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Paul Simon Latest To Sell Music Catalog

Legendary singer-songwriter Paul Simon has become the latest star musician to cash in on his lifetime body of work, selling his entire music catalog to Sony Music Publishing for an undisclosed amount.

“I’m pleased to have Sony Music Publishing be the custodian of my songs for the coming decades,” said Simon after the deal was announced. “I began my career at Columbia/Sony Records and it feels like a natural extension to be working with the publishing side as well.”

The deal is just the latest to be announced in a continuing trend that began in 2016. Prior to that year, investments in music catalogs never exceeded $200 million, and were usually much less, but in 2016 and the years since the sector has seen rapid growth.

In that year sales of music catalogs reached roughly $900 million compared to only $200 million in 2015. The number surpassed $1.2 billion in 2017, reached $2.5 billion in 2018, and soared past the $4 billion mark in 2019. The final tally for 2020 is not yet in, but it is expected to set a new record as well.

The big players in this market were initially made up of ‘musical royalty funds’ like Hipgnosis, Primary Wave, Royalty Exchange, BMG Music Rights, Kobalt, Eldridge Industries and Round Hill. More recently traditional labels like Universal have entered the game, as they were the ones who purchased the Bob Dylan catalog for more than $300 million.

Mark Mulligan, an analyst at MIDiA Research, says this influx of investor capital has turned musical IP into an incredibly valuable commodity.

“The music publishing deal market is at its peak,” says Mark Mulligan, an analyst at MIDiA Research. “There has never been a better time, there may never be a better time, for a hit artist from the 70s, 80s and 90s to sell their rights. These deals are being done at 17, 18, 19, 20 times value.”

FOR MORE INSIGHT INTO THE SURGE IN MUSIC CATALOG INVESTMENTS, CHECK OUT TLL’S SPECIAL REPORTER HERE

Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Stevie Nicks have made similar deals over the last year, earning nine-figure cash sums in exchange for the rights to their songs.

Publishing companies, whether as arms of corporations such as Sony and Universal or independent outfits like Hipgnosis and Primary Wave, earn royalties from the songs being performed, including through “syncs” on the soundtracks to film, TV and advertising.

The deal means Sony will take on the earning power of enduring Simon classics including Bridge Over Troubled Water, Graceland and Mrs. Robinson (though not the royalties of his longtime partner Art Garfunkel).

Jon Platt, Chairman & CEO, Sony Music Publishing said, “Paul Simon is a masterful, once-in-a-lifetime songwriter whose remarkable body of work has generated an enduring influence on our culture and consciousness.

“From Simon and Garfunkel standards like Bridge Over Troubled Water to solo classics such as Graceland, Paul Simon’s music resonates deeply as a cultural touchstone for people all over the world. To represent his indelible songs is an incredible honor for Sony Music Publishing, so with tremendous pride, I welcome Paul to our family!”

At age 79 Simon has retired from touring, rounding out his career with Homeward Bound – The Farewell Tour in 2018, the same year he released his last album, In The Blue Light.

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