English singer-songwriter Sam Smith has been paying rock icon Tom Petty songwriting royalties since October of 2014, following a copyright dispute over his hit single Stay With Me. The beef apparently broke out after listeners noted that Stay With Me and the 1989 Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers hit, Won’t Back Down, were basically the same song.
UK tabloid The Sun this weekend reported Smith and Petty “quietly and amicably” settled the matter out of court, with the younger artist agreeing to bankroll Petty and his co-composer, Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne, a 12.5 per cent songwriting split for his three-time Grammy-nominated track.
The song’s credit on the US version of APRA (ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) currently has Smith, Petty, Lynne, and Jimmy Napes listed as the track’s chief songwriters. Smith’s reps have since confirmed to Rolling Stone that Petty and Lynne received co-credits.
Despite publicly acknowledging the similarities between the chorus melodies of the two songs, Smith’s people have attributed them to “complete coincidence”. “Not previously familiar with the 1989 Petty/Lynne song, the writers of Stay With Me listened to I Won’t Back Down and acknowledged the similarity,” they said.
Someone else, described as “a source close to the case”, has since elaborated to NME, “It wasn’t a deliberate thing, musicians are just inspired by other artists and Sam and his team were quick to hold up their hand when it was officially flagged.”
However, despite scoring their fair share of writing credits for Stay With Me, which has sold more than 4 million copies worldwide, it appears Petty and Lynne will not be eligible for a Grammy gong if Smith takes out any of the categories the track has been nominated in.
“Since Lynne and Petty did not do any new writing for this work, we are considering their original work to have been interpolated by Napier, Phillips and Smith for Stay With Me,” Senior VP of Awards, Bill Freimuth, told the Wall Street Journal. “Lynne and Petty will not be considered nominees nor will they be considered Grammy recipients, should the song win. Rather, they would be given certificates to honor their participation in the work, just as any other writers of sampled or interpolated work.”
To check out the similarities between Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ Won’t Back Down, check out the streams below. Or, to catch Sam Smith performing his version of the song live in concert, scope out his 2015 Australian tour dates, here.