David Bowie’s catalog has been acquired by Warner Chappell Music, extending a recent string of high-profile music rights deals.
Financial terms were not officially disclosed, but press reports pegged the value at more than $250 million. The rise of streaming as an economic engine, along with the mushrooming array of content into which music can be incorporated, has pushed catalog prices higher. Recent deals have been sewn up by Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and the estate of James Brown, among many other artists.
This agreement follows one reached last year between Warner Music Group (parent of Warner Chappell) and the Bowie estate. Under that 2021 deal, Warner Music has licensed worldwide rights to Bowie’s recorded music catalog from 1968.
The global rights deal covers the entire body of work of Bowie, who died of liver cancer in 2016. The catalog includes songs like “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Starman,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Fame,” “Young Americans,” “Golden Years,” “Heroes,” “Ashes to Ashes,” “Modern Love” and “Let’s Dance.” The agreement includes the 26 studio albums released during Bowie’s lifetime, as well as the posthumous studio album Toy. Two studio albums Bowie made with the band Tin Machine, along with tracks released as singles from soundtracks and other projects, are also part of the package.
In the latter stages of his career, Bowie had taken steps to gain more control of his catalog. He licensed it to EMI Music in 1997 in a 15-year deal but also created “Bowie bonds,” securities based on his future royalties. The bond sale raised $55 million and helped Bowie buy a share of his back catalog that had been claimed by his former manager.
“All of us at Warner Chappell are immensely proud that the David Bowie estate has chosen us to be the caretakers of one of the most groundbreaking, influential, and enduring catalogs in music history,” WCM Co-Chair and CEO Guy Moot said. “These are not only extraordinary songs, but milestones that have changed the course of modern music forever. 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.”
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