An Appreciation of Bowie Bonds

Not only was Bowie a pioneer in music, fashion, stage productions, film and more, he was also an innovator in high finance. Here’s the true story of the Bowie Bonds courtesy of the Berklee School of Music Business Journal.

David Bowie is a legend in more ways than one. In the 1970s his onstage alter egos could have been shunned; instead, they shattered conventions and then they were embraced. It was Bowie’s persona, his sense of fashion, and, above all, his music, that over time elevated pop culture by making it more inclusive and, ultimately, more compassionate. Lady Gaga knew. Interestingly, and with the help of Wall Street, Bowie found his own solution to the financial woes that eventually caught up with him by the turn of the century.

An expensive lifestyle in New York had earlier led him to migrate to Berlin in the 1980s, but cash was needed in quantity now and Berlin was no longer an option. The flotation of the Bowie Bonds, which he underwrote with his recording and publishing royalties, would later spearhead other artists to follow suit. Fundamentally, the Bowie Bonds validated the idea that an artist’s worth can be measured in future income streams of intellectual property –– for which there is an apparent cash value here today: in Bowie’s case, and given the terms of the transaction he undertook with Wall Street, that amounted to $55 million, which he duly pocketed in 1997.

Bowie revolutionized the way top artists would since think about procuring funds to develop new projects or leverage their way out of a financial strait. He broke away from the music industry mold by seeking financial autonomy outside it and succeeded.This was before the World Wide Web, well before music went digital, and long before crowdfunding was seen as a possibility for milestone funding,

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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