Justin Bieber sells song rights for $200m, joining long list of stars cashing in

The pop star, 28, sold his 290-song back catalogue to Hipgnosis Songs Capital

Hipgnosis now owns Justin Bieber's share of some of the 21st century's biggest hits including Baby and Sorry. AFP
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Justin Bieber has sold his music publishing and recording catalogue shares to the Blackstone-backed Hipgnosis Songs Fund for $200 million, the company said on Tuesday, marking the industry's latest blockbuster rights deal.

The sale, which has been rumoured for weeks, leads to the star, 28, joining a who's who list of artists who have cashed out recently on their catalogues.

Contemporary stars including Justin Timberlake and Shakira have sold large stakes in their work — both also struck deals with Hipgnosis — but the move has mostly been common among legacy artists such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

The staggering sums — Springsteen's catalogue went to Sony for a reported half billion dollars — are considered safe bets both for older artists getting their finances in order and investors who can count on consistent returns from time-tested music and the viability of streaming.

Younger catalogues are seen as riskier territory, but Bieber is among the best-selling artists ever, and now Hipgnosis has his share in some of the 21st century's biggest hits including Baby and Sorry.

Hipgnosis Songs Capital is a $1 billion venture between financial giant Blackstone and the British Hipgnosis Song Management Limited.

Hipgnosis said they acquired Bieber's interest in his publishing copyrights to his 290-song back catalogue — all of his music released prior to December 31, 2021.

Bieber's longtime home Universal will continue to administer the catalogue and still owns the artist's master recordings. Hipgnosis has acquired the artist's stake in his masters as well as his neighbouring rights — a royalty through which its owner receives a payment every time a song is played publicly.

After the Canadian singer was discovered on YouTube as a teen, Bieber skyrocketed to global fame, selling more than 150 million records.

He has had eight No 1 records on Billboard's top albums lists, and his songs have been streamed on Spotify alone more than 32 billion times.

"The impact of Justin Bieber on global culture over the last 14 years has truly been remarkable," said Hipgnosis chief Merck Mercuriadis, a longtime music industry executive.

"At only 28 years of age, he is one of a handful of defining artists of the streaming era that has revitalised the entire music industry, taking a loyal and worldwide audience with him on a journey from teen phenomenon to [a] culturally important artist."

Bieber's health has suffered recently, with the star going on an indefinite touring hiatus after he revealed he'd been diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a rare complication of shingles that for him caused partial facial paralysis. He was due to play two shows at Dubai's Coca-Cola Arena last October.

What the sales mean

Music catalogues have always changed hands, but the current publishing sales boom has escalated rapidly, with financial markets increasingly drawn to lucrative music portfolios as an asset class.

Mercuriadis's Hipgnosis, which went public on the London Stock Exchange in 2018, has played a large part in publicising the spike in sales.

The sector had seemed to cool recently, but the Bieber deal shows investors are still hungry for music acquisitions.

Owners of a song's publishing rights receive a cut in various scenarios, including radio play and streaming, album sales, and use in advertising and movies. Recording rights govern reproduction and distribution.

The flurry of sales came amid a wider conversation over artists' ownership of the work, amplified in large part by Taylor Swift, who has found resounding success as she re-records her first six albums so she can control their master recording rights.

That move stemmed from Swift's very public feud with Scooter Braun, the music manager whose company once owned her original masters, and later sold them to the investment firm Shamrock Holdings.

Braun has been Bieber's manager for 15 years and released a statement which read: "When Justin made the decision to make a catalogue deal we quickly found the best partner to preserve and grow this amazing legacy was Merck and Hipgnosis.

"Justin is truly a once-in-a-generation artist and that is reflected and acknowledged by the magnitude of this deal."

Which artists have sold their rights?

Imagine Dragons

US pop rock band Imagine Dragons sold their entire catalogue up until 2020 to Concord Music Publishing in a deal said to have exceeded $100 million.

Justin Timberlake

In May last year, Justin Timberlake sold his entire catalogue to Hipgnosis for more than $100 million.

Shakira

Shakira sold her 45-song catalogue in 2021. AP

Columbian singer Shakira sold her 145-song catalogue to Hipgnosis in January 2021 for an undisclosed fee.

Neil Young

Neil Young sold 50 per cent of his catalogue — 1,180 tracks — to Hipgnosis in January 2021 in a deal reported to be worth $150 million.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan sold 100 per cent of his publishing catalogue of more than 600 songs to Universal Music in 2020, in a deal reported to be worth up to $400 million. In January 2022, Sony acquired the rights to his master recordings for $200 million.

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks sold a majority stake in her music rights for $100 million last year. AFP

In January last year, Stevie Nicks sold a majority stake in her catalogue to Primary Wave for $100 million.

The Killers

US rock band The Killers sold their entire catalogue up until 2020 to Eldridge Industries for an undisclosed price.

- Additional reporting by AFP

Updated: January 25, 2023, 9:04 AM