Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen. Paul Simon. Neil Young. Steve Nicks. All have sold their music catalogs over the past year and a half for huge sums, part of a large transfer of music ownership from a generation of artists to corporations and investors. But is there any big game left?
A giant lurked in plain sight: 81-year-old Neil Diamond, the singer and songwriter of ubiquitous hits like “Sweet Caroline,” “Song Sung Blue” and “Cracklin’ Rosie.” Universal Music Group announced on Monday that it had acquired the star’s entire songwriting catalog, as well as the rights to her recordings. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Diamond’s work as a songwriter is particularly valuable, not only for his own recordings, but also for the many covers of his songs that have become hits by other artists, such as “I’m a Believer” by Monkees, UB40’s “Red Red Wine” and Urge Overkill’s version of “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” on Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack.
The 1977 song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” written by Diamond with Marilyn and Alan Bergman, had a notable double life. After Diamond’s solo version, Barbra Streisand covered it in 1978, and radio DJs assembled a duet from these two recordings; an official edition was published later that year and rose to #1.
In 2018, Diamond announced that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and was retiring from touring.
Universal’s deal for Diamond recordings includes 110 previously unreleased tracks, an unreleased album and archival video. The company will also release any new music recorded by Diamond, according to its announcement.
Like Universal’s recent acquisition of the writing and recording rights to Sting — or Sony’s deal for Springsteen — the Diamond deal unites both sides of a top artist’s work with one company. Copyrights for recordings and songwriting, otherwise known as music publishing – which cover lyrics, melodies and the basic structural elements of any composition – are separate.
In a statement, Diamond praised Universal’s executives, including its chief executive, Lucian Grainge, and said he was confident the company would “continue to represent my catalog and future releases with the same passion and integrity that have always fueled my career”.