At least $5 billion was spent on music rights acquisitions in 2021. Could 2022 be even bigger?

Photo credit: Giorgio Trovato

The music rights market was on fire in 2021.

MBW estimates – based on confirmed prices and information from industry sources – that at least $5.05 billion was spent on catalog and music rights acquisitions across the 60-plus big-money deals we reported on during last year.

That figure includes deals for individual catalogs sold by artists and songwriters, plus acquisitions of music rights portfolios (including those owned by active labels/publishers) by companies from other companies.

For clarification, the latter category included deals such as Warner Music Group‘s $400 million acquisition of 300 Entertainment, Concord’s $400 million acquisition of Downtown‘s catalog, Sony Music Group‘s nine-figure acquisitions of Todd Moscowitz’s Alamo Records and Brazilian label Som Livre, plus Kobalt‘s $1.1 billion catalog sale to KKR venture, Chord Music.

Close to half of MBW’s estimated $5.05 billion total sum – some $2.33 billion – was spent on acquisitions of rights directly from artists, songwriters and/or their estates.

And the pace (and price) of such deals is accelerating: In December alone (excluding WMG’s $400 million acquisition of 300), deals worth at least $720 million were struck for artist and songwriter catalog sales.

At least $500 million of that December tally came from Bruce Springsteen’s confirmed sale of his entire masters-plus-publishing catalog to Sony Music Group (and Eldridge Industries), the first time the half-a-billion dollar mark has been crossed for the catalog of an individual artist.

Could there be a bigger individual artist catalog deal in 2022? And could the massive total amount spent on catalogs in 2021 be surpassed this year?

There’s a good chance that it might.

The 2022 rights M&A market kicked into action last week Monday (January 3) with the news that Warner Music Group, via its Warner Chappell Music subsidiary, had acquired the global music publishing rights to David Bowie’s song catalog.

The price of the deal was in the region of $250 million.

We also learned last week that US songwriter and performer John Legend had sold his songwriting catalog for an undisclosed fee to BMG and KKR.

That transaction took place in September 2021, suggesting that MBW’s $5.05 billion estimate above might just be the tip of the iceberg; clearly, as in the case of Legend’s sale, our number doesn’t take into account those artists/writers who sold a catalog… but decided to stay quiet about it.


As we prepare for another potentially seismic year for the catalog deals market, below MBW has printed a big list of pretty much all the music rights acquisitions that hit MBW’s headlines in 2021, inclusive of many prices that were confirmed or – via MBW sources – rumored at the time.

This list primarily formed the basis for our headline calculations in this story.

Before we get into all of that, though, a few important caveats on our number above, and our list below:

  1. The below is certainly an extensive list, covering as it does the vast majority of M&A music deals covered by MBW in 2021, but it’s not an exhaustive one. There will be a few big money catalog deals, for example, that were never confirmed or announced at the behest of the writer/artist in question, which likely add up to hundreds of millions of dollars;
  2. We have discounted two huge 2021 music biz deals from our list/calculations, on the basis that they were acquisitions of music companies that were not rights-ownership-led: The first is HYBE’s $1 billion acquisition of mega-manager Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings (which included rights via Big Machine and other Ithaca holdings, but appeared to be primarily led by Braun’s artist management facility); the second is Sony Music Group’s $430 million acquisition of Kobalt’s AWAL and Kobalt Neighbouring Rights, neither of which was a music rightsholder. Where possible, we also haven’t included acquisitions where no underlying rights were purchased (e.g. BMG‘s acquisition of Mick Fleetwood’s personal royalty stream for his recordings);
  3. We’ve only included deals where the buying party acquires a sizable stake in the rights in question.

And now, here it is: that Big List O’ Deals you saw covered on MBW in 2021…


December 2021: at least $710m in writer/artist sales + $400m for 300 Entertainment
  • Tempo Music acquires publishing rights from producers Stefan Forrest, Morten Ristorp and Morten Pilegaard.
  • Sony Music buys entire Bruce Springsteen catalog for $500+ million. Sources suggest to MBW that the total amount paid to Springsteen for the double acquisition was around $550 million.
  • BMG and KKR announce first joint acquisition: The ‘entire music interests’ of ZZ Top. Trusted industry experts expect the KKR/BMG deal for ZZ Top carried a significant eight-figure price-tag, likely around the $50 million mark.
  • Warner pays $400 million in cash to acquire 300 Entertainment.
  • Concord Music Publishing acquires catalog of Country singer-songwriter Andy Albert.
  • Reservoir acquires stake in publishing catalog of Fred Parris, Founder Of The Five Satins.
  • Primary Wave acquires stake in bundle of James Brown rights in $90 million deal.
  • Primary Wave’s hot streak continues, as firm inks $20 million catalog deal with Survivor’s Jim Peterik.
  • Mojo Music & Media buys entire publishing catalog of songwriter and producer Jacknife Lee.
  • Round Hill Music acquires publishing catalog of Jellybean Benitez including hits by Madonna and Whitney Houston.

November 2021: At least $150 million in writer/artist sales

October 2021: At least $160 million in writer/artist sales + $1.1 billion for Kobalt catalog
  • Primary Wave buys stake in Luther Vandross publishing and master recording income stream as part of $40 million deal.
  • Kobalt sells catalog to new KKR venture, Chord, for $1.1 billion.
  • Primary Wave buys stake in Gerry Goffin catalog for $20 million.
  • Raleigh Music Publishing buys Lee Morris catalog including hit Blue Velvet, recorded by Bobby Vinton and others.
  • Primary Wave buys stake in Bing Crosby estate in $50m+ music deal.
  • BMG buys bundle of Tina Turner (pictured) rights in a deal that MBW estimates to be in the $50 million-and-above category.

September 2021: At least $140 million in artist/writer sales, as Round Hill doubles down
  • Round Hill Royalty Fund buys The O’Jays (pictured) recordings catalog.
  • Round Hill Music Royalty Fund buys catalog from British producer and songwriter Tim Palmer.
  • Round Hill Music Royalty Fund acquires catalog of Dennis Elliott, former drummer of Foreigner.
  • Reservoir buys catalog of masters and publishing from Nashville’s Sorted Noise.
  • CTM Outlander buys New York-based publishing company One77Music.
  • Hipgnosis Songs Fund has confirmed that in the April-September 2021 period, it spent a total of USD $260 million on music copyrights. These acquisitions included the below Christine McVie catalog, but also the song catalog of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a deal which is understood to have cost Hipgnosis around $140 million.

August 2021: at least $110m in writer/artist sales
  • Primary Wave buys stake in Prince estate, encompassing publishing, master recording income and more
    • Primary Wave acquired “100% of the inheritance” of Prince’s youngest of six siblings, Omarr Baker, as well as 90% of sister Tyka Nelson’s stake and 100% of the stake held by Alfred Jackson. An article from the Wall Street Journal followed, stating that through these deals, “Primary Wave is lined up to own about 42%” of the legendary singer’s estate, which the WSJ added is “valued somewhere between $100 million and $300 million”.
  • Tempo Music buys into music catalog of Twenty One Pilots’ singer-songwriter Tyler Joseph.
  • Hipgnosis buys a catalog from Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie. Judging by declared income figures for the catalog – and Hipgnosis’ typical multiple as per public filings – the deal would have cost around $27 million.
  • Round Hill buys publishing catalog from Yes guitarist and film composer Trevor Rabin.

July 2021: Primary Wave and Concord keep the M&A train moving
  • Primary Wave acquires music publishing catalog of songwriter and producer Steve Kipner.
  • Concord Music Publishing acquires catalog of Grammy Award-winning songwriter Lori McKenna.
  • Primary Wave buys 50% stake in master recordings of musician Chris Isaak (pictured) in ‘multi-million dollar’ deal. MBW sources suggest this one ran into the eight figures.

June 2021: At least $150 million in writer/artist sales + Reservoir’s $100 million Tommy Boy buy, and Sony‘s nine-figure Alamo swoop

May 2021: At least $50 million in writer/artist sales
  • Hipgnosis buys catalog from Grammy-winning producer Andy Wallace.
  • Round Hill Music acquires master recordings from Swedish label Telegram Studios.
  • Influence Media Partners buys catalog from Grammy-nominated songwriter Julia Michaels.
  • Primary Wave buys Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers catalog, including master royalty income stream across Rihanna’s first seven albums in ‘multi-million deal’.
  • Hipgnosis acquires 105 songs from Grammy-winner Andrew Watt in eight-figure deal; MBW estimates this at “upwards of $45 million”.

April 2021: $400 million for Downtown’s catalog, as Sony spends another $255m
  • Concord buys Downtown’s owned music copyright catalog for around $400 million.
  • Primary Wave buys catalog of Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard in ‘multi-million-dollar deal’
  • After launching $100m fund, Influence Media buys catalog from Grammy-nominated songwriter Ali Tamposi.
  • Sony Music Group spends $255 million buying Som Livre, Brazil’s biggest non-major-owned record label.

March 2021: At least $250 million in writer/artist sales
  • Paul Simon (pictured) sells song catalog to Sony Music Publishing. Sony didn’t disclose the price of the deal, but sources tell MBW it was upwards of $200 million.
  • Round Hill Music acquires publishing catalog of Country songwriter and producer Zach Crowell.
  • Primary Wave buys majority stake in publishing catalog of Mark Morrison in ‘multi-million dollar deal’.
  • Irving Azoff buys again, as Iconic snaps up Linda Ronstadt recorded music rights.
  • Hipgnosis buys catalog of Nobody Does It Better writer Carole Bayer Sager, likely for around $10 million.
  • Reach Music buys 50% interest in song catalog of Judas Priest’s Glenn Tipton.
  • David Crosby sells catalog to Irving Azoff’s Iconic Artists Group, including recorded music and publishing rights.

February 2021: At least $100 million in writer/artist sales + Round Hill’s $282 million splurge
  • Irving Azoff buys Beach Boys rights in what looks likely to be a $100 million-plus deal.
  • Primary Wave buys catalog from Wilson Phillips members Chynna Phillips and Carnie Wilson.
  • Round Hill’s UK-listed fund starts buying, spending $282 million on hits recorded by The Beatles, Marvin Gaye and more.
  • Round Hill acquires catalog of Massive Attack members Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall.

January 2021: At least $420m in writer/artist sales + Primary Wave’s $30 million Sun Records buy
  • Primary Wave buys legendary Sun Records in $30 million deal, including masters for Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis.
  • Sony/ATV signs new deal with songwriter Mark James, acquires rights for three of his songs.
  • Wise Music Group acquires Zombies catalog in deal with Bocu Group.
  • Hipgnosis acquires catalog from Michael Bublé and Metallica producer Bob Rock.
  • Round Hill acquires catalog of US band Collective Soul.
  • Primary Wave acquires catalog of Jon Lind, including hits by Earth, Wind & Fire and Madonna.
  • UMPG buys catalog of songwriter and producer Louis Bell, including hits by Post Malone and The Jonas Brothers.
  • Primary Wave buys 50% stake in publishing catalog of Grammy-nominated songwriter KT Tunstall.
  • Round Hill buys catalog of Billy Duffy, songwriter and guitarist with UK rock band, The Cult.
  • Hipgnosis buys 100% of Shakira’s publishing catalog, spanning 145 songs.
  • KKR buys majority stake in Ryan Tedder catalog, marking investment giant’s return to music rights ownership. Reuters estimated the deal size at $200 million.
  • Round Hill buys catalog of Bryan Adams songwriting partner Jim Vallance.
  • Primary Wave buys publishing catalog of Grammy Award-winning songwriter Dan Wilson, including hits by Adele.
  • Hipgnosis acquires 50% of Neil Young’s (pictured) song catalog for around $150 million.
  • Hipgnosis fully acquires Lindsey Buckingham song catalog, including 100% writer and publisher share of Fleetwood Mac hits.
  • Jimmy Iovine sells producer catalog royalties to Hipgnosis.

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