Hipgnosis boss says “cultural relevance” of artists is key to the back catalogues they have acquired

The company now controls the catalogues of Blondie and Lindsey Buckingham, as well as 50% of Neil Young's songs

The CEO and founder of Hipgnosis Songs Fund has said that cultural importance is key when it comes to the artists whose back catalogues they have acquired.

The investment company, who were founded by Merck Mercuriadis, has made waves in recent months after purchasing the catalogues of artists including Lindsey Buckingham and Blondie, as well as Jimmy Iovine’s worldwide producer royalties and half of Neil Young’s songs in a deal thought to be worth an estimated $150 million (£110 million).

Speaking to MusicWeek, Mercuriadis explained how he set about purchasing the back catalogues after securing a staggering $1bn in investments.

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“So, with over £1bn invested, we only own 57,000 songs. But 10,000 of them are Top 10 songs, almost 3,000 of them are No.1 songs. So it’s a very small catalogue, relative to Universal, Warner or Sony. But the ratio of success within that catalogue is very high, there are very few songs that are not successes,” he explained.

Opening up on his criteria for buying catalogues, he explained: “For me, the criteria is not just predictable and reliable income, but it’s cultural importance as well. Everything that I buy is proven, it’s successful, but it’s also culturally important.

Lindsey Buckingham
Lindsey Buckingham (Picture: Getty)

“So when you look at Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), Mark Ronson’s records including Uptown Funk, Lady Gaga, Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac, Steve Winwood, Nile Rodgers and Chic with Bernard Edwards, these are all culturally important artists who made big records that the whole world can sing, but are really important to people as well.”

Hipgnosis are known for turning royalties into a steady income stream – with the firm making money every time one of its songs is played on the radio or featured in a film/TV show.

Shakira is the latest star to sell her catalogue to the company, with all 145 of her songs, including ‘Hips Don’t Lie’, ‘She Wolf’ and ‘Whenever, Wherever’, all part of the deal.

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“Being a songwriter is an accomplishment that I consider equal to and perhaps even greater than being a singer and an artist,” she commented.

“At eight years old — long before I sang — I wrote to make sense of the world. Each song is a reflection of the person I was at the time that I wrote it, but once a song is out in the world, it belongs not only to me but to those who appreciate it as well. I’m humbled that songwriting has given me the privilege of communicating with others, of being a part of something bigger than myself.

“I know Hipgnosis will be a great home for my catalogue — and I’m so happy to partner with this company led by Merck, who truly values artists and their creations and is an ally to songwriters everywhere who care deeply about the continued life of their songs.”

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