Mick Fleetwood Sells His Recorded Music Rights to BMG

Mick Fleetwood, co-founder and drummer for Fleetwood Mac, is selling his entire recorded music catalog to BMG, the company tells Rolling Stone. BMG will receive the musician’s royalty share in a vaunted 300-song catalog that includes tracks like “The Chain,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “Dreams,” the last of which has enjoyed a resurgence among teenagers due to a mega-popular TikTok video.

BMG declined to say how much the company paid in the deal, but said it’s the largest single acquisition BMG has made in two years.

Fleetwood, with this sale, becomes the third member of Fleetwood Mac to sell catalog rights to a third-party investor or manager — following in the footsteps of Stevie Nicks, who sold her publishing rights to Primary Wave Music in December, and former member Lindsey Buckingham, who sold his publishing rights to Hipgnosis Songs Fund last week. Fleetwood Mac is one of the best-selling bands of all time, having sold 54 million certified units, according to Recording Industry Association of America. Rumours, the band’s 1977 album, has sold over 20 million certified units and is ranked seventh in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. “Dreams,” a single from that album, recently climbed its way back onto music charts four decades after its release, thanks to the TikTok-fueled virality.

Several dozen other artists and songwriters have sold their rights in the last several months, including Bob Dylan and Neil Young. For music creators, the incentive is a hefty lump sum of cash paid up front; for the buyers, the ownership of these stars’ rights will ideally translate to lucrative revenue streams for decades into the future.

A key differentiator in Fleetwood’s sale compared to many of the other acquisitions in recent months is that, rather than selling publishing rights, the drummer is selling his recorded music rights. Publishing rights pertain to songwriting and composition, while recorded rights relate to the actual recorded performance of the music. That means publishing rights usually yield more revenue in the area of sync licensing (i.e. when a song is licensed for use in a film, TV, ad, or video game) and recorded music rights are more directly tied to streaming, downloads, and album sales.

Justus Haerder, BMG’s executive vice president of group strategy and M&A, tells Rolling Stone that BMG will pursue several more deals for recorded music interests this year.

Haerder says BMG expects publishing revenue, as a whole, to drop this year because of Covid-19 pandemic’s stopping of live performances. (Whenever music is performed in concert, its songwriters receive a chunk in royalties.) Meanwhile, the company expects recorded music rights to get more lucrative — because music streaming is still growing across the world and more listeners translate to more royalties — so BMG is more interested in acquiring recorded music rights than publishing rights, Haerder says. 

“Many people are going into music IP on the back of the streaming world,” Haerder says. “When you really look at it though, recorded rights are the ones that almost exclusively are growing on the back of streaming. While publishing has also benefited, it’s more multifaceted. That’s why recorded right now, in our opinion, is as attractive if not more attractive as an IP class in the music space.”

“We strongly believe that these high-profile, generation-defining rights and catalogs have a high sustainable growing value for generations to come.”

He adds: “We think there has been maybe a little bit too much of  a focus on publishing and that there’s areas outside of publishing — and not just recorded —where we think those are attractive acquisitions as well.”

BMG’s deal with Fleetwood began taking shape in November, not long after “Dreams” surged from the TikTok trend. That viral success explicitly factored into the deal, Haerder says.

Without giving specific names, Haerder says BMG is looking at similarly high-profile recorded catalogs as well and hopes to close more deals throughout 2021.

“It’s a very competitive space out there, this was a competitive process, but we are definitely looking to do more of these,” he says. “We strongly believe that these high-profile, generation-defining rights and catalogs have a high sustainable growing value for generations to come, and we want to work with these artists and add value to their work.”

In a statement, Fleetwood called the deal “a wonderfully inspiring marriage between two creative partners that understand all aspects” of the music business. “Foremost, BMG understands the artistry and puts the artist first,” he said. “If this partnership is any indication of my past, and now future, working relationship with BMG, it’s that they truly ‘get it’.”

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