Composers are selling the rights to iconic movies like The Dark Knight
In recent years, high demand for intellectual property and deep pockets have fueled a catalog acquisition boom that has inspired Bob Dylan, Justin Timberlake, Bruce Springsteen and many others to sell their musical heritage for cash returns. record of hundreds of millions. . Today, the trend is moving beyond commercial pop and rock into film scores.
The composers behind the music for iconic movies and TV shows such as The Dark Knight, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jason Bourne and Joy have all sold their works in the past few months, grossing millions of dollars as music creators receive immediate cash payout rather than rolling the dice on what their music will fetch in the years to come.
Among those at the forefront of the deals: Multimedia Music, a six-month-old music acquisition and production company whose owners say they want their company to become “the biggest music company of film and television in the world”.
“Composers see the same incentives as commercial songwriters. The market for sale is similar,” says Phil Hope, co-founder and CEO of Multimedia Music. “It’s a few years late [the pop sales], but the shopping space in the commercial world has certainly sparked a reaction from the film and TV community to say, “why don’t we start thinking about that too?” If great pop writers can do it, why can’t I? »
Multimedia’s goal is ambitious and noble, but the company is busy looking for works to acquire. Multimedia Music raised more than $100 million during its founding to acquire catalogs of soundtracks, securing the rights to composers like James Newton Howard and production company Atlantic Screen Music, and as Hope and his co-founder put it. and American partner James Gibb, they secured another $100 million which they will be rolling out in the coming months.
Just over a week ago, the company announced deals with Tyler Bates (composer of films such as 300 John Wick and guardians of the galaxy), David Buckley (The nice guys, the city) and Michel Corcoran (iCarly, victorious).
But Howard’s catalog, which includes music from franchise blockbusters such as The black Knight, King Kongand fantastic beasts and where to find them as well as scores of classics like A pretty woman, is by far Multimedia Music’s most notable purchase to date. Although it has not previously been revealed how much Media Music has spent on the catalog, as rolling stone learned, the company paid in the eight figures.
Howard is one of the most celebrated composers in film history, but such a deal could suggest that the most treasured works of industry legends like John Williams or Hans Zimmer – who shaped many of the film franchises most lucrative of the last 50 years – would probably fetch hundreds of millions.
The market for acquiring composer catalogs is an unconventional evolution in a profession that already lacks convention compared to other acquisition professions. (As Hope jovially notes, as part of closing the deal with Bates, Multimedia Music bought Bates a custom Gretsch guitar after Bates admired one on Hopes’ wall.)
While film and TV music sales don’t carry the same prices as the biggest pop music catalogs, there’s still considerable activity, but as Gibb notes, the market for buying composers’ rights isn’t is not as saturated. According to Gibb, this is mainly because the revenue model for film music is more complicated than that for commercial music.
While traditional music companies buy catalogs in hopes of increasing revenue from the songs themselves, buying soundtracks, which are more strongly tied to movie and show sales and streams, has a different business model. Multimedia Music buys the tracks, betting on which movies and shows they think will have the most resistance to keep revenue stable.
“This market is more specialized and requires a lot more expertise,” says Gibb. “It’s not exactly like other music, so I think it narrowed the buyer’s market a bit.” Still, adds Gibb, he is confident that their investments will pay off. “Great action movies like The black Knightshows like The office, that 70s show, blackishthese will continue to play around the world for decades.
In some ways, a composer selling his catalog is less risky than pop artists. If a well-established pop songwriter sells his catalog and hopes to make another one, the chances of having another major hit single aren’t as high. But an equally prolific composer will likely get more work from high-profile directors, and as long as the film is a major hit, the cash returns will be similar.
While a composer’s catalog revenue will come primarily from streaming, movie purchases, and syndication (in addition to album consumption), that doesn’t mean there aren’t new ways to use music. As Pretty Woman: The Musical comes to the UK, Multimedia Music say they are re-recording and reusing some of the previously unreleased music from the film’s score. Hope also notes that they have a sync team to help take the music they’ve purchased to reuse for other media such as commercials.
Multimedia Music is one of the few companies focused on acquisitions in the songwriter space, which is currently an advantage over the oversaturated pop song market.
But Multimedia Music is not the only one. Cutting Edge Group, a 15-year-old London-based film and television music company whose services include music publishing and a record label, also acquired the rights to the composers. (Both Hope and Gibb are former Cutting Edge executives.)
Tim Hegarty, who oversees M&A investments for Cutting Edge, notes that for more than a decade, Cutting Edge hasn’t bought a single catalog from a composer, buying only among studios and production companies. But over the past 18 months, as the catalog market has exploded, they’ve already bought from 10. Hegarty says the company originally got $125 million for catalog purchases and is now closing a cycle. funding of $250 million.
“Deals like these were really taboo until recently,” Hegarty says. “There were a few deals in the past, but it wasn’t frequent. We used to buy the publishing rights, the master rights, the soundtrack distribution, but not the share of the authors, but what’s happened in the last two years in the commercial market has changed the dynamic, historically film composers didn’t have a way to monetize their catalog like this, now they do.
Among those who sold to Cutting Edge are James Levine, the composer behind Joy. Hallwood Media’s Neil Jacobson, who has helped sell catalogs for songwriters such as Jeff Bhasker, bought the catalog for Levine. Levine is the only songwriter he’s worked with to sell a catalog so far, and he acknowledges that the market is smaller than pop, but he also expects more offers.
“You’d be surprised how few people would bid on these catalogs, it’s smart business,” says Jacobson. “The buyer is going to do a good job on the music; they realize you don’t need a big marketing department to see returns. Actually have a vehicle to have access to Joy, it is evergreen. This spectacle will be consumed for the next 40 years. They will continue to fire him, there could be more shows, reboots, there are opportunities.
Hope says they expect their business to grow quickly, and with that, the company foresees more competition for some of the most valuable movie soundtrack catalogs. They still hope that being the first and being a specialist will appeal to sellers.
“Not everyone knows as much about this space as we do, and that will keep us strong,” Hope says. “Assuming we’re right and the business continues to grow, there’s bound to be more competition, but we like to think we’re ahead of the game.”