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NEAR TRUTHS: SHINE ON, YOU CRAZY DIAMOND AWARD

Chatter continues regarding a possible deal for Pink Floyd’s recorded catalog (not their publishing), ostensibly valued at $600m or thereabouts. Who’ll take the lead in this contest, which includes all-time sales champions like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall and represents some 75m albums sold? Clearly, with dollar figures like this being floated—and one major-label group rumored to be leading the charge—we’ve reached a time when pigs fly.

In other fat-check news, Merck Mercuriadis is now trumpeting a big new deal to acquire 100% control of pop superstar Justin Timberlake’s hit-studded song catalog. It would seem that Merck, since the advent of his Hipgnosis Songs Capital investment partnership with Blackstone, is touting fewer deals but focusing on big ones.

Primary Wave boss Larry Mestel has been exceptionally aggressive this year and is believed to be in negotiations with a number of key artists. Thus far in 2022, he has done deals for catalog by America, Def Leppard (expanded), Paul Rodgers, Martina McBride, a portion of Alice in Chains and Lucky Wilbury (Bob Dylan’s role in The Traveling Wilburys) as well as an admin deal on Henry Mancini, among others.

The gold rush, it seems, is not over—as streaming continues to grow, song catalogs gain value. Even with new economic pressures afflicting the system, older artists are still seeking a shot at the big money.

There has, it’s true, been a noticeable slowdown in the buying of pub assets compared to a year ago, when sales were fast and furious. Now such pacts are typically taking at least six months (and in some cases considerably longer) to close. The new number-crunching and fine-print-scrutinizing of big deals (dubbed “the new discernment” by one top attorney) is said to be part of the reason for this, as are rising interest rates and market volatility. Players who locked in their credit limits at low interest rates are likely to continue buying aggressively. Meanwhile, fewer monied outsiders are in the game, bringing prices down. Will the trend toward fewer deals continue, especially for acts that have held their value because their revenue has been consistently predictable over the last 10-20 years? Will financial giants like Apollo and KKR, among others, withdraw their support and light out for sectors offering bigger returns?

On the other hand, the market’s roller coaster has created a sense of uncertainty and even desperation about where to invest—and some believe IP that has had a steady rate of return is a safe choice. Indeed, one of the trailblazers of the catalog boom has long claimed the biggest hits are recession-proof.

Rumor has it that one big prospector in the gold-panning frenzy of the last few years, Josh GrussRound Hill—which is still negotiating some deals—is up for sale and has been for a while. Will mid-level players like Round Hill, Tempo (now said to be seeking suitors, as shopped by Providence Equity Partners), Anthem, etc., have a harder time finding an exit strategy? Some of these players simply don’t have A material among their catalog holdings—or have overspent on narrow rights to said material—and their B content isn’t throwing off nearly as high a rate of return. Given that a few companies of this size have portions of their funds publicly listed, how will the stock market’s bloody “correction” shape their futures? Investment giant Moelis is representing several of these companies individually as they seek buyers in the marketplace, but so far, we’re told, nobody’s biting.

How will “the new discernment” play out as the economic turbulence continues? What might be the next mondo catalog to go on the block? What new financial player is about get on the field? Stay tuned.


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