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Springsteen sells music catalog for reported $500 million

Published Dec 17, 2021 4:20 pm

Sony Music said Thursday it has bought the rights to Bruce Springsteen's music catalog, reportedly for half a billion dollars, making him the latest superstar singer to join a frenzy of such sales fueled by the pandemic.

According to The New York Times and US entertainment outlet Billboard, the sale consists of Springsteen's music catalog as well as his entire body of work as a songwriter such as iconic hit "Born in the USA," which has sold nearly 30 million copies.

The Times cited sources briefed on the deal. Sony confirmed the sale in a statement but did not say how much the agreement was for.

"During the last 50 years, the men and women of Sony Music have treated me with the greatest respect as an artist and as a person," Springsteen said in Sony's statement. "I'm thrilled that my legacy will continue to be cared for by the Company and people I know and trust."

Nicknamed "The Boss" and "America's dad," Springsteen, 72, has been with Sony's Columbia Records for his entire 50-year career, selling more than 150 million records.

Admired at home and around the world, the New Jersey-born musical folk storyteller has won 20 Grammy awards.

He recently launched a conversational podcast and accompanying book with former US president Barack Obama, titled "Renegades: Born in the USA."

Skyrocketing prices

The Covid-19 pandemic has left the performance industry reeling, but music publishing -- a normally under-the-radar side of the business—is a booming business. 

The royalty streams of songwriting copyright portfolios can prove lucrative for the long haul and are  increasingly enticing investors, even as other industries tank under the weight of the pandemic.

In October, 81-year-old Tina Turner sold her music rights to German group BMG for an undisclosed amount.

The 2016 Nobel laureate for literature Bob Dylan, 80, sold his entire catalog to Universal Music a year ago, for an estimated $300 million.

Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks reportedly received $100 million for her majority stake in the group's catalog, while Canadian-American singer Neil Young, the punk band Blondie and Shakira also signed deals for unspecified amounts.

Industry experts say catalog prices started rising before 2020 but skyrocketed during the pandemic when artists found themselves deprived of tours and concerts.

The company leading much of the business is Hipgnosis Songs Fund, a British investment and management company launched on the London Stock Exchange in July 2018.

Other major players include Primary Wave, which struck the Nicks deal, Tempo Investments, Round Hill and Reservoir.

Music blogger and analyst Alan Cross defended Springsteen against charges of "selling out."

"Bruce is just getting an advance on his earnings, money that would have come in after his death," Cross wrote.

"By selling to Sony, he knows that they will keep his music alive for decades to come. They kinda have to because they need to make their money back."

David Crosby, singer-songwriter and founding member of both the Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash, told AFP earlier this year he was selling his own catalog because Covid had halted live performances.

"The main reason is simply that we've all been sort of forcibly retired, and can't do anything about it," he said.

Many musicians also say that streaming services benefit only major artists while paying older, cult and up-and-coming musicians extremely little.