Career mistake that cost Cher at least $150,000: ‘I was so stupid’

Cher has sold over 100 million records and won a trove of awards, including a Grammy, an Emmy and an Oscar, across her six-decade career. 

But there’s one mistake the 77-year-old singer made earlier in her career that still haunts her — and cost her “a lot of money,” she shared in a new interview.

Speaking with Vernon Kay on BBC Radio 2’s “Tracks of My Years,” Cher said she didn’t ask for a songwriting credit on “Believe,” her Grammy Award-winning dance anthem, despite penning one of the song’s most memorable lyrics.

Recalling the recording sessions for the hit single, which turned 25 this year, Cher told Kay that she re-wrote one of the lyrics to make the second verse less “whiny” and more empowering.

“I wrote, ‘I’ve had time to think it through, and maybe I’m too good for you,'” she said. “This is what I was thinking: ‘A chick can be upset for one verse, but not for two. Not on one of my songs.'”

While that line made it to the final recorded version of “Believe,” Cher’s name doesn’t appear in the songwriting credits. “I was so stupid … I didn’t ask,” she said. “I could’ve gotten a lot of money.” 

“Believe,” which was released in 1998, is one of Cher’s best-selling records to date. It reached No. 1 in 21 different countries and sold 11 million copies, the Recording Academy reports. 

The exact cost of Cher’s potential misstep is difficult to assess, as the methods and rates for songwriting royalties have changed significantly since the ’90s, says Rick Carnes, president of the Songwriters Guild of America. 

Given that “Believe” has sold millions of copies and remains popular on both radio and streaming platforms, Carnes says, Cher could have earned, at a minimum, $150,000 — but that number could easily be “much, much higher,” he adds.

The song is officially credited to Brian Higgins, Stuart McLennan, Paul Barry, Steven Torch, Matthew Gray and Timothy Powell. According to Cher, however, “about 30 people wrote on it.” 

Warner Records, the label that released “Believe,” did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.

How repeating Cher’s mistake can cost you ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ at work

It can feel uncomfortable to advocate for yourself in the workplace, but Cher’s experience shows that flying under the radar can be far worse.

Constant self-doubt can lead to procrastination, perfectionism and burnout, Dr. Adia Gooden, a clinical psychologist who works with high-achieving professional women, recently wrote for CNBC Make It.

“Ultimately, not getting those raises and promotions can end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your career,” she added.

Julie Bauke, chief career happiness officer with The Bauke Group, a career advisory firm, agrees. 

“If I was advising Cher, I would’ve said, ‘Get very clear and specific about what, exactly, your contributions are to the project,'” she tells CNBC Make It. “Then get it in writing, either in an email to your boss updating them on the project or a post-meeting memo.” 

Bauke also recommends using strong action verbs like “led” or “implemented” over weaker, passive words like “help” or “assisted” when describing your contributions.

Ultimately, “you can’t trust that other people always have your best interest at heart,” she says, “But having undeniable proof can help you own your accomplishments.”

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