Longtime WWE music composer Jim Johnston said his time with the company ended with a single short phone call with WWE chairman Vince McMahon.
Appearing on the Prime Time with Sean Mooney podcast, in what marked Johnston's first interview since leaving WWE in late 2017, Johnston shared the details of what led to the end of his tenure in the company, which lasted 32 years.
Johnston said he "had a brief conversation with Vince and it was over. All I'll say is that I think there were a lot of ways to end it and the way that it ended was, I think there were better ways to end it where everyone could have walked away with a much better feeling. And after 32 years, it just seems like a lost opportunity to me. I don't really understand it but, hey, it was an extraordinary run. I think the reality is that I've got a lot of other music I'm dying to write. I'm gonna go off and write that now and see what happens and go off and see who I can write for."
Johnston composed and performed hundreds of different entrance themes -- including those for Steve Austin, Undertaker, The Rock, McMahon, The Shield, Dean Ambrose and so many others -- during his three-plus decades with WWE, part of a prolific body of work he compiled since joining the company in 1985. Near the beginning of the interview, Johnston said that he had been told that, according to the catalog registry at DMI, Johnston had 10,000 titles listed, counting music for wrestler themes, promos, and other incidental music used on WWE programming.
Johnston told Mooney he has 50/50 ownership of all the music he composed during his time in WWE, although, as the publisher, WWE had the ultimate say over rights. Johnston also gets what he described as "mechanical royalties" on any direct sales on any of his music -- such as iTunes purchases -- but his cut was just 3.5 cents on the dollar. WWE, as the publisher, gets 70 cents.
Johnston noted that things started to change for him in WWE "three to four years ago", citing company politics.
"I tend to trust people until unfortunately I've been shown that I shouldn't be trusting. There were people that I really thought were friends that turned out not to be friends," Johnston said.