Bruce Springsteen has sold his entire song catalogue to Sony Music in a deal worth $500m, according to anonymous sources speaking to Billboard and the New York Times.
The sale, which encompasses his recorded work and his songwriting, will give Sony ownership of one of the most admired bodies of work in pop and rock: over 300 songs spanning 20 studio albums plus other releases.
The huge sum dwarfs even the reported $300m paid by Universal for Bob Dylan’s songwriting catalogue in December 2020, and the reported $150m paid for a 50% share of Neil Young’s catalogue to the UK investment fund Hipgnosis in January 2021.
Numerous other artists have sold off the rights to their work in the last couple of years, including Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac; Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Shakira and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In November it was reported that a sale of David Bowie’s catalogue for around $200m was being prepared.
The deals are taking place as the streaming market consolidates, and begins to generate substantial and ongoing royalty payments for songwriters and performers – particularly for major stars who are likely to accumulate royalties for decades to come. Song catalogues are also valuable because tracks can be synced to advertising, or TV and movie soundtracks, to generate further revenue.
While the musicians could potentially stand to make more money in the long term by holding onto their song rights, a huge cash payout while they are still alive is an attractive prospect, giving them and their estate a simple asset to deal with. Artists trust in, and sometimes have longstanding ties to, the companies they are selling to: in Springsteen’s case, he has been with the Sony-owned Columbia Records since his debut album in 1973.
Sony now own a hugely celebrated body of work that has won 20 Grammy awards and generated millions of sales; with his earthy songwriting about blue-collar America, and its love affairs, dreams and dark moments, Springsteen is almost a genre unto himself.
Highlights from his discography include his euphoric 1975 breakthrough Born to Run; the literary songwriting of his first US No 1, The River (1980); and the blockbuster pop – and savagely ironic patriotism – of 1984’s Born in the USA, which went 15 times platinum in the US. Springsteen’s songs have occasionally been hits for other artists, such as Patti Smith’s Because the Night, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s Blinded By the Light, and the Pointer Sisters’ Fire.
Also celebrated as one of the most reliably excellent live performers in rock – where the 72-year-old can continue to generate extra revenue if he wishes – Springsteen continues to write and record, most recently with two albums in quick succession: 2019’s Western Stars followed by 2020’s Letter to You. A one-man show interspersing songs with memoir, Springsteen on Broadway, ran intermittently from 2017 to 2021.
The Guardian has contacted Springsteen’s representatives for further details about the deal.