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Queen’s Catalog: $1 Billion Dollars…




THEY ARE THE CHAMPIONS: Word has it that Sony Music has prevailed in the contest for Queen’s and publishing rights and their attendant revenue—including that from the Disney deal—for which House Stringer and Platt has reportedly tendered the winning offer of a cool 1 billion pounds sterling. Disney, which owns the recording rights in North America thanks to the 1990 deal that cost the Mouse $10m, has hitherto paid a handsome royalty to Queen; that will go to Sony under the new deal. Income from the licensing deal with UMG for the rest of the world will similarly go to Sony when that deal expires in 2026 or 2027, at which point SME will become the worldwide distributor and owner of all content.” –Hits Daily Double



I don’t really care. I’m burned out on these gigantic catalog sales. But maybe this is important, maybe this isn’t just a banking deal, maybe Sony has insight that is not being acknowledged.

Bear with me here.

The bottom line is we are not minting new superstars. So the value of old superstars goes up! If everybody knows your name, in an era where that’s nearly impossible to accomplish, think of the value!

At Canadian Music Week Don Passman said he advises his clients not to sell. Most people regret it. But if it’s for estate planning…

But the dirty little secret is although Bryan May is 76, Roger Taylor is 74 and John Deacon is only 72! They could live for another three decades.

Or die tomorrow, but…

When it comes to money, the financiers are always smarter than you are, ALWAYS! This is their business. Running the numbers, making bets. Your business is making music. How many times have you gotten screwed in your career? If you haven’t been screwed, you’re not successful.

As for getting the money now… You’ve got a steady stream of income, what are you going to do with the cash? Put it in the bank and you’re LOSING money! Everything else is inherently risky, much more risky than the royalties of a superstar act.

And we’ve seen this movie over and over again. Michael Jackson beat Paul McCartney in a bidding war for Beatles copyrights and they ended up being worth more than ten times the purchase price. How about Colonel Parker selling Elvis’s catalog?

As for your advisors… It’s very hard to turn down a payday, it’s human nature. It takes a special kind of person to give up their commission on a big sale. So beware of people pushing you into selling.

But assuming you’re out, where does that leave the purchaser?

Let’s be clear, this Queen deal is not only the songs, like with Hipgnosis and the rest of the new publishing giants. Sony is buying EVERYTHING! And with total control of all the assets comes power. You can maximize the value.

Irving Azoff’s company buys the Beach Boys. Let me ask you, is the Beach Boys’ music ever going to evaporate? Not only is it steady, we’re just one revival away from a burst of notice and revenue. Could be a TikTok, a film usage, there’s a giant catalog of instantly catchy hits, the band is the sound of the summer, and nobody has ever come close. Song of the summer today? God, even Spotify now has a playlist, but odds are you haven’t heard most of the songs and don’t care, it seems the only people who truly do care are the press and the acts and their handlers who are on said list. The rest of us ignore it, if we’re even aware it exists.

But Bob Dylan? Just like we never got a new Beatles, we never got a new Bob Dylan. So buying the songs was a good idea. However Universal does not own the recordings.

Bruce Springsteen sold absolutely everything to Sony. I’ll posit that the Boss is less universal than Queen. He doesn’t even go clean everywhere. But “Born to Run” is an anthem. And when Bruce dies, he’ll become an even bigger icon, because we’ve never gotten a new Bruce and what Bruce represents is impossible to find in today’s marketplace. Honest musician, who can sing, write and play, who’s never sold out to the man who is singing from his heart about life in these United States. He’s one of a kind, like with Queen, he’s just one placement from ubiquity.

That’s what happened with Queen. “Wayne’s World.” Period.

Just like Journey and “The Sopranos.” Journey headlines stadiums without even the real singer of their hits! The hits have eclipsed the band! Think of the value there. And there wasn’t only one hit, but many.

But Queen is unique. From an era when that mattered, when me-too was anathema (in sound, not behavior). The band melded prog rock with straight rock without synthesizers and had hits as varied as not only
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” but “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You.” The breadth alone gives the band gravitas.

In other words, Queen is selling too low. Sure, the band is getting the money now, but in a world of niches, everybody knows Queen. And as stated above, Queen has a unique identity.

Not everybody is forever, but there are many more that still own their rights. I mean if Queen is worth a billion, then the Eagles are worth at least two. Then again, over Henley’s dead body. By not maximizing the value of the catalogue, Henley and the Eagles have increased it! Proving once again, if you’re willing to leave money on the table, there are bigger paydays down the road.

Now supposedly Sony is going to maximize the asset, the virtual ABBA show has been bandied about as an example. That was an incredibly heavy investment. But if Queen is selling all those tickets with a fake lead singer and sans Deacon’s bass playing… Think of the demand!

The rich get richer and the poor struggle for recognition, never mind remuneration.

And maybe you’re not rich enough to maximize the value yourself. Which might argue for having a partner. But if you sell out completely and there’s a huge jump in revenue…your image, your legacy is burnished.

Some of these acts already have enough money. They’re very interested in lasting.

And think of the acts further down the totem pole. Get the right team involved and they can be much bigger than they are today. Because no one is minting new superstars! So the old stars become even BIGGER!

It goes really deep. Kids are turned on to the classics by their parents. By Disney. The rights holder doesn’t even have to do any marketing, it can just lay back and collect the cash. But work it just a bit… Hell, what was the value of Kate Bush before and after the use in “Stranger Things”?

The paradigm has shifted. Yes, it used to be that most acts’ value, their revenue, decreased over time. But today, in many cases it goes up! Because there’s no one else in their league.

Sure, advertisers have paid handsomely for catalog in the past, but now movies and streaming shows… They want to use tracks everybody knows, how many of those are there?

Sony could be sitting on a gold mine. That they bought cheaply.

Music is not tech. It doesn’t lose its value with new innovation, rather when done right it is unique, stands alone, and if not fresh, is emblematic of the times.

Furthermore, it all comes down to the song, it always comes down to the song. You can’t sing most of the Spotify Top 50, which means the odds of those songs lasting are low. It’s only when the public can sing along, with or without the record, when the melody and the chorus and the riff stick in their head, that the endless pot of gold is developed.

And they said Napster ruined the recorded music industry, that no one would pay for music again. EVERYONE is paying. Sure, you might get it for free on YouTube, but the rights holder is being paid. And you might listen for free but go to the show and buy merch and…

The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades!


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Originally published by Bob Lefsetz in the 06/21/2024 at the Leftsetz Letter

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