Bringing back the hits: Mining music catalogs for gold

Traditionally, in the music industry, acts like Air Supply were only as good as their Following paste. But for people like Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock of Air Supply, times are changing. In 2020, Bob Dylan sold his entire catalog to Universal Music for a reported $300 million. Bruce Springsteen sold to Sony Music a year later for around $550 million.

the company of Larry Mestel, primary wave, has been buying music catalogs since 2006. “Can you imagine Sony without Bruce Springsteen as part of their roster?” he told correspondent Kelefa Sanneh. “They were going to have to pay whatever they had to pay to support Bruce Springsteen.”

“Whereas before, if you signed a seven-album deal, they promised to take all your money for seven albums!” Russell laughed.

When asked if he could remember the first contract he signed, Hitchcock laughed, “Yeah, I think it was a blank sheet of paper with our signatures at the bottom.”

“And can you give people an idea of ​​how important it is [Primary Wave] it was?” Sanneh asked.

“It was big,” Hitchcock replied.

“Large? We’re talking, what, seven figures?”

“Bigger than seven.”

Hitchcock and Russell also retain veto power over where songs are placed, in part due to a bad experience with soda., an audio commercial for Dr. Pepper that they did in the 1980s. “It was horrible!” Russell laughed.

Mestel has bought the rights to artists ranging from Smokey Robinson to Kurt Cobain. He took as an example a Converse shoe with Cobain’s writing on it. Sanneh asked, “These shoes played an important role in the development of his company, right?”

“He did,” replied Mestel. “We were the first company to put lyrics on the side of sneakers and turn the deal from a merchandising deal to a music deal, right? Because the lyrics had to be licensed.”

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A sneaker from Kurt Cobain’s 2008 Converse collection, available with “lettering, notebook scribbles, or distressed details… distressed the way Kurt Cobain wore them,” according to a press release.

in 1985 Michael Jackson outbid ex-friend Paul McCartney for publishing rights to The Beatles catalog. It was for $47.5 million, but it was worth much more. And some people learned a simple lesson: NEVER sell your songs.

Sanneh asked Mestel, “How did you fight against that stigma?”

“Well, it’s easy today, right? Because if Bruce Springsteen is going to sell or Sting is going to sell and Paul Simon is going to sell and Bob Dylan is going to sell, you know, that opens the floodgates. for artists in general,” he replied.

Mestel’s company now faces wealthy competitors such as hypgnosis songs background Y round hill music. The song market is maturing, as are the singers. Mestel said, “They’re in their 70s and 80s. So artists are interested in estate planning.”

“Are there certain genres that interest you or not how interested?”

“Yeah, classic rock, urban rock, we do jazz, we do soul,” Mestel said. “We don’t normally do a lot of country music. You don’t see a lot of country songs in commercials.”

primary-waves-larry-mestel-kelefa-sanneh-wide.jpg
Primary Wave’s Larrey Mestel talks to correspondent Kelefa Sanneh about how musicians’ back catalogs are becoming extremely valuable properties as old songs are used in commercials and other media.Air Supply’s love songs aren’t on the charts anymore, but Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell say the opportunities are limitless.

“Years and years ago they had a Formula One car sponsored by Durex,” Hitchcock said. “I said, ‘What? Condoms, you know, sponsor an F1 car?’