This is an incredibly rare chance to earn royalties from of one of the most iconic television shows of all time. Sesame Street has reached millions of children all over the world ever since its debut on PBS in 1969. There’s a new auction that includes songwriting and publishing royalties from some of the show’s most recognizable songs.
The songwriter is the late Tony Geiss. He was a long-time staff writer and songwriter for Sesame Street, and was responsible for co-creating some of the show’s most popular segments. His estate is the seller of this asset, who will donate the proceeds of the sale to charity, as specified in Tony and his wife Phyllis’s will.
The highest earning songs in this catalog are “Elmo’s Song” and its spin-off “Elmo’s World.” “Elmo’s World” is the theme to the massively popular character’s recurring segment on Sesame Street episodes. “Elmo’s World” appeared in every episode of Sesame Street from 1998 to 2009. In 2015, HBO purchased the rights to Sesame Street. The cable network airs new seasons and past episodes are available to stream online. Prior episodes continue to air on PBS in syndication and are available to stream online as well.
Another top earner for the music catalog is the the theme for “Abby’s Flying Fairy School,” another popular Sesame Street segment that ran from 2009 to 2012. Although the two songs no longer regularly appear in new episodes of Sesame Street, they still continue to earn public performance royalties thanks to the show’s continued syndication. In fact, in 2016, “Elmo’s World” made more than $25,000 and “Abby’s Flying Fairy School” made more than $10,000.
But this catalog earns more than just public performance royalties. It also earns mechanical royalties for streams and downloads of the music, as well as synchronization royalties each time the songs are used in a new Sesame Street spin-off, such as a home video release or movie. And the synchronization royalties can be significant. In 2016, sync royalties totaled $14,437. Also, this catalog earns compulsory royalties when new online streaming services license the songs for use on their platform.
In addition to music royalties, this auction also includes screenwriting residuals for Sesame Street and two classic animated films. Film and TV residuals are a bit different from music royalties, but in general they are paid for the “reuse” of movies and TV shows. A “reuse” can be a syndicated airing on TV, a DVD release, or a stream on the internet. Screenwriting residuals are handled by the Writer’s Guild of America. You can learn more about them here.
Tony Geiss’s Sesame Street screenwriting credits begin in 1978 and run through 2007. His other major credits are from two Steven Spielberg-produced animated classics: An American Tail (1986) and The Land Before Time (1988). Those credits still earn residuals and profit participation shares today, 30 years after the films’ release. (Profit participation earnings are a percentage cut of the film’s profits from theater, TV, and video releases.) For example, in 2016, profit participation earnings from The Land Before Time were $6,384.
In 2016, the total income for all sources including music public performance, mechanical, sync, and compulsory royalties, plus TV and film residuals and profit participation earnings, earned a total of $108,500.