Sony in talks to buy Queen catalogue for $US1 billion

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Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 13: Freddie Mercury of the band Queen at Live Aid on July 13, 1985 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images)          170612F1
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 13: Freddie Mercury of the band Queen at Live Aid on July 13, 1985 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images) 170612F1 Credit: FG/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Sony is in talks to buy the rights to Queen’s catalogue for $US1 billion ($1.51 billion), according to Bloomberg.

The deal would include the British band’s archive of songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “We Are the Champions”, as well as its intellectual property including logos, publishing, movies and merchandising.

The songs generate continued revenue from not just digital and physical media sales but also from their use in TV and movie projects, and advertising, as well as covers.

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If the deal is inked at the mooted price, it’s set to be the highest amount paid for a musician or musical act’s catalogue. Negotiations are reportedly still underway with no guarantees of success or the ultimate sale price.

Queen Productions Ltd is owned by bandmembers Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor and the estate of Freddie Mercury. The frontman died in 1991 at the age of 45.

According to the BBC, Queen Production Ltd made $US52 million in the 12 months to September 2022. That year, the first volume of Queen’s Greatest Hits album became the first record to sell more than seven million copies in the UK. It has spent more than 1000 weeks on the UK album chart.

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 01:  MADISON SQUARE GARDEN  Photo of Freddie MERCURY and QUEEN, John Deacon and Freddie Mercury performing live on stage  (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
Freddie Mercury died in 1991. (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns) Credit: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

While perennially beloved, Queen has had a resurgence in recent years thanks to the commercial success of Bohemian Rhapsody, the 2018 biopic that earned Rami Malek an Oscar, and a busy touring calendar with May, Deacon and Taylor supported by Adam Lambert.

In recent years, there has been a flurry of gargantuan catalogue sales.

In February, Michael Jackson’s estate sold 50 per cent of the late singer’s recorded music and songwriting catalogues to Sony for $US600 million, which put the value of the assets at $US1.2 billion.

Sony bought Bruce Springsteen’s song catalogue in 2021 for $US500 million, which included all this songwriting and recorded work, comprising more than 300 songs and 20 studio albums. Springsteen had a relationship with Sony’s Columbia Records dating back to 1973.

KISS sold its catalogue for $US300 million in April, to Swedish business Pophouse Entertainment which was co-founded by ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus.

David Bowie’s estate sold the late superstar’s catalogue to Warner Chappell Music for $US250 million in 2022, which included his 26 studio albums and his six-decade-long songwriting archives.

Musicians come together to celebrate David Bowie on the eve of his 70th birthday.
David Bowie’s catalogue was sold in a $US250 million deal. Credit: supplied/supplied

Bob Dylan netted between $US300 million in 2020 when he sold his catalogue to Universal Music, including songs such as “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Universal said at the time the deal was “the most significant music publishing agreement this century and one of the most important of all time”.

Stevie Nicks sold a majority stake in her catalogue for $US100 million while former Fleetwood Mac bandmate and ex-partner Lindsay Buckingham sold 100 per cent of his to Hipgnosis Songs Fund. Buckingham’s catalogue included select Fleetwood Mac songs such as “Go Your Own Way” and his five solo albums.

Hipgnosis also bought 50 per cent of Neil Young’s catalogue and paid $US140 million for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Hipgnosis was founded in 2018 to acquire artists’ catalogues and holds in its collection the likes of Shakira, Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Blondie and Enrique Iglesias. However, last month, the company accepted a $US1.6 billion takeover offer from US private equity firm Blackstone after it ran into trouble over rising interest rates and the changing valuation of its assets.

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