John Legend recently unloaded his catalog of songs, joining a growing list of musicians who’ve sold their catalogs. But what makes Legend’s sale unique is how young he is. At 43, he’s far younger than Bob Dylan, 80, or Bruce Springsteen, 72, who also recently unloaded their libraries.
Entertainment Weekly reported that BMG, a music company, and KKR, an investment firm, purchased Legend’s music for an undisclosed amount of money. The deal includes his entire catalog going back to his first album the report says. It’s unclear how this will impact his future songs.
Bloomberg says Legend sold the copyrights and the rights to receive royalties from music he wrote from late 2004 through early 2020.
John Legend hasn’t commented on the sale.
John Legend Cashing In on Catalog Like Other Major Musical Acts
“I am one artist who can truly say that when I signed with Columbia Records in 1972, I came to the right place,” Springsteen said after the sale. “During the last 50 years, the men and women of Sony Music have treated me with the greatest respect as an artist and as a person. I’m thrilled that my legacy will continue to be cared for by the company and people I know and trust.”
Bob Dylan, the voice of his generation and possibly the greatest songwriter of all time, sold 600 songs to the Universal Music Group in 2020 for $400 million.
Sir Lucian Grainge, CEO of UMG, called Dylan’s music “timeless” in a statement announcing the sale.
“Brilliant and moving, inspiring and beautiful, insightful and provocative, his songs are timeless — whether they were written more than half a century ago or yesterday. It is no exaggeration to say that his vast body of work has captured the love and admiration of billions of people all around the world,” Grainge said, according to the Associated Press.
There’s a Bidding War for Musicians’ Catalogs
There is big money in licensing music. Whenever you hear a song in a TV show, movie, or commercial, the producers paid to play it. And it most likely didn’t come cheap. And we’ve come to a crossroads.
Many legacy acts, the big-named musicians with hits that have lasted decades, are entering their golden years where they want to slow their touring schedule or retiree. At the same time, streaming services like Spotify have proven just how valuable these songs can be. And this confluence of events has created a gold rush to acquire as much popular music as possible, Vice reported last year.
“The best catalogs you can buy are timeless,” Josh Gruss, who owns Round Hill Music, said. “In general, it’s things like Motown, or The Beatles, or Christmas songs, or classic rock songs. Those are going to be very consistent earners.”
We’re still in the earlier stages of the market, but the rush is far from over. John Legend putting his catalog on the market is only going to entice other musicians to test the waters.