Producer and songwriter Mark Ronson is selling a stake in his extensive catalog to song acquisition investment company Hipgnosis Songs Fund, Hipgnosis announced on Thursday.
This continues the increasingly attention-drawing buying spree for Hipgnosis founder and CEO Merck Mercuriadis, who made his career managing the likes of Beyoncé, Elton John and Guns N’ Roses. At the end of March, Mercuriadis and co. announced the acquisition of Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora’s song catalog, and earlier in 2020, Hipgnosis bought out a catalog from Blink 182 co-founder Tom DeLonge. While the global economy continues to reel from the impact of the ongoing health crisis, Mercuriadis tells Rolling Stone that the market for acquiring songs still looks promising and has, in fact, grown while artists face a more uncertain economy.
“I can say I’ve never had more opportunities put in front of me,” Mercuriadis says, noting that the last month has been particularly action-packed for the company. “We’re always picky, we’ll say no to three of the four that are presented to us, we say yes to 100% of what we go after. I can’t be involved in music that I don’t believe in and don’t understand. It’s not about genre, it’s about are the songs and are these artists culturally important? I’ve never had more opportunities than I have in the last four weeks because of the uncertainty in the world, and it’s a good time now to look at risks in the future and sell their songs, particularly to someone who understand their legacy and will treat that legacy with tremendous respect.”
Hipgnosis is taking a 70% stake in Ronson’s catalog, comprising 315 songs, according to the announcement. The acquisition gives Hipgnosis access to a wide range of hit songs, including “Uptown Funk”, Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and “Shallow,” which Ronson co-wrote with Lady Gaga, Andrew Wyatt and Anthony Rossomando for 2018’s A Star is Born.
Hipgnosis’s acquisition comes as streaming dipped at the start of government-mandated physical distancing ordinances, but streaming is rebounding, Mercuriadis says. Including Ronson’s songs, Hipgnosis has rights to over 12,000 songs, many of which have been chart-topping hits. Hipgnosis didn’t disclose the financial details of the Ronson acquisition, but the company has heavily invested in their catalogs, topping $1 billion in investment.
“One of our competitors said in an interview that anyone can spend a billion dollars, he was obviously talking about me because I’m the only person who’s spent a billion, and I’ve done it in the past 22 months,” Mercuriadis says. “But not anyone can, first of all you need to have $1 billion. Secondly, you have to have the faith of the greatest songwriters in the world. They’re not anxious to put their songs in the wrong person’s hands for the sake of the check. They’d like the check, but they’re going to do the right thing by their songs.”
Ronson has a long relationship with Mercuriadis, which contributed to his decision to partner with Hipgnosis, Ronson said in a statement. Mercuriadis said Ronson came to them about the deal. “I’ve always had enormous respect for his having such a credible, seminal management roster — artists I was truly influenced by from Nile Rodgers to Jane’s Addiction,” Ronson said. “And that same respect has continued with what he’s done with Hipgnosis. He’s acquired the catalogs of some of my favorite creatives, and I’m excited to be joining those ranks.”
With Ronson’s catalog along with the many others Hipgnosis has acquired, the company now has access to over 12,000 songs, most of which have been hits. With a smaller catalog than other publishers, the goal now, Mercuriadis says, is to give more individual attention to managing their songs than their competitors.
“We have 21, 22 people with 500 songs per person, versus the majors who have 20,000 per person. I want to actively manage these songs with the same responsibility that I manage artists. I hate the concept of publishing, I want to destroy that word and replace it with song management. I’m someone who’s made their money and their reputation working with artists, songwriters and producers, not at their expense.”
Mercuriadis adds: “Most of the people I’m competing with don’t understand the creative process. They’re either bankers or working for major companies. That’s not what we do.”