TaET)
Fumfumbolo (P1860)
Green Carnation (BS)
Half-Caste Woman (C31R)
Here and Now (TG)
His Excellency Regrets (P1860)
I Wish I Wasn't Such a Big Girl (P1860)
I'll Remember Her (TG)
Irish Song (Cab)
Josephine (AoC)
The Last Dance (BS)
Long Live the King (TG)
Lover of My Dreams (Mirabelle Waltz) (CAV)
Mary Make-Believe (TYOG)
Melanie's Aria (O)
Mr Hopper's Chanty (P1860)
My Horse Has Cast a Shoe (P1860)
My Kind of Man (AoC)
Never Again (STM)
Ninety Minutes is a Long Long Time (TWM)
Nothing Can Last for Ever (AoC)
The Passenger's Always Right (SA)
Saturday Night at the Rose and Crown (TG)
Something Very Strange (SA)
Specially for You (C24R)
Spinning Song (Cab)
Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay (BS)
Teach Me to Dance Like Grandma (TYOG)
There Have Been Songs in England (1941?)
There's Always Something Fishy About the French (CP)
Time and Again (GR)
Together With Music (TWM)
Useful Phrases (SA)
Waiting in the Wings (WW)
We Must All be Very Kind to Auntie Jessie (1938)
What Love Means to Girls Like Me (LC)
When Foreign Princes Come to Visit Us (TG)
When You Want Me (SA)
Where Shall I Find Him? (SA)
The Wife of an Acrobat (WAM)


SPORADIC PERFORMANCES
Bonne Nuit, Merci (BS)
Bronxville Darby and Joan (SA)
The Call of Life (BS)
The Coconut Girl (amalgamated titles) (TG)
Don't Make Fun of the Fair (LR)
Girls of the C.I.V. (CAV)
The Girl Who Came to Supper (amalgamated titles) (TG)
How Do You Do, Middle Age (TG)
Imagine the Duchess's Feelings (1940?)
London at Night (ATB)
London is a Little Bit of Allright (TG)
May I Have the Pleasure? (ATB)
Nevermore (CP)
Something to Do With Spring (WAM)
This is a Changing World (P1860)
Three Juvenile Delinquents (AoC)
Three Whire Feathers (WAM)
We Were Dancing (TaET)
What's Going to Happen to the Tots? (TWM)
Why is it the Woman Who Pays? (ATB)
Would You Like to Stick a Pin in My Balloon? (AoC)


IRREGULAR PERFORMANCES, but always cropping up in the repertoire

Come the Wild, Wild Weather (WW)
Forbidden Fruit (1916)
I Travel Alone (1934)
If You Could Only Come With Me (BS)
Kiss Me (BS)
Ladies of the Town (BS)
Louisa (Cab)
One, Two, Three (P1860)
Sigh No More (SNM/AoC)
That is the End of the News (SNM)
Then (TaET)
Try to Learn to Love (TYOG)
Wait a Bit, Joe (SNM)
What is Love? (BS)
Where Are the Songs We Sung? (O)
The Younger Generation (WAM)


REGULARLY PERFORMED, but not necessarily well-known
Alice is At It Again (P1860/Cab)
Any Little Fish (C31R)
Chase Me, Charlie (AoC)
Could You Please Oblige Us With a Bren Gun? (1941)
I Like America (AoC)
I Wonder What Happened To Him? (SNM)
I'm Mad About You (TYOG)
Let's Say Goodbye (WAM)
Matelot (SNM)
Most of Every Day (1934)
Play, Orchestra, Play (TaET)
Tokay (BS)
Why Do the Wrong People Travel? (SA)
World Weary (TYOG)
You Were There (TaET)


VERY REGULARLY PERFORMED, and broadly-known
(listed in ascending order of popularity)
The Party's Over Now (WAM)
Dearest Love (O)
(The Astonished Heart filmscore)*
(London Morning ballet music)*
Dear Little Café (BS)
Parisian Pierrot (LC)
Men About Town (TaET)
Twentieth Century Blues (CAV)
Uncle Harry (P1860)
Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans (1943)
There Are Bad Times Just Aroud the Corner (GR)
Dance, Little Lady (TYOG)
Has Anybody Seen Our Ship (TaET)
I Went to a Marvellous Party (STM)
Nina (SNM)
A Bar On the Piccola Marina (Cab)
Why Must the Show Go On? (TWM)
Sail Away (AoC/SA)                                                            
Zigeuner (BS)
Bitter Sweet (Amalgamated Titles; probably consisting mostly of numbers represented also in their own right in this and the previous/following sections)

* titles - see note in Introduction


STANDARDS
(in ascending order of popularity)

The Stately Homes of England (O)
Poor Little Rich Girl (OWTD)
Mrs Worthington (1934)
A Room With a View (TYOG)
London Pride (1941)
I'll Follow My Secret Heart (CP)
Someday I'll Find You (PL)
If Love Were All (BS)
(The Grass is Greener filmscore) *
Mad Dogs and Englishmen (WAM)
I'll See You Again (BS)
Mad About the Boy (WAM)*

*titles: See note in introduction

 

 

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