Talk About It: ‘Funkytown’ Composer Battles Music Biz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Twin Cities composer of a highly popular song is in a legal battle that is being watched by top recording artists nationwide.

Steve Greenberg is the composer of Funkytown, which was a smash hit in 1980.

The song continues to get radio play and is featured in commercials and movies like “Shrek.”

In 1978, Congress passed a law which says after 35 years the record company has to give up its share of all royalties and sales and the artist gets 100 percent.

Greenberg’s is the first significant challenge under the 1978 law.

Just yesterday Greenberg, of St. Louis Park, got another request for the use of “Funkytown.”

“Every day something comes up,” he said. “Just yesterday I got an offer for an ad for General Motors Mexico.”

Right now, Greenberg and the record company Universal Music split the profits of any commercial deal fifty-fifty. On sales or downloads of the song, Greenberg currently gets a much smaller chunk — just 12 percent.

Greenberg and his attorney have filed papers with the U.S. copyright office demanding that in 2015, the profits go back to him.

His lawyer says artists around the country are watching.

“We are being contacted by lawyers, artists,” said Ken Abdo. “They want to engage what we call the battle for ‘Funkytown.'”

For Greenberg, the battle is just the next step in the saga of a hit that continues to deliver.

“I am known as a one-hit wonder,” Greenberg said. “I have written lots of songs but I will take this one-hit wonder any day.”

We contacted Universal Music, the record company that gets royalties from “Funkytown,” but they did not respond to our inquiries.

More from Esme Murphy
  • LO

    awwww let’s have a pity party..awwwwwww…. another greedy person. 50-50 and 12% is never enough. Need ,more. Try living off my wages of $676.00 a month and see how you will complain then. My rent alone is $500.00 a month.

    • brittany

      you sounds like a pity party your self. Why critize others when you are doing the same thing?

      • LO

        The guys couch is worth more than what I make in a year. What are you, his daughter?

    • Phid

      Merely because someone is better off than you are and wants payment does not make that person “greedy”. It means that he sold a product (the song) and that product was/is in high demand. If you want to have wages higher than $676/month, you can provide a product or service that is more in demand.

  • LO

    You must of not read the story phidface. He already makes money..but that still isn’t enough. He has to have more to fulfill his greed. GET IT? Good. He’s got his own musical studio, web design business…money coming in from all directions yet he still can’t be satisfied. All he has to do is look up videos of poverty in Asia and maybe it will open up his eyes. I can’t provide a product or service because I don’t have the capital. Duh. I didn’t have a rich daddy.

    • SO SAD

      So…..the record company should be able to continue making a profit out of what someone else did? Because, as we all know, big corporations are such giving people. NOT!

    • Magel Baker

      You’d be doing the exact same thing if you were in his shoes. He’s working for his money, so what if it happens to be more than you. Sounds like someone else is a bit greedy.

      • LO

        No, magpie…I wouldn’t be doing the same thing. That’s the difference between him and I. And no, I don’t want the money for me. I’m concerned for the welfare of those starving and those who really need the money. He’s whining because the greed is gnawing on his bones for more, while their are people on the streets without a house and no food. I give away $50.00 dollars a month to people in Asia with the little that I have. Their is a family I’m trying to help who only eats 1 meal a day, 2 if they are lucky because they have nothing. And this man is bit*ching cause he can’t have more money than he already has??? He needs to live on the streets for a year and maybe he will sing a different tune. Then he can write a different funkytown song about how lucky he really is.

        • Magel Baker

          I’m sorry, but it is not his fault that others have less. It’s called over population…look into it. You give to those in Asia supposedly, what about those RIGHT HERE!! Yeah, that shows what your true colors really are. Rich people don’t have to give up their money just because they are rich. Why do you assume he doesn’t give far more than $50 a month to any charity? Most likely he donates a whole lot more and to more charities. It’s time to think before you type and cut the entitlement junk.

  • Nick

    It seems to me you are not really putting yourself in his shoes LO. You both make money for your labors, but if there were some law in place that entitles you to more money for your labor than what you are making, would you not take it? Sounds to me like you would rather let it keep going to the big prestigious company which has already taken its fair share. Not to any charity.

  • BS

    @ LO
    So you make $676 a month, pay $500 in rent, give $50 away to people in Asia? That leaves you $126/month for car insurance, bills, gas, food, and other expenses? I call bs. If you worked full time it would mean you make about $5/ hour so either you work like 15 hours a week or your full of chit. This guy created this song and is entitled to money made off it so why doesnt he deserve it? You must be an OW bum. Makes sense

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