The latest deal in the race for music rights includes nine studio albums from 40 years of band history and various other publications: The Bertelsmann music division BMG is taking over the rights to the recordings of the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe, as both sides announced on Tuesday evening German time. 

Benjamin Fischer

Editor in business.

  • Follow I follow

The extensive track record in rock makes BMG "the perfect home to preserve and expand our musical legacy and to ensure that we always stay at the top," said a statement by the band.

Mötley Crüe manager Allen Kovac emphasized: “After working side by side with BMG for over a decade, the relationship we have developed and the success we have achieved over the years make it easy for you to enjoy this to entrust valuable rock catalog ”.

Few bands understand "the myth and magic of rock like Mötley Crüe", BMG boss Hartwig Masuch was quoted as saying.

"In an increasingly competitive market for rights acquisition, artists need to be convinced that a buyer will do the right thing with their work."

"Largest single catalog acquisition since 2008"

According to the release, the Los Angeles-based band has sold more than 100 million albums since their 1981 debut album ("Too Fast For Love"). The last album so far ("Saints Of Los Angeles") was written in 2008, but the band plans to go on tour again next year. As is usually the case with such transactions, nothing was communicated about the purchase price. In industry media, the figures vary from around $ 90 million to $ 150 million. BMG (behind Universal, Sony and Warner Music, the fourth largest music company in the world) only said that the business was "the largest single catalog takeover" since it was founded in 2008.

The Bertelsmann music division was initially rebuilt in partnership with the financial investor KKR by means of catalog takeovers.

At that time it was primarily a matter of buying published catalogs - that is, rights to texts and compositions.

The publishing division continued to account for more than half of BMG's total turnover of 602 million euros in 2020.

Most of the recent sales (such as Bob Dylan's sale of the music rights to Universal Music) were also about authoring rights.

Those who keep them are involved in every use of text and compositions - for example in films or cover songs.

Financial investors are increasingly interested

However, when purchasing physical sound carriers, downloads or in the streaming sector, which has been booming for years, recording accounts for the far larger share of royalties. A little more than 50 percent of the total income of Spotify & Co is, for example, in streaming (in total, the services distribute around two thirds of their income to the rights holders of the music). The significantly more lucrative rights to recordings are often held by the labels of the respective artists - especially with older bands, sometimes for decades. Today the evaluation times are usually much shorter. Mötley Crüe bought back the rights to their old recordings in the 1990s.

Hartwig Masuch also expects further acquisitions of recording rights in the course of the ongoing race: "The rights to many valuable recorded catalogs will go back to the artists in the next three to five years and can then potentially be sold to financial investors," he said BMG boss emphasized to the FAZ in July.

The sale of the rights to various old Taylor Swift recordings was somewhat different: after the investor and artist manager Scooter Braun had taken over her old label Big Machine Records, he sold the rights to the investment company Shamrock Capital for around 300 million dollars.

Much to the annoyance of Swift, who subsequently began re-releasing their old albums to reduce the value of the rights that Braun sold.

Selling Springsteen rights under discussion

BMG had already acquired Mick Fleetwood's shares in many of the Fleetwood Mac's recordings in January, but not the rights to them.

This was also the case with the deal with Tina Turner, whose label partner is still Warner Music.

The acquisition also included Turner's share in the marketing of her texts and compositions as well as her ancillary and performance rights (“Neighboring Rights”) and rights to name and image.

For some time now, financial investors have been reaching out for music rights. Both Blackstone and Apollo Global Management have announced that they want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars. Blackstone also works with the fundraising fund Hipgnosis. According to the industry magazine Variety, he was also interested in the Mötley Crüe catalog after acquiring the author's rights from Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx in September 2020. KKR, in turn, recently took over a catalog with around 62,000 rights from Kobalt Capital for around $ 1.1 billion. BMG and KKR also announced in the spring that they would jointly acquire rights. The first purchase of this alliance has not yet been announced, but the partners also want to spend up to a billion dollars in total.

More big deals will only be a matter of time.

Not only David Bowie's heirs are currently negotiating with Warner Music about the sale of the author's rights to the star, who died in 2016.

Bruce Springsteen is also apparently interested in a multi-million dollar sale.

According to “Billboard”, the favorite for the rights to his recordings is his long-time label partner Sony Music.