Warner Music Group today (August 16) announced what it called a “career-spanning global partnership” with Madonna that “includes a new agreement for her entire recorded music catalog”.
In-depth details of that agreement are fairly thin on the ground, but it doesn’t seem likely that we’re looking at yet another megastar-cashes-in-on-their catalog acquisition.
For one thing, WMG (via Sire / Warner Records) already owns the majority of Madonna’s recorded music catalog, including hit albums such as Like A Virgin, Like A Prayer, and True Blue.
So why is Warner making a fuss about a deal with a superstar whose most successful masters it already controls in perpetuity?
Simply put: because that superstar is now once again fully on board the major record company train.
And that means Warner and Madonna can monetize her catalog hand-in-hand.
There is an interesting historical narrative to today’s news.
Back in 2007, Live Nation and Madonna inked a $100 million, ten-year deal that put the major record labels firmly in the live giant’s crosshairs.
In a clear swipe at the record companies, Live Nation announced it would not only represent Madonna’s live music career and merch, but her new recordings, too.
In the end, things got messy: Live Nation scrapped its bid to become a recorded music company, and by 2011 had agreed to license Madonna’s affected recordings to Interscope, who subsequently released the star’s albums MDNA (2012), Rebel Heart (2015), and Madame X (2019).
Importantly, the Live Nation / Interscope deals pulled Madonna away from an active relationship with Warner Bros / Warner Music Group (WMG).
Now, in what Warner calls a “revitalization of a decades-long relationship” and a “monumental deal”, Madonna is once again in an active relationship with the major.
Warner has additionally announced that as part of her multi-year deal with WMG, Madonna’s three Live Nation / Interscope recordings will be represented by Warner from 2025 onwards… uniting the artist’s entire catalog under one roof.
“Since the very beginning, Warner Music Group… have been amazing partners, and I am delighted to be embarking on this next chapter with them to celebrate my catalog from the last 40 years.”
Warner isn’t offering many more specifics about what’s actually in Madonna’s new agreement.
What’s likely is that to get Madonna back on board with promoting her own catalog, some dollar signs will have shifted about on a contract. Perhaps she’s getting more royalty points on her masters. Perhaps Warner’s just given her a big bag of cash.
Whatever the deal is, it’s got the Ray Of Light hitmaker enthused.
Madonna said in a press release: “Since the very beginning, Warner Music Group has helped bring my music and vision to all my fans around the world with the utmost care and consideration. They have been amazing partners, and I am delighted to be embarking on this next chapter with them to celebrate my catalog from the last 40 years.”
As she notes, this is very good timing for Warner: 2022 will mark the 40th anniversary of Madonna’s recording debut – a perfect excuse to go hell-for-leather on the luxury reissues front.
Warner confirms: “For the first time, Madonna will personally curate expansive deluxe editions for many of her landmark albums, as well as introduce unique releases for special events, and much more.”
These releases, says WMG, will be overseen by Warner Music’s catalog team, led by Kevin Gore, President of Global Catalog, Recorded Music.
You only have to look at Warner’s own numbers to see why catalog projects like this are a big deal for the company, driving high-ticket physical reissue sales, which in turn lift an artist’s streaming profile / volume.
In the nine months to end of June (the end of Warner’s fiscal Q3), WMG’s recorded music operation generated $422 million from physical music sales – over $11 million per week.
In all, Warner and Madonna’s new deal includes 17 studio albums plus singles, soundtrack recordings, live albums, and compilations.
Warner’s publishing company, Warner Chappell Music, also globally administers all of Madonna’s songwriting work, making a united catalog push make yet more sense for the artist and WMG.
The new agreement between Madonna and WMG was executed by Madonna’s longtime manager Guy Oseary at Maverick, plus Allen Grubman of Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sachs P.C., her business manager Richard Feldstein of NKSFB, and Max Lousada, CEO, Recorded Music, Warner Music Group.
“We’re honored to be forming a dynamic new partnership with an incomparable superstar whose influence on our musical and artistic landscape is immense and immutable. Madonna has changed the course of pop and dance music, while taking live performance to new heights of drama and invention.”
Max Lousada, Warner Music Group
Guy Oseary said: “Over the past 30 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and spend time with many of Madonna’s incredible fans, and this new partnership will bring to fruition what so many of them have been patiently waiting for: a celebration of her groundbreaking catalog.
“My partner Sara Zambreno and I are working closely with Warner Music Group to bring new life to these iconic works.”
Max Lousada added: “We’re honored to be forming a dynamic new partnership with an incomparable superstar whose influence on our musical and artistic landscape is immense and immutable. Madonna has changed the course of pop and dance music, while taking live performance to new heights of drama and invention.
“At the same time, she uses her fame to amplify some of the most important social issues and movements of our time. Constantly and fearlessly challenging convention, her four decades of music are not only an extraordinary body of work, but a playbook for creative and cultural evolution.”Music Business Worldwide