In 1972, a struggling musician from New Jersey rushed to Manhattan for an audition at Columbia Records, using an acoustic guitar borrowed from his old drummer. “I had to wear it ‘Midnight Cowboy’ style over my shoulder on the bus and on city streets,” rocker Bruce Springsteen later recalled in his memoir.
Half a century later, he can afford plenty of guitars. Last week, Sony, which now owns Columbia, announced that it had acquired Springsteen’s entire body of work – his recordings and songwriting catalog – for what two people briefed on the deal said. estimated at around $550 million.
The prize, which is perhaps the richest ever paid for the work of a single musician, has made jaws drop across the music industry. But that was just the latest mega-deal in a year in which many top artist catalogs were sold, at eye-popping prices.
The catalog market was boiling a year ago when Bob Dylan sold his writing rights for more than $300 million, but since then it has maintained a steady boil. Artists who have recently sold their work, in whole or in part, include Paul Simon, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Mötley Crüe, Shakira and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The industry is in turmoil over impending deals for Sting and David Bowie’s songwriting catalog.
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