By Nathaniel Hobbs, Editor-In-Chief
Bruce Springsteen is the latest artist rumored to be shopping his musical catalogs, with both his publishing rights and recorded music potentially for sale.
It was common in the 1980s and 1990s for superstar artists to be granted ownership rights in earlier albums as an incentive to re-sign with labels that helped elevate them to superstar status. Artists who benefited from these deals include Garth Brooks, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, and Michael Jackson. Now, as streaming drives music consumption numbers higher than ever, major labels are paying large amounts of money to get the rights to those legacy acts back.
The latest purchase in the works is Sony’s negotiation to acquire Springsteen’s catalog. Though details of the negotiations have been kept under wraps, Billboard has estimated that the master recording catalog could value between $145 and $190 million.
Sources have also hinted Springsteen is shopping his publishing catalog, the underlying musical compositions that comprise the recorded works. Combined value of both the publishing and recording rights could be upwards of $350 million. According to the RIAA website, the Springsteen catalog has earned 65.5 million sales in the United States, including 15-times platinum Born in the U.S.A.But his music is not just a vestige of the past. Since 2018, the Springsteen catalog has sold the equivalent of 2.25 million albums in the United States.
Now seems to be one of the best times in history for artists who own their copyrights to capitalize on their works. In the past few years, music assets have generated the highest multiples in history, with catalogs selling for 25 to 30 times the net publishing share, or 15 to 20 times the net label share.
UMG purchased Bob Dylan’s catalog for $300 million. Hipgnosis spent roughly $1.37 billion between March 2019 and September 2020 purchasing several catalogs. Stevie Nicks and Imagine Dragons sold their catalogs for $100 million each, Neil Young’s catalog sold for $150 million, and Taylor Swift’s catalog was purchased for $300 million.
Although no deal has officially been struck, it will be interesting to see how the latest in a long line of catalog sales will be valued, and which other acts may be inspired by such large numbers to sell their rights as well.
In what is possibly the largest deal ever linked to a single artist’s catalog, it was announced December 16, 2021, that Bruce Springsteen sold his catalog of recorded music and publishing rights to Sony for $500 million.
The deal was struck between Springsteen, Sony Music, and Sony Music Publishing. Sony is the parent company of Columbia Records, where Springsteen has released all his records. Prior to this sale, Springsteen’s publishing catalog was controlled by Universal Music Group. Sony now controls Springsteen’s impressive catalog of over 300 songs, 20 studio albums, 23 live LPs, 7 EPs, and more.
Number of on-demand music streams in the United States from 2013 to 2019, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/384687/on-demand-music-streams-number-usa/ (May 10, 2021).
Ed Christman, Bruce Springsteen In Talks to Sell Recorded Music Catalog to Sony Music, Billboard, https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/9654308/bruce-springsteen-talks-sony-music-sell-recorded-music-catalog/ (Nov. 2, 2021).
Gold & Platinum, RIAA, https://www.riaa.com/gold-platinum/?tab_active=default-award&se=Bruce+Springsteen#search_section (last visited Nov. 21, 2021).
Geoff Mayfield, The Ins-and-Outs of Music Catalog Sales and the Behind-the-Scenes Players Advising Songwriters Who Cash Out, Variety, https://variety.com/2021/music/features/music-catalog-publishing-sales-advisor-1234946214/?sub_action=logged_in (Apr. 8, 2021).
Amy Lamare, The Biggest Music Catalog Sales of the Last Year, Celebrity Net Worth, https://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/the-biggest-music-catalog-sales-of-the-last-year/ (Mar. 23, 2021).
Bobby Olivier, Bruce Springsteen Sells Publishing Catalog in Massive $500 Million Deal, NJ https://www.nj.com/entertainment/2021/12/bruce-springsteen-sells-publishing-catalog-in-massive-500-million-deal.html (Dec. 16, 2021).
Nina Corcoran, Bruce Springsteen Sells His Masters, Publishing Catalog to Sony for $500 Million, Pitchfork, https://pitchfork.com/news/bruce-springsteen-sells-his-masters-publishing-catalog-to-sony-for-500-million/ (Dec. 15, 2021).