HOLLYWOOD—The late David Bowie, is joining the list of artists that are selling their publishing rights. The entire body of work was sold to Warner Chappell Music, including hundreds of songs such as Space Oddity, Changes and Let’s Dance. WCM now has global music publishing rights to his song catalogue, the singer’s estate, announced. Variety suggested the deal was worth upwards of $250 million, but the terms of the agreement were not given.
David Bowie died of cancer back in 2016. He was hailed as an extraordinary artist and genius in a huge global outpouring of tributes from fellow music stars, including Sir Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Brian Eno and Madonna among others. The agreement with WCM includes the 26 studio albums released during Bowie’s lifetime and the posthumous studio album release, Toy, plus the two studios from Tin Machine-the rock supergroup fronted by Bowie. According to published reports, tracks released as singles from soundtracks and other projects are also included.
Given the ups and downs of the music industry over the last two decades, the appeal of a big cheque is perhaps, unsurprising-especially for “heritage” acts. Streaming may not quite have replaced the billions lost by the decline of the CD, but it is, for many established artist, proving to be a regular, and largely recession-proof, income stream; and for record labels and a number of new firms who have entered the market, this is, they think, a lucrative asset.
The music industry is becoming more and more complicated, with licensing deals over streaming adverts, films, video games and online video to negotiate, the artist-or their estates and families-have a large and hassle-free deposit in the bank, and the complicated job of turning music into money is left to the experts. With Spotify adding 60,000 songs to its catalogue every day, the chance of a new act making a splash seems tougher than ever-legacy artists with 50 years of fame and proven sales look like a relatively safe bet.
Bowie released a total of 111 singles, averaging two per year during his career, and 51 music videos. This deal follows huge names, including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon, recently selling the rights to their music catalogues. The co-chairman and chief executive, said Bowie’s was “one of the most ground-breaking, influential, and enduring catalogues in music history,” adding he had inspired millions of fans and countless innovators, not only in music, but also in the arts, fashion, and media.
He described Bowie as a “vison and creative genius.” Warner Music has licensed worldwide rights to Bowie’s recorded music catalogue from 1968. Warner Chappell Music is the global music publishing company of Warner Music Group. Back in 1997, Bowie sold asset-backed securities, dubbed “Bowie bonds,” which awarded investors a share in his future royalties for 10 years.
The securities, which were bought by the insurance company Prudential Financial for a whopping $55 million, committed him to repay his new creditors out of future income, and gave a fixed annual return of 7.9 percent. He struck a deal with record label EMI which allowed him to package up and sell bonds on royalties for 25 albums released between 1969 and 1990- which included classics such as “The Man Who Sold The World,”
Ziggy Stardust” and “Heroes,” according to published reports.
However, in 2004, rating agency Moody’s investors Services downgraded Bowie bonds to only one level above “junk” the lowest rating, after a downturn in the music industry. Bowie predicted the decline in traditional music sales. Back in 2002, that music would become “like running water or electricity,” he said.
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