A Ranking of the Biggest Music Deals in History
| LAST UPDATE 04/18/2023
Music's always been the breadwinner, but buying rights to entire catalogs is next-level. Huge deals are happening left and right - is your fave artist cashing in? Let's find out.
30. Leon Russell, Undisclosed Amount
While you may not be familiar with his name, we're pretty sure you've heard his music. Leon Russell created some of the most iconic songs. They were so renowned that his music catalog was sold in 2019.
The music publishing company Primary Wave made a deal with Leon Russell's estate for the music publishing and masters of his records for an undisclosed amount of money. Some of the hit songs included are Delta Lady, A Song for You, and Tight Rope. Keep scrolling to see who else has sold their music in exchange for the big bucks!
29. Neil Diamond, Undisclosed Amount
The American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond has created some of the most recognizable tunes. He is one of the best-selling musicians, with over 130 million records sold worldwide. From Sweet Caroline to Song Sung Blue, Diamond has hit after hit.
In 2022, Universal Music Group acquired his entire songwriting catalog and the rights to his recordings. The acquisition also included unreleased tracks, an unreleased album, and archival videos. Diamond sold everything for an undisclosed amount. After a big deal like that, he probably sits at home drinking Red Red Wine.
28. Shakira, Undisclosed Amount
Shakira began her storied career when she was only 13 years old. Since then, she has sold over 80 million records, won three Grammy Awards, 12 Latin Grammy Awards, and performed in the Super Bowl halftime show. She also sold her music publishing rights to her entire catalog to Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited in 2021.
While the amount wasn't disclosed, we can only imagine it came with a hefty price tag to buy the Queen of Latin Music's songs. Her catalog consisted of 145 records at the time of the sale and included hits like Whenever, Wherever and Hips Don't Lie. She also wrote or co-wrote everything she recorded. Go, Shakira, go!
27. Mick Fleetwood, Undisclosed Amount
Mick Fleetwood is one part of Fleetwood Mac. Yes, THE Fleetwood Mac. Their songs have been playing on the radio for decades and, more recently, have had their viral moments on TikTok. In 2021, he sold his interest in the band's recordings to BMG. This deal included hits like Dreams, The Chain, and Landslide.
BMG's CEO, Hartwig Masuch, said, "Mick Fleetwood is the bedrock of one of the greatest bands in rock, he has a unique talent to bring together musicians of all genres and of course he is one of rock's greatest drummers." BMG acquired Fleetwood's share for an undisclosed amount, but we're sure there were Rumours surrounding it.
26. Aerosmith, Undisclosed Amount
The legendary rock band had humble beginnings in 1970 in Boston. Fast-forward five decades, Aerosmith has become one of history's most influential and successful bands. They have dominated arenas, sold over 150 million albums, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Now, the entire catalog belongs to Universal Music Group. They acquired Aerosmith's discography in 2021 for an undisclosed sum of money. We're sure the amount will make everyone want to Walk This Way. Even Aerosmith co-founder and lead guitarist Joe Perry said, "Needless to say we are very excited."
25. The Beach Boys, Undisclosed Amount
Their music immediately transports its listeners to the sunny California beaches of a time long past. The Beach Boys are an iconic music group whose music defined a generation. They are also part of the elite list of bands who have sold their catalogs and assets.
Universal Music Group owns many of the band's classic hits, while Iconic Artists Group purchased a controlling interest in their IP. Iconic Artists Group made the purchase for an undisclosed amount in 2021. Both companies want to do what's best for the band and its enduring legacy.
24. Barry Manilow, Undisclosed Amount
Barry Manilow is one of the most successful recording artists to date, and he is three-quarters of the way to an EGOT with a Grammy, Tony, and Emmy already under his belt. He rose to fame in the 1970s and 80s and has remained at the top ever since. In 2020, Hipgnosis acquired Manilow's entire catalog.
Although the acquisition amount was not released, Hipgnosis now owns the rights to Manilow's many hits, including Copacabana, Mandy, and I Write the Songs. Hipgnosis's manager, Merck Mercuriadis, said, "Barry Manilow is an International treasure. He's an incomparable artist, songwriter, arranger, musician and performer."
23. Jack Antonoff, Undisclosed Amount
In another significant acquisition for Hipgnosis, the company bought the music catalog of songwriter and producer Jack Antonoff. Any Swiftie fan will recognize his name due to his many collaborations with Taylor Swift. He has also worked with Lana Del Ray, Lorde, and Pink.
He's also the frontman of Bleachers and a founding member of Fun. The deal amount wasn't disclosed, but Antonoff will still be interested in the catalog, per Variety. The deal was announced at the end of 2019. What other artists have sold their catalogs? Keep scrolling to find out!
22. Mark Ronson, Undisclosed Amount
Producer and artist Mark Ronson sold 70% of his rights to his music publishing to Hipgnosis Songs. The acquisition was completed in 2020 for an undisclosed amount, and we're betting he did a bit of dancing to Uptown Funk (his most famous song) as the deal was signed.
Ronson has released five albums as a solo artist. Still, he is better known for his work as a producer and collaborator on some of the biggest hits in the past few decades, like Amy Winehouse's iconic album Back to Black or the single Shallow from A Star is Born starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
21. Ray Charles, Undisclosed Amount
Often referred to as "The Genius," Ray Charles had an extensive and prolific career as a musician. His works trailblazed the soul genre and created new movements. He was an inaugural inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and his music continues to be loved and played years after his passing.
So, it only makes sense that a company would want to acquire the rights to his work. Primary Wave Music Publishing did just that in 2020 for an undisclosed amount. They now control a majority stake in Charles' pre-1964 music catalog. Everybody else better Hit the Road Jack.
20. Blondie, Undisclosed Amount
Blondie helped to define the punk genre when it went mainstream. The band was founded by singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein in the 1970s. They produced hits like Rapture, Heart of Glass, and Call Me. Their 197-song portfolio was sold in 2020 for an undisclosed amount to Hipgnosis Songs Fund Ltd.
Harry and Stein said about the acquisition, "We are so happy to be working with a progressive company. We are looking forward to the future with Hipgnosis' forward thinking team." One way or another, their music catalog would sell for some big bucks.
19. Lindsey Buckingham, Undisclosed Amount
Just like his bandmate, the lead guitarist and singer of Fleetwood Mac sold the shares of his music publishing rights to Hipgnosis. Not only did it give the company part of the rights to the work he did with Fleetwood Mac, but it also gave them the rights to his five solo albums and more.
Hipgnosis's founder Merck Mercuriadis said about the acquisition of Lindsey Buckingham's catalog, "Lindsey Buckingham is one of the greatest guitarists, songwriters and producers of all time yet is still so underrated. His work with Fleetwood Mac has brought the world unparalleled joy over the last 45 years…"
18. Hall & Oates, Undisclosed Amount
Before purchasing music rights was the hot trend taking over the town, Primary Wave Music Publishing acquired the rights to the songs Sara and Janna Allen wrote in 2007. While they may not be recognizable names, who they wrote their songs for were. They wrote chart-topping hits for the legendary band Hall & Oates.
These are just a few titles from the 70 songs they wrote: Maneater, Kiss on My List, You Make My Dreams, and Private Eyes. Fun fact - the Hall & Oates song Sara Smile is about Sara Allen. She was in a long-term relationship with Daryl Hall, and both sisters helped define the duo's sound style.
17. Whitney Houston, Undisclosed Amount
The world lost a star when Whitney Houston tragically passed away in 2012. The 48-year-old left the world heartbroken. Then, in 2019, her estate partnered with Primary Wave to try and rebuild her business. They took a 50% stake for an undisclosed amount of money and have quadrupled the estate's earnings since, per Variety.
They have big things planned for the future, too. Per Variety, there will be two new Houston albums arriving in 2023 to honor what would be the singer's 60th birthday. A Broadway biopic and a Las Vegas tribute show are also in the works. This makes us want to dance with somebody!
16. Huey Lewis and the News, $20 Million
In the 1980s, Huey Lewis and The News' music dominated the radio. Their iconic music videos were frequently played on MTV, and their 1985 single "The Power of Love," which was written for "Back to the Future," reached the top of the charts.
Hop in the DeLorean and head to 2022. According to Variety, they sold their entire music catalog for around $20 million. It includes their biggest hits like Heart of Rock & Roll and Hip to Be Square. Now, Huey Lewis and The News don't need to be Workin' For a Livin'.
15. Kurt Cobain, $50 Million
Kurt Cobain was the frontman and founder of the rock band Nirvana. Cobain became the voice of a generation, fighting against the establishment. They became a sensation after releasing their single Smells Like Teen Spirit, which Cobain wrote. He also wrote many of their other hits, like Come as You Are and About a Girl.
Although his life was tragically cut short in 1994, his powerful lyrics and songs still resonate today. So, it comes as no surprise that Courtney Love, Cobain's wife and owner of Cobain's songwriting copyrights, sold her 25% share of Nirvana's publishing rights for $50 million to Primary Wave Music Publishing.
14. ZZ Top, $50 Million
ZZ Top is an American rock band that hailed from Houston, Texas. Guitarist Billy Gibbons, drummer Frank Beard, and bassist Dusty Hill founded the band. Since its formation, it has become one of the longest-continuing musical groups in modern history, according to iHeart.
They are known for their live performances, lyrics, and matching looks that Gibbons and Hill wore. In 2021, they sold their entire music catalog to BMG and KKR for an estimated $50 million, per Variety. ZZ Top's manager Carl Stubner said, "This new deal ensures ZZ Top's remarkable legacy will endure for generations to come."
13. Bob Marley, $50 Million
His name is known worldwide, and so is his music. Bob Marley has become a fixture in pop culture from his signature dreadlock look to his Jamaican-inspired music. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was really Jamming.
Even though his family handles most of his estate, Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, controlled the rights to Marley's music catalog. In 2018, he made a deal with Primary Wave to sell 80% of the rights for $50 million. It seems like the Sun is Shining for these music publishers.
12. Mötley Crüe, $90 Million
Mötley Crüe defined the heavy metal era with their over-the-top performances and tumultuous personal lives. They have sold over 100 million albums across the world, were nominated for three Grammy awards, and were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2021, the Too Fast for Love band sold the entirety of their music catalog to BMG. Music Business Worldwide said the deal was around $90 million. In a statement, the band said, "It feels amazing to be collaborating with our new partners at BMG." What other big bands have sold their rights? Let's keep scrolling to find out.
11. Imagine Dragons, $100 Million
Breaking the $100 million mark is the Las Vegas-based rock band Imagine Dragons. They have sold 20 million albums worldwide, and four of their songs are in the top 100 most streamed on Spotify, with each of them surpassing one billion streams. How insane is that!
According to Music Business Worldwide, they sold their music catalog for over $100 million to Concord in 2020. Talk about a Radioactive acquisition. The Chief Publishing Executive at Concord, Jake Wisley, said it best when he said, "Imagine Dragons are a rock powerhouse."
10. Stevie Nicks, $100 Million
In the top ten is Stevie Nicks, the legendary singer and songwriter from Fleetwood Mac. Her other two bandmates also sold the stakes of their music. The Wall Street Journal reports that Nicks sold 80% of her stake to Primary Wave for approximately $100 million.
This is a Landslide deal. Nicks is the only woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a Fleetwood Mac member and a solo artist. Primary Wave's CEO, Larry Mestel, said, "To say we're excited to welcome the incredible Stevie Nicks to the Primary Wave family would be a dramatic understatement."
9. Red Hot Chili Peppers, $140 Million
Formed in 1982, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have become one of the best-selling rock bands ever. They have won six Grammy Awards, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The group sold their catalog to Hipgnosis Songs for "upwards of $140 million," per Variety.
Their catalog includes hits like Dani California, Californication, Under the Bridge, Knock Me Down, and many more. Band members Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith, and John Frusciante have come a long way since starting their careers, and are still pumping out albums with their latest, Unlimited Love, released in 2022.
8. Neil Young, $150 Million
The Canadian-born singer moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s, hoping to make it big. His wishes came true, and Young became one of the greatest artists ever. His sounds were iconic, from his solo ventures to working as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The folk rocker's hits are recognized everywhere, from Harvest Moon to Rockin' in the Free World. Young's singing voice, guitar playing, and lyrics have set him apart from other artists. Hipgnosis Songs acquired a 50% stake in his catalog, comprising 1,180 songs and almost 50 albums, for an estimated $150 million, per CNBC.
7. Justin Bieber, $200 Million
This next deal will have you sing, "Baby, baby, baby, oh!" Pop sensation Justin Bieber made the move to sell his music catalog in 2023 to London-based Hipgnosis. Billboard reports Hipgnosis bought the catalog for an estimated $200 million, which includes the rights to hits like Peaches, Love Yourself, and Yummy.
Scooter Braun, Bieber's longtime manager and the man who actually discovered him via a YouTube video in 2007, said, "Justin is truly a once in a generation artist and that is reflected and acknowledged by the magnitude of this deal." Bieber's hairstyle inspired a generation, and his music will inspire for years to come.
6. David Bowie, $250 Million
There may never be someone quite like David Bowie. The English singer-songwriter was one of the best-selling musicians of all time, and Rolling Stone named him one of the greatest artists in history. From his alter ego Ziggy Stardust to his iconic hits, Bowie was truly a star.
After months of negotiation, Bowie's estate sold his music catalog to Warner Chappell Music for an estimated $250 million, per Variety. The agreement includes hits like Let's Dance, Space Oddity, Fame, and Changes. Bowie's influence and reach will continue to grow and inspire music listeners of every age.
5. Sting, $250 Million
Although his birth name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, the musician is better known to the world as Sting. He was the frontman of the rock band the Police and, after their breakup, went on to have an extremely successful solo career. He's been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Additionally, Sting has many other achievements cementing him as one of the greatest artists ever. Universal Music Publishing Group acquired his entire songwriting catalog for an estimated $300 million in a blockbuster deal, per The New York Times. This deal will include hits like Every Breath You Take and Roxanne.
4. Phil Collins and Genesis, $300 Million
Phil Collins was the drummer and later became the lead singer of the band Genesis. The English rock band led the progressive rock scene and released hits like Mama and That's All in the 1980s. Years later, they are still making headlines with a huge deal.
In 2022, Phil Collins and his Genesis bandmates, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, agreed to sell their catalog to Concord Music Group. The Wall Street Journal reports the deal was for an estimated $300 million. The agreement also includes all three band members' solo material. Who do you think will make it into the top three?
3. Taylor Swift, $300 Million
Taylor Swift's music catalog was sold, although it is way more controversial than the other artists on the list. Music manager Scooter Braun bought the label that Swift signed on to as a teenager. After acquiring the rights to her music catalog, he sold the rights to Shamrock Capital for an estimated $300 million, per Variety.
Swift was vocal about her disapproval of the deal and Scooter Braun's involvement. She was so upset that she began to record new versions of her old music, and her Swifties rallied behind the singer as she released her "Taylor's Version" of old albums. This controversial deal caused some major Bad Blood.
2. Bob Dylan, $300 Million
The times are definitely a-changing. American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan sold his music catalog for an estimated $300 million in 2020, per The New York Times. The acquisition is one of the largest; for a good reason, Dylan is one of the most well-renowned musicians.
His sounds and lyrics shaped American music and culture. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." The acquisition includes his entire career with hits including Like a Rolling Stone and Blowin' in the Wind. Keep reading to see who is #1!
1. Bruce Springsteen, $550 Million
Coming in at over half a billion dollars, Bruce Springsteen's deal to sell the rights to his music is one of the biggest. Per The New York Times, Sony Music Entertainment purchased Springsteen's catalog for an estimated $550 million in 2021. The Boss has over 21 studio albums and has sold over 140 million records worldwide.
Rolling Stone described him as "the embodiment of rock & roll." This gigantic deal proves just that. The acquisition includes Springsteen's biggest hits, like Born to Run, Blinded by the Light, and Born in the U.S.A. Springsteen has rightfully earned his spot as one of the greatest artists.