Artists who have been cut from touring income by the coronavirus pandemic have sought to sell their back catalogs to generate income.
Hipgnosis Songs Fund Ltd. has purchased 50% of the rights to the discography of folk and rock songwriter Neil Young, marking the latest in a bonanza of musical rights acquisitions after the artists, cut from touring revenues by the coronavirus pandemic, seek to raise funds.
Hipgnosis on Wednesday announced the purchase of half the copyright and revenue for the Canadian singer’s 1,180 songs, including hits like “Heart of Gold,” following deals for music from producer Jimmy Iovine and Fleetwood guitarist Mac Lindsey Buckingham earlier this week. Sixties icon Bob Dylan last month sold his music rights to Universal Music Group Inc.
Since its IPO in 2018, the London-listed company has raised more than 1.05 billion pounds ($ 1.4 billion) in equity to bet big on the value of song royalties. Founder Merck Mercuriadis believes that hit songs have become an asset class that will generate reliable income from consumers who view music as essential and sign up for streaming services like Spotify AB.
Hipgnosis is now co-owner of 10 of the 30 most played songs on the streaming platform. In 2020, Mercuriadis secured the rights to songs from crooner Barry Manilow, producer Mark Ronson, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and co-founders of 80s pop group Blondie. He was previously a manager for acts such as Elton John and Guns N’Roses. Hipgnosis did not disclose the deal’s value for Neil Young’s back catalog.
Mercuriadis is now considering raising additional funds as it spies on other catalogs. The company’s share price rose 12% in 2020 to £ 1.24 billion despite a wider slump in the UK stock market.
Mercuriadis, who claimed to be a longtime Neil Young fan, acknowledged that getting financial return on music can raise artistic integrity issues.
“There will never be a ‘Burger Of Gold’, but we will work together to make sure everyone can hear them on Neil’s terms,” he said in a statement, referring to a concert by 1973 where Young half-joked that he had been asked to use a renowned version of his hit Heart of Gold for a hamburger commercial.