Rockers Who Have Sold Their Publishing Rights
Control of one's publishing has long been considered the most important rights a songwriter could own. For starters, publishing is far more lucrative than the mechanical royalties paid to artists based on sales, airplay and streams.
The history of rock music is filled with stars who sold away their publishing without knowing precisely how it works, only to discover after scoring big hits that their bank accounts weren't as big as they had thought.
Publishing also gives the owner control of whether or not to license the songs for commercials, movies and television shows. The most notorious example of this came a few years after Michael Jackson's 1985 acquisition of the Beatles catalog and the band's recording of "Revolution" appeared in a Nike commercial.
See the Beatles' 'Revolution' Used in a Nike Ad
But as song placement has become commonplace and sales have decreased due to streaming, many classic rockers have reconsidered their position on publishing. Another factor is their own mortality. The lump sums being offered by publishing firms are more tax-friendly with regards to estate planning under current laws.
The current trend of rockers selling their publishing has its origins in 2006, when Primary Wave, founded by former Arista and Virgin executive Larry Mestel, purchased 50 percent of Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain's copyrights through Cobain's widow, Courtney Love. Other artists, like Chicago and Hall & Oates, followed suit, and Primary Wave has since branched out into other aspects of the entertainment industry, including talent management and marketing.
But more recently came the creation of Hipgnosis Songs Fund in July 2018 by Merck Mercuriadis, a former artist's manager who quickly became a big player by purchasing many pop and rock catalogs, including the works of Lindsey Buckingham, Nikki Sixx and Richie Sambora.
As 2020 came to a close, Hipgnosis' portfolio contained 60,000 songs and was worth $1.66 billion.
Long-established publishing houses like Universal and BMG have also made several big purchases, as you'll see in the below list of Rockers Who Have Sold Their Publishing Rights. We've also included several big-name producers who've made similar deals for their royalties.