Join a growing list of songwriters and music legends who have chosen to sell the rights to their songs, Justin Bieber has sold his entire music catalog for a “One time” payday of over 200 million dollars. The valuable pop asset has been acquired by the Hipgnosis Song Fund, a British investment firm that has steadily purchased some of the most important and influential songbooks in modern music history.
Biebs’ book is Hipgnosis’ biggest acquisition to date, according to Varietywith 290 titles including his latest album Justice. This includes “publishing copyrights (including the author’s share of the performance), master recordings and neighboring rights” (which deals with public performance royalties). Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis praised Bieber and his longtime manager, the infamous Scooter Braun, in a statement that called the artist’s influence “remarkable” and said the duo has cultivated a “magnificent catalog.”
Lack of touring funds during the pandemic apparently spurred a number of artists to sell their catalogs, but that’s not the only reason major artists have taken this particular leap. Rolling stones break down some of the relevant factors, including tax benefits (surprise, surprise), estate planning (for older artists like Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen), and the generally unpredictable nature of the music industry. With new technology like streaming disrupting how music is consumed, younger artists like Bieber can’t guarantee their music will have a lasting legacy (at least financially). The logic goes, better to take the payout now—apparently several times the value of the catalog’s historical annual income—then wait for the catalog to become obsolete.
Hipgnosis in particular is on its way to owning most of the songs you’ve ever heard. In addition to Bieber, the company owns copyrights from artists such as Young, Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Richie Sambora, Tom DeLonge, the co-founders of Blondie, Mark Ronson, Jack Antonoff, Rick James, Barry Manilow, Lindsey Buckingham, Shakira and more. Relative to Why Hipgnosis is willing to pay such high fees for these rights, Mercuriadis “wants to disrupt the music publishing industry so completely that it ceases to exist in its current capacity,” according to Complex. The idea is to “see if songs can work as investments, in the same way that oil, gold and listed companies do,” except more stable, “because music is the most predictable commodity out there (according to Mercury Nevertheless).”
This development is supposed to benefit not only Hipgnosis and its artists, but also the average person if Complex‘s explanation is believable. (Because further entanglement of art with commerce is always a net good for society…) Here’s to the bold new future of music, we guess!