Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora Is the Latest Victory for Merck Mercuriadis - Rolling Stone
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Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora Is the Latest Victory for Merck Mercuriadis

Sambora joins the likes of Tom DeLonge and the Dream in selling to Mercuriadis and his investment company, Hipgnosis Songs Fund

Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi performs in Los Angeles, California.

Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi performs in Los Angeles.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Global Philanthropy Group

Richie Sambora is selling the rights to his nearly 200-song catalog to song-acquisition investment company Hipgnosis Songs Fund, Hipgnosis announced on Monday.

Financial details between the company and the former Bon Jovi guitarist weren’t specified, but given Merck Mercuriadisreputation to overpay for his acquisitions and the number of hits Sambora co-wrote, it’s safe to assume Sambora is walking away with a hefty paycheck. Still, the real winner here is music-manager-turned-investor Mercuriadis, who just added “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “You Give Love a Bad Name,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive” to an already extensive list of hits he’s acquired since his company, Hipgnosis, hit the London Stock Exchange in 2018.

In uncertain times such as this you are reminded of the power of great songs and great music, and amongst the greatest set of songs of the last 35 years are the incomparable songs Richie Sambora co-wrote for Bon Jovi and other great artists,” Mercuriadis said in a statement. 

Hipgnosis puts a financial valuation on songs’ potential long-term royalties. As the music industry ushered in a new era focused around streaming rather than physical sales and digital downloads, artists and songwriters have faced more questions about their revenues. When songwriters agree to sell to companies like Hipgnosis, they agree to a more immediate payout rather than rolling the dice on future royalties on their own. Song-acquisition companies take on that bet; the bigger the song, the more likely the returns.

A quick look through Mercuriadis’ shopping spree shows a clear reasoning to his acquisitions: He wants big, timeless hits with intellectual property he can leverage beyond streaming to other mass media. And with prominent features in every drunken karaoke night as well as a slate of video games, TV shows, and movies, Sambora’s co-written Bon Jovi tunes fit that bill. The songs are still, of course, popular for traditional listening, too. Bon Jovi is one of the top-selling rock bands of all time. The single “Wanted Dead Or Alive” went quadruple platinum back in February 2015, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, and “It’s My Life” went double platinum a few months later. Bon Jovi remain one of the mainstays of classic-rock radio, and as of publication the band had more than 15 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Sambora left the group in 2013, but performed with the band for its Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2018. He and Jon Bon Jovi were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009.

Sambora’s catalog is the highest-profile purchase in Hipgnosis’s already busy 2020. In January, Mercuriadis and Co. bought catalogs from songwriter Ammar Malik and producer Emile Haynie, who have writing credits on major hit songs including “Moves Like Jagger” and “Payphone” by Maroon 5, and “Runaway” by Kanye West. Hipgnosis also bought out the copyrights on Blink 182 co-founder Tom DeLonge’s catalog, getting access to “All the Small Things” and “What’s My Age Again?,” among others.

“These songs are very important to me and I feel very strongly that Merck is the only person I could have entrusted my babies to,” Sambora said in a statement. “I believe the work he is doing that has transformed the way that the world looks at the power of great songs and the songwriting community is very special.”

Mercuriadis has an army of songs in a time when catalog acquisition is on the up and up. And if industry chatter is any indicator, Mercuriadis’ catalog will only continue to grow. According to Hipgnosis’ most recent public filing, which cut off at September 2019, the company’s portfolio consisted of 11,225 songs. As Hipgnosis keeps buying up, the music industry will no doubt keep an observant eye on the success of its long-term catalog-ownership play — especially in a time of economic free-fall due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

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