David Bowie estate sells songwriting catalogue to Warner Music

The price of the transaction was not disclosed, but is estimated at US$250 million. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Late British rock star David Bowie's estate has sold his entire songwriting catalogue to Warner Music, including classics like Space Oddity (1969), Let's Dance (1983) and Heroes (1977), in the latest blockbuster deal for music rights.

Warner's music publishing division, Warner Chappell, announced the agreement on Monday (Jan 3), saying that it encompassed Bowie's entire corpus as a songwriter, from the material on his 1967 debut album, David Bowie, to his final album, Blackstar, released just before his death in January 2016 at age 69.

The deal, for more than 400 songs, also includes soundtrack music; the material for Bowie's short-lived band Tin Machine from the late 1980s and early 1990s; and other works.

The price of the transaction was not disclosed, but is estimated at US$250 million (S$339 million).

"These are not only extraordinary songs, but milestones that have changed the course of modern music forever," Mr Guy Moot, the chief executive of Warner Chappell, said in a statement.

Warner's deal, signed late last month, is the latest in a series of huge transactions for music rights, driven by the rising value of music in the streaming age and growing Wall Street interest in music as an "alternative investment".

Last month, American rock legend Bruce Springsteen sold his work as both a songwriter and recording artiste to Sony Music for about US$550 million.

The copyrights for recorded music are separate from those for songwriting, which cover the lyrics and melodies underlying any performance or recording of song.

Over the last year or so, other major sales have included the work of singers Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and Shakira as well as bands Motley Crue and ZZ Top.

Warner's deal for Bowie's songwriting rights means it will be the home for nearly all of the star's music.

In September, the company announced another agreement with the Bowie estate giving Warner the rights to release all of Bowie's recordings since 1968 - although that deal did not include Bowie's debut, which remains controlled by Universal Music.

In October, the Bowie estate introduced Bowie 75, a "retail experience" tied to what would have been his 75th birthday in January, with pop-up locations in New York and London featuring immersive audiovisual exhibitions along with clothing, music and other memorabilia for sale. They will remain open until late January.

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