Sting dicked over the Police and claimed sole rights to "Every Breath You Take," which Puffy sampled without permission, leading to a bizarre funnel of royalties straight to Sting's damp pockets. Dangerous Minds | Sting, Puff Daddy, Andy Summers, and the case of the misplaced bajillion dollars
The website Celebrity Net Worth has an article about the royalty situation on The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” that is absolutely, utterly fascinating. Because of the vagaries of music authorship rules, every penny of royalties that is generated by both “Every Breath You Take” and “I’ll Be Missing You” goes into the bank account of one Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, a.k.a. Sting. Not Puff Daddy—or P. Diddy either. Not Andy Summers, who is the only member of the Police whose musicianship can be heard on “I’ll Be Missing You” directly. Not Stewart Copeland, who also had a hand in writing the song. All the money goes to Sting—and that money amounts to roughly two thousand dollars a day—seventeen years after the Puff Daddy song was released and thirty-one years after The Police song was released. According to Celebrity Net Worth, more than a quarter of all the money Sting has ever earned comes from “Every Breath You Take”/“I’ll Be Missing You.” The number’s a little more eye-popping when presented in annual form: It comes to $730,000 a year, each and every year for the foreseeable future. The short version of why this came about is that Puff Daddy forgot to ask Sting for permission to use “Every Breath You Take” before the fact. If he had done so, he would have ended up paying Sting a mere 25% of the royalties. But Puff Daddy didn’t ask, which allowed Sting to take legal action, and that resulted in Sting receiving 100% of the royalties generated by “I’ll Be Missing You.” The other part of this is that Sting is listed as the sole songwriter on “Every Breath You Take”—not The Police, not Sting/Summers, just Sting alone. So he receives 100% of the songwriting royalties generated by “Every Breath You Take,” which in this case happens to include all the royalties to “I’ll Be Missing You” as well. Famously, the members of The Police couldn’t really stand each other a high proportion of the time, and the recording of 1983’s Synchronicity, The Police’s last album and the album on which “Every Breath You Take” appears, was every bit as acrimonious as the sessions for the Beatles’ Let It Be. Everyone agrees that Andy Summers wrote the undying guitar riff featured on “Every Breath You Take.” But Sting was savvier, and Sting secured sole songwriting credit. Understandably, Summers is more than a little annoyed about all of this; he’d like to see some of that $2,000 a day flowing into his bank account! Summers has called the song “the major rip-off of all time,” adding, “He actually sampled my guitar… that’s what he based his whole track on. Stewart’s not on it. Sting’s not on it. I’d be walking round Tower Records, and the fucking thing would be playing over and over. It was very bizarre while it lasted.” . . .