THE number of music stars selling the rights to their back catalogues is rising in what has become a big - and ultra lucrative - business and it seems the pandemic is playing a part in the surge.


Who has sold their rights lately?

It emerged earlier this week that, following months of negotiations, BMG music firm has acquired the entire recorded-music catalogue of American heavy metal band, Mötley Crüe, with the deal covering their entire output over a 40-year stretch, including hits such as Girls, Girls, Girls and Kickstart My Heart.


How much was the sale for?

Sources told America's Variety magazine the deal was valued at around $150 million, although the exact sum is not known. The band - currently on tour in the US - have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide so far.


They join a growing number?

It’s becoming something of a trend, with the number of musicians selling their back catalogues soaring this year and last, including Fleetwood Mac’s drummer and co-founder, Mick Fleetwood. In January, BMG announced they had acquired Fleetwood’s royalty interest in more than 300 recordings including all of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits including Dreams, Go Your Own Way and Landslide. The cost of the deal was undisclosed but would be for multi-millions.


Who else?

Also in January, music investment and song management firm, Hipgnosis, announced it had acquired 100 per cent of Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham's publishing rights and had also acquired a 50% share of his yet unreleased work. The deal came after the band's Stevie Nicks sold 80% of her rights last year for around $80 million to a similar organisation.


Any other big names?

Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, the musical partnership behind Blondie's biggest hits, sold their future royalties to a fast-growing investment fund last year, meaning the income from 197 Blondie songs - including classic tracks Heart of Glass and Rapture - now goes to the Hipgnosis.


Is it only for living artists?

Far from it. For example, David Bowie’s estate is said to be finalising the sale of his songwriting back catalogue which has attracted bids of around $200 million. Luther Vandross's estate sold his back catalogue for a reported $40 million.


What’s in it for the stars?

Money, of course, but also, in some cases, more airtime. In the autumn, Bing Crosby’s family sold an equal stake in the rights to his estate to Primary Wave Music, in a deal worth more than $50 million. The firm said its main aim was to increase Crosby’s digital footprint on Spotify with his music added to playlists.


So songs are essentially being invested in?

Hipgnosis was founded by Merck Mercuriadis, a former manager for artists such as Iron Maiden and Sir Elton John, who believes songs are “as investible as gold or oil”, allowing investors to see an income from song and album royalties. 


The most surprising sale…?

That was probably last December when Universal Music Group acquired Bob Dylan's entire back catalogue, covering 600 of the veteran US musician's works, from his iconic anthem, Blowin' In The Wind, to The Times They Are A-Changin. The deal was said to have been for around $600 million and took fans by surprise as Dylan had held on to his rights for decades.



With the way we listen to music having altered so drastically amid the rise of streaming, the way singers and bands make money from their work has changed. And with touring cancelled during the pandemic, it’s likely stars now - more than ever - see the benefit in selling to investors.