Now John Legend sells: BMG and KKR buy catalog from All Of Me hitmaker

John Legend

Music’s latest big catalog sale has been confirmed: US songwriter and performer, John Legend, has sold his songwriting catalog for an undisclosed fee to BMG and KKR.

Interestingly, it appears that the Legend sale to KKR and BMG was finalized before the two companies jointly acquired a catalog from ZZ Top.

In December, that ZZ Top acquisition became the first officially announced joint acquisition from the duo of firms.

According to a US regulatory filing seen by Bloomberg, KKR (via affiliate DL Music IP) and BMG have each purchased a 50% stake in Legend’s songwriting catalog for material written from late 2004 through to early 2021.

That period would include music from Legend’s acclaimed 2004 debut album, Get Lifted, through to hits like All Of Me (2013) – a global smash which has more than 1.6 billion plays on Spotify to date.

The BMG/KKR transaction, according to the filing, was executed in September last year.

The John Legend acquisition is particularly interesting in the context of acquisitive music rightsholders taking bets on ‘shallow catalog’ rather than ‘deep catalog’.

John Legend’s hits have been released in the past 15-20 years (‘shallow catalog’). This is in contrast to songwriters who have recently sold catalogs with hits dating much further back, into the 1960s and 1970s (‘deep catalog’).

Such songwriters have included Bob Dylan (who sold his song catalog to Universal Music Group for around $350 million in late 2020), Paul Simon (who sold his catalog for a nine-figure fee to Sony Music Group in early 2021), Neil Young (who sold 50% of his song catalog to Hipgnosis in early 2021 for around $150 million), Bruce Springsteen (who sold both his master rights and song rights to Sony Music Group for a combined ≈$550 million in late 2021), and David Bowie (whose estate sold his career-spanning song rights to Warner Music Group for around $250 million, as confirmed earlier this week).

BMG has worked with John Legend since the Bertelsmann-owned company acquired the artist’s music publisher, Cherry Lane Music Publishing, in 2010.

Legend is managed by Ty Stiklorius at Friends At Work, and is represented on the business management side by David Levin.

KKR announced its acquisitive alliance with BMG in March last year.

KKR told MBW at the time that the two firms had jointly committed at least a billion dollars to buy music catalogs in the global marketplace.

Since then, KKR has launched Chord Music – its own acquisitive music fund – which it used to acquire a portfolio of song rights from Kobalt for $1.1 billion in October.

One of KKR’s longtime music-focused Partners, Nat Zilkha, recently left the investment firm to launch his own as-yet-unannounced new venture in the music business.

In 2013, KKR sold a 51% stake in BMG for around a billion dollars to the music company’s now-sole-parent, Bertelsmann.Music Business Worldwide