Red Hot Chili Peppers

Investors are spending hundreds of millions on records by Bruce Springsteen and the Red Hot Chili Peppers

There’s a gold rush to buy up the back catalogues of everyone from Bob Dylan to Shakira as investors bet that windfalls from streaming, TikTok, YouTube and more are here to stay

What do Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Neil Young have in common? Certainly formidable song writing pedigree and a string of hits.

But more recently what has made these artists bedfellows is their financial dealings: all have sold the rights to their back catalogues for hundreds of millions.

Bruce Springsteen recently sold the rights to his music to Sony for $500 million, the Red Hot Chili Peppers sold their music for a reported $140 million in May, Paul Simon netted $250 million for his folks songs in April and Neil Young sold rights to half of his back catalogue in January.

All of these deals are part of a music rights gold rush that has swept studios and the City over the last two years. Momentum has only gathered pace over the last year as hundreds of millions has poured into top musicians’ pockets.

“It’s just kind of accelerated when I think people thought it was going to temper off earlier in the year,” says Sachin Saggar, an analyst at Stifel who covers the space.

<p>Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea. The LA band sold their back catalogue for a reported $140 million this year </p>
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea. The LA band sold their back catalogue for a reported $140 million this year / Herbert P. Oczeret/AFP/Getty

For the first 15 years of this century, music was unloved in the world of finance: illegal downloading cratered sales and the rise of streaming platforms initially delivered only small returns.

But in the last few years, the industry has turned a corner. Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have reached a scale where revenues are meaningful and companies such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and even the likes of Peloton are now paying artists to use their songs. For the first time in almost two decades, the industry is seeing growth.

Investors are attracted to the space because royalty revenue is “uncorrelated”, in industry parlance.

Unlike other assets such as stocks that tend to move in tandem to things like interest rates or GDP growth, music seems to march to the beat of its own drum. As RBC analyst Christine Zhou put it: “People listen to music in the good, the bad and the ugly times.”about:blank

Another attraction is the regularity of royalty income. The shift from buying music to renting it — in the form of streaming — means investors can now buy a product that pays out a hopefully predictable sum of money each year. That’s what money men love.

Merck Mercuriadis, boss of music investment fund Hipgnosis, says: “Great proven songs become a part of the fabric of our lives and as a result have very predictable, reliable and uncorrelated revenues. This makes them investable.”

The result? Billions have flown into the music rights market over the last few years. Bob Dylan, Shakira, Stevie Knicks and The Killers have all joined the gold rush.

Saggar says: “Music has gone from something that not many people had heard of as an investable asset class five years ago to being so front and centre.”

Covid-19 has only accelerated the trend. With live touring off the agenda, music lovers around the world have spent more time streaming their favourite tracks. And increased digital consumption of everything from Netflix to video games can bring in more revenues too when songs are used in the background.

<p>Bob Dylan sold is back catalogue in 2020 </p>
Bob Dylan sold is back catalogue in 2020 / PA

London is at the forefront of this new musical money boom, with two of the most prominent funds in the space listed here. Hipgnosis, run by former music manager Merck Mercuriadis, listed in London in 2018. Chic founder Nile Rogers, an advisor, performed at the company’s IPO ceremony. Hipgnosis has so far raised £1 billion from investors and was the buyer of Neil Young and The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ back catalogues.

The other major player is Round Hill Music, which raised over £200 million in a listing in November 2020.

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