Sony Music in talks to acquire Queen catalog in potential $1bn deal (report)

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Sony Music is reportedly in talks to acquire the catalog of iconic British rock act Queen.

That’s according to Bloomberg, which published an article on Wednesday (May 29) citing sources as saying that Sony is currently “working with another investor” on a transaction that “could potentially total $1 billion”.

Bloomberg added that the negotiations “are ongoing and may not result in an agreement” but that a potential deal would include “merchandising and other business opportunities”.

Queen’s catalog features megahits like Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites the Dust and many more.

News of Sony’s reported talks to acquire Queen’s catalog arrives a year after Music Business Worldwide broke the news (in May 2023) that discussions were happening between Queen’s representatives and certain companies over a potential $1 billion-plus catalog sale.

That catalog, we reported, combined both publishing and recorded music rights, all jointly and equally owned by the band’s surviving ‘classic’ line-up (Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon) plus the estate of Freddie Mercury.

Sources told us at the time that major music companies including Universal Music Group, as well as private equity groups, had been in discussions regarding a sale.

We noted in our report last year that any potential deal would be complicated by the fact that Disney Music Group  (via its ownership of Hollywood Records) owns Queen’s recorded music rights in North America; the band owns them everywhere else in the world. (DMG has a global distribution agreement with Universal Music Group.)

Queen band members Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon – plus the Freddie Mercury estate – each own equal shares in the company Queen Productions Ltd, which owns the group’s recording catalog outside the US and Canada.

Queen’s members (plus Mercury’s estate) also own the global rights to Queen’s music publishing catalog via their company Queen Music Ltd, which is administered by Sony Music Publishing.

A financial filing from Queen Productions Ltd shows the firm’s ownership is equally divided between John Deacon, the estate of Freddie Mercury, Roger Taylor, and Brian May

Queen Productions Ltd posts its annual financials on the UK Companies House. The latest, published in June 2023, shows the company’s fiscal performance in FY 2022 (to the end of September that year).

According to the latest annual report from Queen Productions Ltd. in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2022, the band took in £40.89 million (USD $50.41m at average annual exchange rates as per the IRS).

That’s an increase of 4.3% from FY 2021, when turnover came in at £39.19 million (see below).

(In US dollar terms, that comes to $53.9 million, as the British pound was stronger against the dollar that year.)

The financial report also shows the company’s profit before tax came in at £22.16 million ($27.41 million), up 31.6% YoY, from £16.84 million ($23.17 million) in FY 2021.

The numbers indicate that Queen’s rise in popularity after the 2018 Bohemian Rhapsody biopic had a long tail.

The company’s turnover in FY2022 was more than triple the number in FY2016, before buzz began around the Bohemian Rhapsody movie. That year, the company’s turnover came in at £12.34 million ($16.72 million at 2016 exchange rates).

As we noted in our report last year, should a sale get completed, it would become one of the biggest single-artist music catalog sales in history, easily surpassing the $500 million-plus paid by Sony Music Group to acquire Bruce Springsteen’s recorded music and music publishing catalogs in late 2021.

(For the Springsteen publishing catalog part of that deal, Sony‘s offer was partly backed by capital from Eldridge Industries.)

In February, Billboard reported that Sony Music Group had acquired half of Michael Jackson‘s catalog from the artist’s estate for at least $600 million.

Sony Music also fully acquired Bob Dylan’s catalog of recorded music in 2022.Music Business Worldwide

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