If in business terms one should remember the music of 2021, then the reason for that is certainly the fact that last year brought the biggest “ transfers ” of copyright assets in the history of the pop music and record industry. These are not the usual discographic contracts, but “final accounts” by which some of the world’s most famous musicians in their later years sold their legacy on a “cash in hand” system, or to a bank account.
We can talk about creativity, but the business part of the story has always been important in a world where value is not only measured by the eulogies of critics, but also by the number of dollars in banks. In the past few months, a new trend of selling off the own dowry of famous rock stars has begun. Astronomical sums of money paid for their past life’s work testify to how much and how the pop scene has been reset. It showed how to record unprecedented amounts of money in their own bank accounts.
For example, a few weeks before David Bowie‘s 75th birthday celebrations on January 8, his successors sold his songs and an entire working catalog of recordings for $ 250 million to Warner Corporation, the publisher of Bowie’s albums in recent years. Bob Dylan sold his recorded legacy to Universal for $ 300 million the year before, while Bruce Springsteen registered the largest sum ever at the end of 2021, as much as $ 550 million for all his recordings, but also the publishing rights he sold to Sony. By the way, Sony owns Columbia, the record label on which Springsteen has spent his entire working life since 1972 when he signed his first contract with them.
The situation that some of the greatest and most famous authors renounce ownership of their own work, for which they once fought hard, is somewhat paradoxical. There is a long-running lawsuit between Springsteen and his then-manager Mike Appel in 1975, which cost Springsteen three years of inability to release new albums. The reason for the dispute was Springsteen’s attempt to become the owner of his recordings from the first three albums, including the then released “Born to Run” with which he broke into the mass market.
According to a previous contract he signed with Mike Appel’s company as an amateur in 1972, he did not own his recordings until 1978, not knowing enough about legal practice.
The main reason for this sale of the property is the mature age in which it is better to collect all bills and leave cash to descendants than to think about the course of business relations in the music world in the coming period. The huge amount of popular songs left behind by new owners and record companies give the opportunity to constantly release new releases, which in the form of solid sound carriers and revenue from ubiquitous streaming can bring big profits. For example, Springsteen’s “profitability” from selling and broadcasting his recordings in the final stages of operation brings in a high $ 17 million a year.
Bowie cashed in on himself through “Bowie Bonds” in the 1990s, although they, after his death, were estimated at “only” a hundred million dollars. Springsteen was paid $ 22 million last year for a Jeep commercial aired in the first half of the Super Bowl. A career in which he refused to advertise Chrysler for $ 12 million in 1985.