- There's this beat that's just over and over again.
(Nate vocalizing) (Julia vocalizing) (drum beat syncs) That bending (vocalizing) (synth music plays) Sounds funny when I sing it.
("Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush) ♪ And if I only could ♪ ♪ I'd make a deal with God ♪ ♪ And I'd get him to swap our places ♪ - [TV] Kate Bush's 1985 song "Running Up That Hill" has taken over TikTok and music charts.
- To use a technical term, Kate Bush has been crushing it.
Kate Bush, because she started her own record label, maintained ownership of her recordings throughout.
- A 63-year-old British woman topping the US charts and streaming like mad.
- [Male Narrator] 44 years into her career, "Running Up That Hill" has earned Kate Bush a million dollars in royalties over the last month.
- [TV] So why is (cool synth music) it significant that Kate Bush owned her music, and what does that teach us about the history of music royalties?
- [TV Voice] Let's get a Historian's Take on "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush.
- There's a very clear reason why this 1985 song is suddenly hugely popular, and it all has to do with the Netflix series, "Stranger Things."
(intense string music) ♪ If I only could ♪ ♪ I'd make a deal with God ♪ "Running Up That Hill" is kind of special in the world of the show, because it has such an integral part of the show's plot.
If you listen to your favorite song, then you can be protected from these evil monsters and "Running Up That Hill" is the character Max's favorite song.
("Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush) Max!
Max, wake up.
- It not only acts as a music cue, it acts as this important plot device, and I think that's why anyone who watched the show, immediately went out and streamed the song afterwards.
And then from there, it spread to people who had never seen the show, and all of a sudden, "Running Up That Hill" is one of the most popular songs in the world.
- [Man] The streaming data that illustrates just how much larger the pop was for this song than other songs that went viral.
- [TV] Before we get into what this song's success tells us about music royalties, what exactly makes "Running Up That Hill" so iconic?
- I remember when it first came out in 1985 thinking, "oh my gosh, Kate Bush has broken new ground here," because it was a complete mixture of this really propulsive dance, rhythm, and percussion, and then her swooping up and down the octaves with her wonderful melodies and vivid lyrics.
("Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush) ♪ Let's exchange the experience ♪ - The combination of the instruments that Kate Bush is using, a lot of them are cutting edge instruments from the 1980s, like the Fairlight CMI.
That's what gives you that iconic melody that starts this song.
(Julia vocalizing) - It's like... (piano playing) (piano playing) But you have a pitch that's sort of (vocalizes) whenever you have this like gliding, there becomes like a delay a little bit in like the attack.
The chorus gets offset and the chords hit at a different place in the melody.
There's different ones, so the one here is "if," on the first one I mean, is (singing) if I only could, I'd make a deal, (speaking) and deal is one, (singing) a deal with God.
(speaking) And on the third chorus, (singing) if I only could, (speaking) one, (singing) I'd make a deal with God, (speaking) one, (singing) and I'd get him to swap (speaking) one (singing) our places.
The general feeling we end up having is that something has changed, but it's subliminal.
- "Running Up That Hill" is a song about gender fluidity, it's very now.
- [Kate Bush] And that if a man could become a woman, and a woman, a man within their relationship, that perhaps they'd understand a bit more about each other.
- [Interviewer] And that's the deal with God?
- And that really fits in (synth music) with the whole theme of "Stranger Things," the show, and that sense of collapsing different worlds and collapsing boundaries between people, between genders, and there's a sense of the uncanny.
You know, Kate Bush is great at that sense of uncanny.
- [TV] So much success has Kate Bush seen from the virality of this song?
- We can't say with certainty how much money is going into Kate Bush's pocketbook as a result of this resurgence of "Running Up That Hill," but it's definitely in the area of millions of dollars, and that's just from the streaming royalties.
- Which is highly unusual for artists who usually don't earn much from streaming at all.
- She is in a somewhat unique position of being the sole owner of the master recordings of this song and all the songs from the album "Hounds of Love" from 1985.
This is a relatively rare thing in the music industry where usually artists only own a portion or sometimes none of their master recordings.
It's their record label that actually owns them, and the artist either forgoes or splits the royalties with their record label.
- So when Kate Bush first emerged in the 1970s, female artists were very few and far between.
Record companies didn't really take them seriously.
They didn't think that they had longevity as artists, so they tended to treat them as novelty.
As she said, you know, you've got to be prepared and you've got to be willing to fight.
And she knew that right from the start.
She was unusual in the amount of autonomy that she had and the amount of creative power that she had.
- [Kate Bush] Record companies, when I make an album, I think about the music.
With me, I think they've left me alone and let me do what I want, which is fantastic.
- Now, certain artists over time have pushed back against that status quo.
And one of the most notable examples is Prince who had a very public battle in the 1990s with his record label Warner Brothers.
- [Prince] Ever since my third album, I wasn't really taking large advances from the recording companies.
I was recording the albums myself in my own studio.
So the way I looked at it, I owned the work, because I paid for it and I did all the work, I created it, so I felt like it should belong to me.
- Prince even said if you don't own your masters, your master owns you.
So this is a real historic injustice as perceived by artists in the music industry.
- Obviously this story with Kate Bush's song is a really good story, but I think that in general, there are a lot of problems with the way that the money is distributed with streaming.
- Prior to the streaming economy, an artists stood to profit much more from the sale of, say, a single CD, because the CD was a relatively expensive item, and artists were getting a percentage of that.
This was actually a way to sustain a viable career.
Musicians, I think infamously, are paid very little by Spotify, literally fractions of pennies per stream.
- Their average rate per stream is 0.003.
What we're demanding is a cent per stream.
- Right now there's a few notable campaigns to to change these kind of contracts.
One example would be UMAW, the musician's union, that's organizing for change at Spotify, through their #JusticeAtSpotify campaign.
So there are artists who are pushing back and trying to create new precedents against the historic inequities that exist within the record business.
- A lot of artists have to really fight for owning their own masters.
Not many get that, because most record companies won't really give that concession.
It's only very established artists who are quite powerful like say Drake or Adele or Taylor Swift who can hold out for that.
- I think it's always good that there are discussions about this especially with Kate Bush owning her masters, because obviously anything like this as a role model will encourage change.
It was probably the best news I had heard in like a really long time.
The fact that that many people are enjoying her music, not because it's surprising to me, but because it really proves something to me that I have always believed, maybe being an overly optimistic and or naive person, which is that people want creative music.
(lo-fi music) - [TV] Thanks for watching "Historian's Take."
Make sure to like, subscribe, and comment.
See you next time!