There’s a new gold rush going on within the music industry. Companies are buying up the publishing rights to thousands of songs, knowing that this sort of intellectual property will be a reliable source of revenue for years to come. Billions have been spent on this sort of thing over the last year or so. And although artists who sell this intellectual property lose control over their art, they are very well compensated.
For example, Merck Mercuiadis is the Canadian-born head of Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited, a company that’s buying the IP of songs. It’s so big that it’s traded publicly on the London Stock Exchange. Hipignosis owns the rights to thousands of songs, including material by Justin Bieber, Beyonce, and Mariah Carey. It’s a simple asset-backed securities move.
Then there’s Concord Music Publishing. They just announced the purchase of the writer’s share and a co-publishing share of Imagine Dragons’ back catalogue. The purchase price? Just US$100 million.
Why so much for Imagine Dragons’ music? Concord believes that their music has a long shelf life, having sold 35 million singles in the US and 20 million albums worldwide. Oh, and four tracks have more than 1 billion songs on Spotify. Apparently, there was a bidding war, too.
Selling the rights to your songs for an upfront amount isn’t new. David Bowie was the first to do it with “Bowie Bonds” back in the 90s. A number of other artists have done the same thing. Meanwhile, Paul McCartney has been buying up song catalogues for decades. That’s a big part of why he’s worth as much as he is.