Hitmaker eliminates middle man as owner of her own songs

Songwriter Diane Warren, one of this year’s three Crystal Award honorees, hasn’t been heard from much lately, at least in terms of the bigscreen power ballads she’s famous for (“How Do I Live,” “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”). But she’s far from retired.

She’s still working six days a week, maintaining a strong presence on the record charts. And she’ll be back in the movies this year with two songs in Sylvester Stallone’s comeback drama “Rocky Balboa.”

“I’ve always worked mainly on the record side,” says the Grammy winner and six-time Oscar nominee. “The film stuff has been gravy, but the last couple of years for songs in movies in general has been kind of dismal. It gets worse every year. There was a time when there were hits, you knew them, and they resonated within the movie and outside the movie.”

The refreshingly candid (and often politically incorrect) Warren admits: “I don’t really love the movie side.” She recalled a recent situation — declining to identify the film — where her song was scrutinized by “a committee of, like, 20 people, the studio, the head of production, the producer, the director, 10 other people, the gardener … Everybody had a different opinion. It was such a nightmare.”

But she had talked about a “Rocky” musical years ago with Stallone, and while that didn’t materialize, he called her about songs for “Rocky Balboa.” She’s written two, including one to be sung by young Brit pop sensation Natasha Bedingfield.

In the meantime, Warren presses ahead on the record front, with three tracks on Carrie Underwood’s recent smash “Some Hearts” album (3 million sold and counting); two songs on JoJo’s new album; and new tunes for Broadway star Idina Menzel, “American Idol” alumna Fantasia, Jessica Simpson, Keyshia Cole, Enrique Iglesias and others. When Daily Variety spoke with her in May, she had just returned from five days of recording in Barbados with Joss Stone.

Businesswise, things could hardly be better. Unlike virtually every other songwriter in Hollywood, Warren owns or co-owns everything she writes, allowing her to collect royalties as both writer and publisher. (All the studios have publishing companies that normally own the songs.)

Her Realsongs publishing company — the most successful female-owned and operated company in the music biz — is worth an estimated $200 million, and its catalog of more than 1,600 songs includes nearly 100 top 10 hits. (No wonder she could afford to buy David Geffen’s old house in the Hollywood Hills.)

Warren is heartened by the success of Fox’s “American Idol,” which she has appeared on and written for. “When you’re getting 45 million people to vote, they’re tuning in to hear singers sing. The artists breaking through are singers of songs. It doesn’t have to be one chord with a beat and someone showing their ass in a video. Not everybody wants that.”

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