Another Blockbuster Deal: Tina Turner Sells Entire Catalog to BMG




Tina Turner - Credit: Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Tina Turner - Credit: Fryderyk Gabowicz/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images  

As music companies continue to court hitmakers for their songs, one of the most celebrated catalogs in pop history is on the move.

Tina Turner has sold her music rights to BMG, the company's CEO Hartwig Masuch tells Rolling Stone - marking the latest event in the trend of major legacy artists cashing in on their copyrights.

Included in the deal is Turner's artist's share for her recordings along with publishing rights, neighboring rights and her name, image and likeness. BMG declined to disclose financial details of the sale, but BMG has bought out all of her rights and calls the deal the single largest artist acquisition the company has ever executed.

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"We all know how iconic Tina's work is," Masuch says. "When you look at the dimensions Tina's career has entered even in the last few years between musicals and documentaries, there's still so much untapped potential with her legacy."

Masuch has a close personal relationship with Turner and her husband, fellow German music executive Erwin Bach, and the two parties had casually spoken about the booming music acquisition landscape for over a year, Masuch says. Formal due diligence discussions for Turner's catalog started around three months ago after Turner's team reached out expressing interest in a deal.

As BMG gets Turner's royalties and assets, Warner Music will still act as her record company. But BMG says it will work closely with Turner and Warner now that it owns the rights in her catalog. Turner - who originally soared to fame through her performing partnership with ex-husband Ike Turner - enjoyed a successful solo career following her divorce and the group's disbanding, becoming one of the best-selling recording artists of all time on the back of five platinum albums, including the five-time platinum Private Dancer. Among Turner's biggest hits are "What's Love Got to Do With It," "The Best" and "Typical Male."

Masuch points to digital opportunities and social media as a broader focus for Turner's music as BMG looks to reintroduce her hits to a younger generation of potential fans in the streaming era. "This isn't a one-dimensional market anymore," Masuch says of managing legacy artists' brand alongside the music. "With Warner and Tina, we want to expand reach and influence new audiences. What's the YouTube strategy, what do we do with TikTok? You have to be far beyond any approach where you're just releasing a best-of album every four years or selling rights for a documentary."

Turner, often called the "queen of rock & roll," was the second artist to ever grace the cover of Rolling Stone, after John Lennon, and the first woman and black artist. More or less retired since 2009, Turner has recently seen a renaissance as the music and entertainment industries celebrate her legacy. She'll be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist at the end of October - her second induction after getting in with Ike Turner in the Nineties. Tina, the acclaimed musical based on Turner's early life, will return to Broadway this month after an extended hiatus because of the pandemic. And earlier this year, HBO released an extensive, career-spanning documentary focused on the singer.

"Like any artist, the protection of my life's work, my musical inheritance, is something personal," Turner said in a statement. "I am confident that with BMG and Warner Music, my work is in professional and reliable hands."

Catalogs and artist copyrights have become highly sought after in the industry, as music valuations continue to rise. Companies like Hipgnosis Songs Fund and Primary Wave alongside the major music companies have been buying up publishing rights from major artists and songwriters for increasingly high multiples, taking the risk on future royalty earnings while sellers take an immediate payout. Artists like Stevie Nicks, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan have all sold publishing rights for hundreds of millions of dollars.

While catalog deals are common, Turner's deal is more comprehensive, including broader copyrights to her brand, similar to the deal The Beach Boys signed with Irving Azoff's Iconic Artists Group earlier this year. Masuch says BMG is looking to close similar deals ahead.

With the market heating up, BMG has grown more active in acquiring catalogs too, buying the rights to Mick Fleetwood's recordings back in January. The company also entered an ambitious partnership with investment firm KKR - which itself bought a majority stake in Ryan Tedder's publishing rights this year - in a bid to get the biggest and most valuable music catalogs on the market. The two companies told Rolling Stone they were prepared to spend into the billions through that partnership. Masuch seems a bit more conservative over the joint deals they're eying for now but said the two companies will still spend a "significant amount of money" in upcoming acquisitions.

More deals may come sooner than later: Masuch says Turner's deal is the first of several high-profile acquisitions the company will announce within the coming weeks.

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