For the past couple of years, companies with names like Hipgnosis, Primary Wave, and Concord (plus the publishing arms of record labels) have been buying up the song catalogues of successful artists. (I’ve been keeping track.) The artist gets a ton of future royalties up front and then it’s up to the company to make those songs generate maximum profit for the next 50-100 years.
The biggest winners so far have been Bruce Springsteen (US$550 million) and Bob Dylan (at least US$450 million). There are, however some big fish left to land. One of the biggest is Queen.
While the band had its hits in North America, the group was far bigger for far longer in other parts of the world, especially in the UK and Europe. How much might their catalogue fetch on the open market?
We might soon find out. According to Music Business Worldwide, negotiations are underway for someone to acquire Queen’s catalogue of music publishing for a reported price of–wait for it–US$1 billion. In fact, multiple sources say that the final price could be higher.
Sorting out who owns what is taking time. Queen is the property of Disney in North America. Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and the Freddie Mercury estate have equal shares in a company called Queen Productions Ltd. for the rest of the world. Then there’s Queen Music Ltd., which is administered by the publishing arm of Sony.
To come out with an evaluation, you have to determine the annual revenues generated by all songs through all these channels and then assign a multiple to that number. MBW has tried to do that.
Whoever wins will have to work hard to make that investment back. Bottom line? We’ll be hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody” a lot more over the next century.