'We Are the World' Reaps First Royalties - $6.5 Million
May. 17, 1985
NEW YORK (AP) _ A $6.5 million royalty check from the ''We Are the World'' hit record will send the rock music collaborative's first planeload of food, clothing, and medicines to famine-stricken Africa next month.
With a wide smile, USA for Africa President Ken Kragen said, ''I'd be happy to take that'' as a Columbia Records executive handed him the check at a news conference Thursday in Manhattan.
''This is only the first in a number of checks to follow,'' said Al Teller, senior vice president of the CBS subsidiary.
USA for Africa plans to charter a 747 cargo plane, Kragen said, which will carry 240,000 pounds of goods, including high-protein biscuits, vitamins, intravenous solutions and rehydration salts, tents and blankets to Africa.
The plane will also carry a large shipment of T-shirts for the needy, part of a campaign sponsored by the MTV rock video television network and Catholic Relief Services.
A dozen USA for Africa representatives will escort the first planeload on June 10, Kragen said for a two-week fact-finding mission which will include several medical experts to survey the specific needs of the African nations, Kragen said.
Among those expected to make the trip to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Sudan are Kragen, Harry Belafonte, Marlon Jackson of the Jacksons and possibly Kenny Rogers.
Rather than dip into charity funds, the group is asking for donations to cover the cost of jet fuel, hotel and living expenses for the party.
The nearly 4-month-old ''We Are the World'' drive has grown from the original recording concept to include sales of USA for Africa T-shirts, buttons, posters, and stickers. It has taken in $10.8 million so far.
''We have $11 million right now,'' Kragen said. ''We could go out and spend it all in one shot. Maybe we'd save some lives in the short term but it would be like putting a Band-Aid over a serious wound.''
The $10.8 million is the amount of cash in the bank but, said Kragen, ''What you see now is only the tip of the iceberg.''
Although the bulk of that money comes from record sales, the public has directly contributed nearly $1.3 million, Kragen said.
USA for Africa officials estimate they have sold between $45 million and $47 million worth of merchandise worldwide. The bulk of the profit is expected to start rolling in sometime in the next four to six months.
The song ''We Are the World,'' written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and recorded by 45 artists including Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper and Diana Ross, has sold more than 7.3 million singles.
An album with the single and additional songs by Springsteen, Tina Turner and Huey Lewis and the News, among others, has sold 4.4 million copies.
Although experts estimate it will take at least 10 to 20 years to make a dent in the problems facing Africa, Kragen said USA for Africa is committed to helping find a long-term solution.
''We're in this for the long haul and we're not going to spend this money needlessly and foolishly,'' he said.