The "Sun is Shining" on a "Positive Vibration" because "Three Little Birds" told us that the company that owns Bob Marley's music catalog, Primary Wave, just raised $375 million to invest in additional music catalogs. Primary Wave Music is an independent company that manages the music catalogs of dozens of the most important singers in history, including Bob Marley and Whitney Houston.
The investor providing the $375 million is financial behemoth Oaktree Capital Management. Oaktree is taking a minority stake in exchange for the funds.
The acquisition of song catalogs by financial funds is a huge trend right now. Over the past year dozens of artists have sold their catalogs for massive paydays.
Bob Dylan's payday was at least $400 million.
Other catalog-selling artists include Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits, Shakira, John Lennon, Ryan Tedder, 50 Cent, Nelly, Richie Sambora, Mark Ronson, Jack Antonoff, Rick James, Barry Manilow, Blondie, Tom DeLonge, Skillrex, 50 Cent, Nelly and Imagine Dragons have sold all or part of their publishing rights for nine figures.
Selling the rights to songs has a lot of benefits for artists – especially in this age of the global pandemic when tours and merchandise sales have ground to a complete halt over the past 15 months.
Songwriters receive an immediate payout for their work rather than taking the chance that their songs will continue to earn money for the decades… or that they'll live long enough to enjoy the benefits.
Catalog buyers have longer horizons and think they can increase the revenue generated from catalogs through more aggressive licensing, merchandise, and other opportunities to get songs played.
The value of music catalogs is at an all-time high thanks to music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music. Licensing presents a particularly lucrative revenue possibility for song catalog owners. A song that is featured on a popular show like "This is Us" or "Stranger Things" can provide a consistent income stream because those shows are replayed across online platforms, multiple broadcast and cable channels, and more.
Primary Wave is a talent and publishing company founded in 2006 by Larry Mestel. Larry was the COO of Island Entertainment Group early in his career before becoming Vice President and General Manager of Arista Records from 2000 to 2004. At Arista he developed artists like Outkast, Usher, Avril Lavigne and P!nk. He then spent a year as COO of Virgin Records, working with artists like The Rolling Stones, Lenny Kravitz and Janet Jackson.
In 2006 Larry founded Primary Wave after raising $50 million to acquire 50% of Kurt Cobain's song catalog from the Nirvana singer's widow, Courtney Love. He parlayed the Nirvana income into additional acquisitions including songs and/or full catalogs of artists like Steven Tyler, John Lennon, Def Leppard and Chicago.
In 2016 Primary Wave raised $300 million to continue its catalog acquisition campaign. A large portion of this money was spent in January 2018 to acquire a majority share of the rights to Bob Marley's music. Those rights were technically owned by Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records which discovered and popularized Marley.
As of this writing, Primary Wave controls more than 15,000 songs. Notable songs include:
- "My Girl" by The Temptations
- "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley
- "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding
- "No Church in the Wild" by Kanye West and Jay-Z
- "Come Fly with Me" by Frank Sinatra
With Oaktree's recent $375 million investment, Primary Wave will have raised over $1.7 billion to invest in songs and catalogs.
Part of the Oaktree money will go to Mestel. The remainder of the investment will be used to acquire additional music catalogs.