Saturday, July 20, 2024

Song Sung Blue: Mega Music Publisher Ousted from Company That Bought Up Rock Stars’ Catalogs


I told you last October that Hipgnosis Music Publishing, built by Merc Mercuriadis, was in severe trouble.

It took all these months but now it appear Mercuriadis — a larger than life personality — has been ousted from the company. His last day is July 8th.

A lot of rock stars were persuaded to sell their music catalogs to Hipgnosis by Mercuriadis, who was very charming and persuasive. Hipgnosis’s artists include all-stars like Barry Manilow, Neil Young, Carole Bayer Sager, Journey, Lindsay Buckingham, Chrissie Hynde, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Stewart and his Eurythmics songs.

As you may recall, we went through a critical period during and right the pandemic when musicians panicked about monetization. With live performance suddenly halted, selling the rights to the songs became a lightning bolt trend. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Fleetwood Mac, etc were commanding upwards of $300 million for their catalogs in sales to other publishers.

But there’s a problem: all those catalogs have to be monetized. The songs have to be licensed for movies, TV, commercials, etc by these companies like Hipgnosis, Sony, Universal, et al. and that hasn’t proven as easy as it looked. This resulted in calls I got last summer and fall that artists weren’t getting paid the money they’d been promised. I’m told most were, however.

Blackstone Group held the strings to the Hipgnosis arrangement, and they obviously have had enough controversy. In February, Mercuriadis stepped down from running the day to day operations. But now it looks like he’s out completely. He says in a prepared statement that he will continue to fight for the rights of songwriters. We are sure to see him again in the music biz.

Someone may ultimately write a book about what happened with Hipgnosis. In May Concord Music — the company that was owned by the late Norman Lear — rescinded a $1.4 billion take over bid because the couldn’t get a grip on this truly “merc”-urial situation.

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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