Thursday, June 13, 2024

Queen $1 Billion Catalog Deal Very Possible Says Expert: Freddie Mercury’s Heirs, Like Mary Austin, And Band Members Could Become Very, Very Rich


When Freddie Mercury died in 1991 at age 45 he left half his estate to his friend and “common law wife,” Mary Austin. The other half went to his parents, his sister, and her family.

At the time, in 1991, the estate was valued at 75 million British pounds. But thirty years later, everything is about to change as the publishing rights and recorded rights to the Queen catalog are about to be sold.

I spoke to a couple of actual insiders about a report that the deal could be worth $1 billion. Is this possible, I wondered? Queen’s songs, I suggested, are very eccentric and not that usable for commercials, and so on. The answer I got surprised me.

“Yes!” said a source who knows this stuff. “Most of the big stars who control their own catalogs have sold. Dylan, Bruce, Sting, and so on. There aren’t that many left. Maybe Dolly Parton, or Pink Floyd if they could get it together. The Bee Gees. Elton John would be off the charts. Imagine if the Beatles’ songs were available. Or the Motown catalog in this environment. So Queen is huge. Top of the list.”

Part of the incredible reality here doesn’t sink in. We remember Freddie Mercury as a young man. But he would be 77 this year, the same age as those big rock stars who’ve sold their catalogs. If he were alive, he’d probably be doing the same thing.

I’m told that a billion may be a bit high, but the Queen catalog could be anything north of $750 million. Queen is selling both the song publishing and the rights to all the master recordings. They have a lot of hits like “We Are the Champions,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Under Pressure,” and so on. Their greatest hits often pops up in the top 40 albums among contemporary artists.

A source says of the rumor that Universal Music Group might take it all: “It’s possible since Queen’s records are there. But their song publishing is at Sony. This could be two sales totaling between $750 mil and $900 mil. I would not be surprised.”

I’m told that with the diminishing number of artists left to buy, the big recording companies and all the catalog companies like Hipgnosis and Primary Wave armed with private financing and they have do something with it, or lose it. They’re ready to spend.

So get ready. Once a deal is done, you may hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” split in pieces to use in commercials. Think of a commercial with the intro “Is this the real life/Or is it fantasy?” floating to reveal a new car, a tech company, or a bar of soap. Crazier things have happened.

If this comes to pass, those heirs I mentioned could be splitting a huge pot of gold. And they wouldn’t be alone. The deal will also buy out the other members of the group for both the recordings and the publishing. For example Brian May wrote many of the hits in the catalog including “We Will Rock You.” John Deacon wrote “You’re My Best Friend.” Roger Taylor wrote “I’m in Love with My Car.” All three of us those could be recycled into commercials for decades to come, making a billion dollars not seem unreasonable.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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