Just because a highly successful recording artist is dead does not mean that their estate can't cash in on the lucrative publishing catalog buying trend happening in the music industry now. The latest example comes as reported by Variety:
The publishing catalog of the departed unclassifiable rock star David Bowie has been purchased by Warner Chappell Music in a deal with the Bowie estate. The reported purchase price?
The deal includes the publishing rights for virtually everything Bowie wrote over the course of his long career in popular music, spanning 26 studio albums (and the posthumously released album, "Toy"), two albums from his 1980s rock band project Tin Machine, and various standalone singles and stray tracks he released over the years.
The deal means that both the Bowie publishing catalog and his actual recorded output are all owned by Warner, which is likely to continue capitalizing on Bowie's enduring fanbase by continuing to release and re-release his material, now that they essentially own it outright.
Here's a short excerpt from the official Warner press release on the deal from Warner Chappell Music Co-Chair and CEO Guy Moot:
"Bowie's vision and creative genius drove him to push the envelope, lyrically and musically – writing songs that challenged convention, changed the conversation, and have become part of the canon of global culture. His work spanned massive pop hits and experimental adventures that have inspired millions of fans and countless innovators, not only in music, but across all the arts, fashion, and media. We are looking forward to tending his unparalleled body of songs with passion and care as we strive to build on the legacy of this most extraordinary human being."
The deal has been in the works for several months now, having first been reported by the Financial Times back in October. And there is just a little bit of David Bowie material that isn't included within the wide-ranging purchase, which covers everything between 1968 and 2016 (when he died from cancer) – his material that predates 1968, which includes his little-loved debut self-titled album and a handful of singles, reportedly falls outside the recent sale.
Publishing rights have grown into a very hot commodity in the music business for legacy artists with deep catalogs (such as Bowie's). Bruce Springsteen recently closed a similar deal with Sony valued at around $500 million, while Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Stevie Nicks, and many more have closed nine-figure deals of their own.