Music publishing sector booming with high-profile sales

NEW YORK (AFP) – The pandemic has left the performance industry reeling but music publishing, a normally under-the-radar side of the business, is roaring thanks to a frenzy of high-profile music catalogue sales.

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

In many cases, the transactions have come at staggering prices: Bob Dylan sold his full publishing catalogue for a reported sum of USD300 million to Universal Music Publishing Group, while Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac sold a majority stake in her catalogue reportedly for USD100 million.

Neil Young and the duo behind Blondie inked deals for undisclosed amounts, as did Shakira. Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood, both also of Fleetwood Mac, each recently announced sales that include publishing copyrights to hits including the 1977 song Dreams which recently enjoyed a streaming renaissance after going viral on TikTok.

The owners of a song’s publishing rights receive a cut in a number of scenarios, including radio play and streaming, album sales, and use in advertising and movies.

The “fantastically positive” sales trend began well before 2020 but rapidly escalated even as other sectors suffered due to Covid-19, said Nari Matsuura, a partner at the firm Massarsky Consulting, which valuates catalogues for lenders and music publishing groups along with private equity and music funds.

Streaming’s numbers have soared in recent years and appear sound long-term. That anticipated stability combined with low interest rates and dependable earning projections for time-tested hits have fostered music publishing’s bull market, she said.