By Hales Passino
What will become of beloved rock music?
In recent months, various artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, and David Crosby have all sold publishing rights to their song catalogs. It has raised some questions.
What does this all mean? Why are they doing it?
Today, inflation and interest rates are historically low. Buyers at music firms are far more willing to purchase in these conditions. It’s also a compelling case for artists who want to sell their catalogs too, as the times are changing with varying consumer preferences and reduced royalty rates.
In December 2020, folk-rock icon Bob Dylan sold the publishing rights to his entire catalog of over 600 songs for an estimated $300 to $400 million. Universal Publishing Music Group, the company Dylan made the deal with, will profit from any Dylan song someone covers, streams or uses in a film.
Meanwhile, Neil Young sold only 50% of his income interests and worldwide copyright to Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited, according to Andy Greene of Rolling Stone.
David Crosby’s deal with Iconic Artists Group involves his solo material as well as his work with various bands from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to the Byrds. Crosby’s financial details were not revealed.
Buckingham’s entire catalog, consisting of all of his hit songs with Fleetwood Mac as well as 50% of his unreleased compositions, were also purchased.
On the Internet, comment sections have been flooded with worries from fans in regards to what will happen with the music. Initially, these sales are thought of as the end of an era.
COVID-19 put a line through live music in 2020. Without the ability to tour and the uncertainty of when touring can begin again, this has taken quite the toll on veteran musicians who make a large portion of revenue in this fashion. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean the public will see classic songs from these artists being used frivolously in fast food commercials. It’s fathomable they’ll keep the artists’ interests and the meaning of their work at heart.
“Given our current inability to work live, this deal is a blessing for me and my family and I do believe these are the best people to do it with,” Crosby said in a Rolling Stone magazine article.
Another perspective to consider is where these artists are at in their lives. Many of the ones selling their publishing rights are older and there is the sad reality they may not be keen on touring anymore.
In addition, the money they are earning from selling publishing rights is astronomical. The deals are upfront and it leaves the artists without having to ponder what royalties they’ll bring in. Why shouldn’t they get to enjoy that profit while they’re still around? It can also help them set their families up financially for the future.
Call them sell outs, but it’s a smart move at the end of the day.