prince-and-whitney-houston-vs.-shakira-and-journey:-which-music-company-owns-the-greatest-hits?

Prince and Whitney Houston vs. Shakira and Journey: Which Music Company Owns the Greatest Hits?

Courtney Love and Nile Rodgers Sthanlee B. Mirador/Charles Sykes/Associated Press

‘Selling out” used to be a bad thing. But then certain musicians started getting offered up to half a billion dollars for the rights to their entire recording output, and selling out suddenly became rather enviable. Investors spent $5.3 billion on music catalogs last year, snapping up artists’ oeuvres the way people used to collect LPs, and everyone from Bruce Springsteen ($500 million) to Bob Dylan ($300 million) has decided to cash in. Two of the strongest players in the game are Primary Wave and Hipgnosis Songs Fund. Which has the best playlist? Listen up. 

Primary Wave

Hipgnosis Songs Fund

THE ARTIST WHO MADE IT HAPPEN

Courtney Love

In 2006 she met music executive Lawrence Mestel and sold him a 25 percent stake of Kurt Cobain’s share of the Nirvana catalog. Mestel has since expanded the company from music publishing to talent management and film/television production and now controls over $1 billion in assets.

THE ARTIST WHO MADE IT HAPPEN

Nile Rodgers

In 2018 the musician and producer teamed up with music executive Merck Mercuriadis, who launched the Hipgnosis Songs Fund. The group has quickly scooped up over 65,000 tracks and about 150 catalogs worth over $2.5 billion.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

The fastest traveling seismic wave that is the first signal to arrive from an earthquake.

Seismic wave drawing

Supplied

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

The English art group responsible for many famous album covers. The play on the word “hypnosis” was allegedly from graffiti left on their door by Pink Floyd cofounder Syd Barrett.

Elephant logo

Supplied

THE ROSTER

Many artists who have gone to that great gig in the sky: Prince, Whitney Houston, Bob Marley, Ray Charles, Olivia Newton-John and James Brown. Def Leppard, thankfully still with us.

THE ROSTER

Many artists still going strong: Mark Ronson, Shakira, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Journey, Chrissie Hynde and Neil Young.

WHO GOT THE BETTER PART OF FLEETWOOD MAC?

Purchased a majority of Stevie Nicks’s publishing rights for $100 million. “Dreams”!

Stevie Nicks with Fleetwood Mac performs at State Farm Arena

Stevie Nicks  Robb Cohen/Invision/AP

WHO GOT THE BETTER PART OF FLEETWOOD MAC?

Has Lindsey Buckingham’s and Christine McVie’s. “Go Your Own Way”!

Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham on stage in NYC

Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham  Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

HOW THEY MAKE THEIR MONEY BACK

Licenses songs such as Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” for a Toyota commercial, featured Aerosmith on state lottery tickets and created an Alice Cooper-branded line of hot sauces.

HOW THEY MAKE THEIR MONEY BACK

Placed Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” in the latest Batman film, let 7Up use “Uptown Funk” for its global ad campaign and had Journey’s “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” played during the Season 4 trailer of Stranger Things.

DOES THAT COME WITH AN AARP MEMBERSHIP?

Catalog sales naturally skew toward older acts—André 3000 (47) and CeeLo Green (also 47) are among the babies of this group. Other companies such as Concord have specialized in getting partial rights to newer acts such as Adele (34) and Lady Gaga (36).

Adele attending the BRIT Awards in 2022, London, UK

Adele  Photo by Stuart Hardy/Abaca Press/Sipa/AP

DOES THAT COME WITH AN AARP MEMBERSHIP?

Nelly (47) and Timbaland (50) aren’t exactly spring chickens either. Perhaps Hipgnosis should make nice with Taylor Swift (32). She’s re-recording her first six studio albums after her old masters were sold, against her wishes, for $300 million.

Artists Taylor Swift and Timbaland

Artists Taylor Swift and Timbaland  Abaca Press/Richard Drew/AP

ACE IN THE HOLE

Whitney Houston is one of the top-selling artists ever, and the soundtrack to The Bodyguard is among the best-selling albums of all time. Sure, other artists are on there, but no one bought it for “Even If My Heart Would Break” by Kenny G.

THE BODYGUARD, Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, 1992.

Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard  ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

ACE IN THE HOLE

He may not be as hip as Mark Ronson, or as poetic as Neil Young, but with over 85 million albums sold worldwide, Barry Manilow is the stealth weapon.

Barry Manilow performs at The O2 Arena in 2022 in London, England.

Barry Manilow  Robin Little/Redferns

UNREALIZED FINANCIAL POTENTIAL

Def Leppard hearing aids. Air Supply oxygen bars. Kenny Loggins Footloose footwear. Counting Crows tutorials that make math fun for kids.

UNREALIZED FINANCIAL POTENTIAL

Journey-branded luggage. Blondie hair-care products. Cannabis from the Chainsmokers. And if Alice Cooper can have a line of hot sauces, then paging the Red Hot Chili Peppers . . .

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