$100 million! After Bob Dylan, Neil Young sold the rights to the song at a sky-high price

author:The Paper

The Surging News reporter Qian Lianshui

Following Bob Dylan's sale of all the songwriting rights to Universal, Neil Young also sold half of the lyrics to the Hipgnosis Songs Fund. Within the same week, Hipgnosis also completed two other acquisitions, buying rights to the songs of former guitarist Lindsay Buckingham and super-producer Jimmy Lovine.

The acquisition includes the rights to half of Neil Young's total 1180 songs. According to Billboard's estimates, the acquisition amount is between $90 million and $105 million.

$100 million! After Bob Dylan, Neil Young sold the rights to the song at a sky-high price

Neil Young

Since Merck Mercuriadis founded Hipgnosis in 2018, the company has invested about $2 billion in song rights, working on music IP investments and song management, and acquired rights to artists including Elton John, Beyoncé, Guns N' Roses and others. In December last year, he announced that the company's market capitalization had reached £1.25 billion. The company's profitability is also very impressive. In the first half of 2020, the company generated £50 million in revenue through copyright, doubling the same period in the previous year.

This is an era when copyright is becoming more and more valuable. Hipgnosis's revenue comes mainly from royalties paid to it by film and television dramas and advertisements. According to Mercuriadis, the value of music songwriting rights goes beyond gold mines and oil wells, because "they do not become obsolete, especially in the economic downturn, and the prosperity of the cultural market will multiply their value".

When the global pandemic hit a red alert in the second quarter of last year, music streaming giant Spotify released data and its monthly subscriber numbers increased by 29%. By the end of last year, streaming including Apple, Amazon, spotify and others had more than 450 million paying users. The epidemic has hit many industries hard, including the music performance industry, but it has given streaming media better opportunities for development.

The surprise of Neil Young's sale of the rights this time was that he was always adamantly opposed to using his songs for commercial purposes. In 1988 he sang in "This Note's for You": "Don't sing for Pepsi / Don't sing for Coca-Cola / I don't sing for anyone / It makes me look like a joke"

Mercuriadis endorsed Young's position, saying that "we all believe in the integrity, morality and passion contained in music, so there will be no 'burger of gold' incident, but we will ensure that people can hear Neil's songs, with his own consent".

The "Burger of Gold" incident took place at a Neal Young concert in 1973. At the time, he told the audience that a company wanted to use his hit "Heart of Gold" in its advertising. "If I agreed to their use, I would have to call the song 'Burger of Gold.'"

After Neil Young's long-time agent, Elliot Roberts, died last year, his affairs were handed over to Roberts' assistant, Frank Gironda. The 75-year-old Neil Young has published 41 studio albums and 1,180 songs in his more than 50-year creative career.

Just last month, Bob Dylan sold all of his songwriting rights (more than 600 songs) to Universal Music Rights at a time, valuing it at least $300 million. Based on 600 songs, the average value of a song is between 500,000 and 830,000 US dollars (equivalent to about 3.25-5.4 million yuan per song).

This round of european and American artists selling copyrights is related to the epidemic. In the European and American music circles, touring is the main source of income for middle-aged and elderly artists. After the epidemic cut off the tour, the artists lost most of their income. Take Bob Dylan, who had to cancel a summer tour scheduled to begin last June, and foreign media estimated box office losses of around $5 million. To this day, he still maintains about 100 high-intensity tours a year. Bob Dylan is 79 years old, and under U.S. copyright law, his copyright expires 70 years after his death. From a purely economic point of view, on the one hand, the copyright that gradually expires with age, and the cost of managing copyright, on the other hand, the high purchase price, and the benefits of eliminating management troubles, it is not difficult to understand why Dylan and Young made this decision. For Universal, which reached the acquisition, Dylan's song library is like an inexhaustible treasure. His songs are still very popular, and have been covered more than 6,000 times, not to mention the number of times they have been featured in movies, commercials, and games.

Editor-in-Charge: Chen Shihuai

Proofreader: Yijia Xu

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