By Isabelle Speerin
If you’ve ever been to a wedding, fallen in love, or had your heart broken, there’s a very good chance you know the words to one of Diane Warren’s songs. Queen of the power ballad, her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was earned for a reason. She’s one of the most prolific and successful songwriters in modern history.
Warren’s list of achievements is long and varied. She’s penned nine number ones and thirty-two top ten hits on Billboard’s Hot 100. Her songs have touched audiences in over 100 movies. Her hits include well-known anthems like “If I Could Turn Back Time” (Cher), “Because You Loved Me” (Celine Dion), “Un-Break My Heart” (Toni Braxton), and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (Aerosmith). She’s written for Aretha Franklin, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Bieber, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Rod Stewart and Barbra Streisand, to name just a few.
In the late ‘80s, Warren became the first songwriter in the history of Billboard Magazine to have seven hits on the singles chart at the same time, all by different artists. And, this month, after thirteen nominations spanning five decades without a win, Warren will be the only songwriter to ever receive an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards in Los Angeles.
With all her songwriting accolades, what’s really interesting about Warren is that she straddles the roles of both gifted creator and music publisher. In the mid ‘80s she turned adversity into advantage by establishing her own music publishing company, Realsongs, as the result of a dispute with her first publisher.
Realsongs grew from a small enterprise in Warren’s one room office (“the Cave”) into a multi-million-dollar business with seven full-time staff. The company is now headquartered in a Hollywood high-rise that Diane purchased which is rich in music history.
According to Executive Vice President, Linda Gallico, Realsongs operates like any other music publisher but is exclusive to Warren’s songwriting catalogue of close to 1,900 songs. “She’s not interested in owning anyone else’s copyrights so that’s why we don’t sign other writers as a typical publisher would do,” Gallico states.
In early 2020, Warren signed a sub-publishing deal with BMG to administer her catalogue outside of the U.S. and Canada. A recording contract also came with the deal and last year she released her debut album, Diane Warren: The Cave Sessions Vol. 1, featuring artists such as Jon Batiste, Pentatonix, Carlos Santana w/G Eazy, Maren Morris, Rita Ora and more.
Senior Vice President, Bill Preciado, describes Realsongs as a true independent. “Outside CMRRA and ASCAP, it really is Linda and myself and we handle everything in the United States,” he explains. And according to Preciado, it’s never been busier. “I can tell you this, there is so much activity right now with her. I mean, it’s just every single day.”
Most of the time, it is Warren herself who pitches her songs to artists or motion pictures. “Diane is probably one of the best song pluggers out there,” Preciado reveals. “She won’t get the credit because they are her songs but if she was pitching other people’s songs she’d be one of the biggest song pluggers in history.”
Most recently, Warren collaborated with Dutch trance DJ and record producer Armin van Buuren for the song “Live on Love” featuring vocals from Swedish pop singer, My Marianne. And when “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” by British singer Paloma Faith went viral on TikTok earlier this year, Warren worked with Faith to re-release the song as a duet with Teddy Swims. The song has garnered 392 million streams.
The unexpected popularity of “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” on TikTok led Realsongs to form a unique partnership with SX Works for digital licensing and royalty collection support in the U.S. “We knew Veronica [Syrtash] had negotiated a deal for TikTok in Canada so we talked to her about expanding that arrangement to the U.S. via their SW Works Global Services division,” Preciado says. “We’re basically setting precedent.”
The SX Works partnership gives Realsongs access to best-in-class data and administration services for the U.S. by leveraging SoundExchange’s authoritative ISRC and sound recording data, CMRRA’s extensive musical works database, and the market-leading licensing and administration capabilities of SoundExchange and CMRRA. It’s the latest visionary move in a long-standing relationship between Realsongs and CMRRA that has led to palpable gains in collections for Realsongs from Canada.
“When I first started working for Diane, she wasn’t associated with CMRRA and I kept talking to her about it and we convinced her to do it,” says Gallico. “We needed CMRRA because I was doing the licensing for Canada and I knew we weren’t getting collections right.”
A key advantage of working for a self-published songwriter like Warren is that Gallico and Preciado are able to keep a watchful eye over Warren’s catalogue. “Bill and I catch mistakes all the time,” Gallico notes. “A songwriter signed to a major publisher is just not going to have that kind of one-on-one attention on a daily basis.” The pair has worked for Diane for over twenty years and are industry veterans in their own right, with a hopeful view of the role music publishers will play in the continually evolving landscape of the music industry. “Publishers will play a bigger role in the future,” Preciado predicts. “We’re probably going to be leading the industry like we did before records were around in the days of Tin Pan Alley.”
When asked which Diane Warren song Gallico would select as the soundtrack for the future, she chooses the Academy Award-nominated song “Stand up for Something,” released by Common and Andra Day in 2017. ““Stand up for Something” is a song everyone can relate to, it’s anthemic,” Gallico said. “As it can relate to the issues songwriters and publishers face within the industry but also on a much bigger worldwide scale. One line in the song that really resonates with me is: define the life your livin not by what you take but what you’re giving.’
To learn more about the recent partnership between SX Works and Realsongs, click here.