This year, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and record producer Justin Timberlake agreed to sell its music catalog to Hipgnosis Song Management, a UK-based company backed by Stephen Schwarzman’s private equity giant Blackstone.
The deal includes copyrights to approximately 200 songs written or co-written by the former boy band pin-up, including hits like “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and “Mirrors.” The deal was valued at around $100 million, according to sources cited by The Wall Street Journal. (Timberlake is an excellent example of solo artists who have been more successful than their bands.)
The Timberlake deal is part of a trend with highly successful recording artists, estates of deceased stars or record labels giving up their intellectual property rights for huge payouts. These so-called publishing acquisitions have been around forever, but they’ve grown in popularity thanks to music streaming subscription services and new technologies that make it easier and cheaper to collect royalties globally, according to Billboard. Insights. (These are the #1 most successful artists.)
To determine the most valuable song catalogs, 24/7 Tempo looked at data on song catalog sales and ratings of Variety, Billboard, Forbes, and other sources. Songbooks have been ranked by published purchase value of a disclosed songbook sale, estimated value of an undisclosed songbook sale, or current valuation of a songbook of songs from an industry source. Only songbooks with available value estimates were included.
And some of these transactions involve large sums of money. In fact, Timberlake’s $100 million deal only sits in the median of the 35 most expensive music catalogs ever sold. Artists like New Orleans-born rapper Lil Wayne, Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and Las Vegas pop rockers Imagine Dragons have all sold their catalogs around the same price.
Click here to see the most valuable song catalogs
Catalogs by Barry Manilow, Mötley Crüe and Prince sold for over $100 million, while music by Bob Marely, James Brown and Tina Turner sold for less.
Other deals range from $25 million for music rights owned by Robbie Robertson, the 78-year-old former guitarist and songwriter of The Band, to half a billion dollars for Bruce songbooks Springsteen, John Lennon and Paul McCarthy. Seven of the deals on this list closed at $300 million or more.