David Bowie’s estate is in talks to sell his songwriting catalogue and has attracted bids of around $200m, according to people familiar with the matter.
Talks are at an advanced stage and a deal could be announced in the coming weeks, these people said.
Bowie’s songbook is one of the most legendary catalogues to hit the market during what has become a music copyright gold rush. The deal would span decades of albums including Let’s Dance, Heroes and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
Music copyrights have soared in value as audio streaming has given old hits a new lease of life.
In the past year, musicians such as Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young and Paul Simon have sold their songwriting catalogues for nine-figure sums. Specialist funds, music labels and private equity groups have been avid buyers as they look to invest in old bodies of work that have boomed in value.
KKR and Blackstone have committed billions of dollars to buying music rights, viewing them as credit-like assets that provide a predictable yield in a low interest rate environment, while two of the largest record companies, Universal Music and Warner Music, have gone public at lofty valuations.
An iconic catalogue such as Bowie’s generates revenue for decades as the British artist’s songs continue to be streamed, played on the radio or used in films and advertisements.
Songs have two copyrights — one for the songwriting and one for the actual recording, or master copy. Bowie’s estate last month struck a long-term licensing deal with Warner Music for his recorded music catalogue.
Bowie died in 2016 and left his estate to his second wife Iman and two children. A representative for the estate declined to comment.
In 1997 Bowie considered selling his master recordings before deciding to instead work with the insurance company Prudential to issue “Bowie bonds” that used future royalties from his songs as collateral.
Rather than getting steady income from the revenues of his back catalogue, the bonds allowed Bowie to borrow more money up front.
The sale raised $55m, but soon after that the rise of Napster fuelled an illegal boom in file-sharing that decimated the industry.
Because of the hit from Napster, Bowie in 2002 predicted that his copyright would lose most of its value as music became a commodity like “running water or electricity”. The Bowie bonds liquidated in 2007.
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