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Neil Young to Cash In on Music Catalogs

Canadian rock star and songwriter Neil Young is out of the blue, and heavily into the black, after selling a 50 per cent interest in his music catalog for an estimated $150 million US.

As noted in this week’s Special Report from The Licensing Letter, the past four years and 2020 in particular have seen a massive increase in the value and scale of music catalog deals. Sales rose from an average of $100 million to $200 million a year prior to 2016, to more than $4 billion in 2019. Figures for 2020 are not yet out, but music rights deals are expected to hit a new and dramatic high after landmark deals with Bob Dylan, The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, and many others.

Young’s sale to the music rights company Hipgnosis Song Fund is the first major deal in 2021, and may be the second largest in history after Dylan’s historic sale of his catalog for an estimated $300 million to $400 million in December.

Hipgnosis is among the most aggressive companies in the music rights land rush, having previously bought out 100 per cent of the publishing rights to Fleetwood Mac singer and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham’s songs and owns a wide range of titles from Blondie’s Debbie Harry, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, Dave Stuart of the Eurythmics, Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx, and many more. The rights to Buckingham’s catalog of 161 songs he wrote or co-wrote for Fleetwood Mac, were purchased just days ago, on Jan. 5.

Hipgnosis’ CEO Merck Mercuriadis, a dual Canadian-American citizen, is the man behind the company’s aggressive approach to music rights acquisition, and says, like many Canadians, he was a huge and early fan of Young’s music.

“I bought my first Neil Young album aged seven,” Mercuriadis said in a statement. “Harvest was my companion and I know every note, every word, every pause and silence intimately. Neil Young, or at least his music, has been my friend and constant ever since. Over the last 50 years that friendship took me back to Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After The Gold Rush, and guided me forward to On the Beach, Tonight’s the Night, Zuma, Comes a Time, Rust Never Sleeps, Trans, This Notes for You, Freedom, Ragged Glory, Greendale and through each successive album and on to last year’s Colorado.”



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