Music marketing Catalogue and song management
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The catalogue race is on
Music catalogues are changing hands for serious sums of money. The race to acquire the songwriters’ share is on, and it is speeding up.
However, while that race is a sprint, what happens after is a marathon. For the acquirers – Hipgnosis and its cohort of competitors, publishing majors like UMPG or indies like BMG – the return on investment is very much a longer-term game. In this game some of the rules are known: the so-called uncorrelated revenues from public performance, the scale of streaming etc., and some are not: the lucky strike of a TikTok viral hit or a major sync or sample license, for example. Other rules are being made up as the game develops, and these are much more intriguing. For example, why do some catalogues seem to effortlessly connect with the millennial masses (Fleetwood Mac, Queen) while others have not? Can these new song owners make a song, and therefore the artist, more culturally relevant?
Of course, part of the game is to acquire songs and artists that will remain culturally relevant. Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac et. al. will always be so to some extent. Yet a steady hum of cultural relevance will not be enough to make these catalogues truly profitable. The new owners need more than that – can these catalogues be nudged along, so that they culturally ‘pop’ over and over again?
Consider Queen, for example. There was a long period (most of the and a fair chunk of the 2000’s) when nobody really cared much for Queen’s music. It took a steady succession of re-releases along with a change of label ownership, massive legacy tours, documentaries, a blockbuster movie, major syncs and social media phenomena to elevate Queen from to most streamed band in the world – i.e., this was not uncorrelated.