Sony Music in talks to buy Queen’s music catalogue for $1bn

Japanese group creates financial partner as it seeks to purchase British rock band’s songs

Sony Music has created a financial vehicle titled “Rock Bidco” as the record company bids for the music catalogue of British rock band Queen, which is expected to fetch a billion-dollar sum.

“Rock Bidco” was incorporated on May 17th and is controlled by Tim Major, the co-leader of Sony Music Publishing, according to a filing with the UK Companies House.

Queen had been shopping its music catalogue around for more than a year and had held talks with Sony Music and its rival Universal Music, according to people familiar with the matter. Sony was still among the bidders, while Universal had let an exclusivity period on negotiations expire because the price the band wanted was too high, these people said.

The band, once led by the late Freddie Mercury, is seeking a valuation of more than $1 billion (€930 million), which would make it one of the biggest music sales in recent memory. This would include recorded music and publishing as well as other income, including merchandise and licensing and revenue from the biopic film Bohemian Rhapsody.

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Under the proposed structure, Sony would be working with another company to finance the Queen deal, said a person familiar with the matter.

Sony co-financed its blockbuster $500 million-plus acquisition of Bruce Springsteen’s catalogue with Eldridge Industries, the investment house of Todd Boehly.

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Music rights, which deliver a steady income stream based on record sales and streaming revenue, have become a popular asset class in recent years. Rock stars including Bob Dylan, Springsteen and Neil Young have cashed in on the interest in the music sector, selling their life’s work for big pay-offs.

Kiss, the flamboyant US rock band, last month sold the rights to its music as well as its name, image and likeness to Pophouse Entertainment for $300 million.

Queen is one of the most commercially successful groups in music history, having sold more than 300 million records globally. The band’s hit Bohemian Rhapsody is among the most-streamed rock songs, while the 2018 biographical film boosted listening and sales of its music.

Billboard estimates that Queen’s music generates about $45 million a year in royalty revenue.

A Sony Music spokesperson declined to comment. -Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024