Lorde in a scene from her music clip Royals.
Lorde in a scene from her music clip Royals.

Birthday girl Lorde's earnings estimated at $11m-plus

LORDE turns 18 today, and can legally take control of the finances of a burgeoning career that has seen her earn at least $11 million.

The Devonport-based singer emerged from obscurity last year to global superstardom, with her single Royals topping the American charts for nine straight weeks.

Despite being released last year, her accompanying album Pure Heroine remains a strong seller in the United States, being the third-most bought or downloaded album of 2014 behind only Taylor Swift's recent release 1989 and Disney's Frozen soundtrack.

A Herald model of Lorde's earnings, taking into account fees typical in management, recording and publishing contracts and using publicly available sales and streaming information, suggests she is one of the highest-paid individuals in New Zealand.

The bulk of earnings appears to come from the sale of 2.7 million copies of her album and a combined 17 million singles, including more than 10 million for Royals.

Several music industry figures reviewed the model and said, while acknowledging the specific details of Lorde's contract details were unknown, that the assumptions made were reasonable and the resulting numbers realistic.

Earnings of at least $11 million to date, with the prospect of significant and ongoing royalty payments from her songs being played on radio and used in films and commercials, are comparable with her winning Lotto's Powerball last year, and then guaranteeing a first division prize annually.

Entertainment lawyer Chris Hocquard said the Lotto comparison might, if anything, be underweight. "It's probably a bit better than that, to be honest," he said.

Lorde's success also appears to have made overnight millionaires of both her co-writer Joel Little, who is estimated to have earned $3 million from his share of songwriting royalties, and her manager, Scott Maclachlan, whose Saiko Management made $2.7 million.

Both Lorde and Little are understood to privately refer to hit song Royals as "Royalties".

Mr Maclachlan did not respond to repeated requests for comment from both himself and his client. Similarly, Little and his agent, Ashley Page, did not return calls.

Entertainment publicist Paul Ellis said Lorde's success drew direct comparisons to 1990s alternative music star Alanis Morissette.

"There's an artist that comes along out of nowhere once a generation, and she's done it: she's struck the jackpot," Mr Ellis said.

Victor O'Connor, the singer's father and director of her holding company Sackful of Squirrels, declined to comment on the $11 million earnings estimate, or whether his daughter would take over directing the company now she had turned 18.

The Herald model does not include earnings from touring - Lorde performed more than 80 times over the past year, including last weekend's capacity concert in her hometown Vector Arena - or potentially lucrative but commercially secret deals with film-makers and advertisers.

And the model shows that eye-popping levels of online traffic - her top five YouTube videos have been seen nearly 600 million times, and her two singles Royals and Team streamed more than 140 million times - have turned into nice little side-earners for the singer and her song-writing partner Little.

According to estimates provided by YouTube owner Google for popular song Gangham Style, they are likely to have earned a combined $560,000 from a share of advertising on the video site.