UPDATE: After months of negotiations, David Bowie’s estate has sold the singer’s formidable publishing catalog to Warner Chappell Music for more than $250 million, sources confirm Variety. The catalog spans six decades and includes songs such as “Heroes”, “Changes”, “Space Oddity”, “Fame”, “Let’s Dance”, “Rebel Rebel”, “Golden Years”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “All the Young Dudes”, his 1981 collaboration with Queen “Under Pressure” and hundreds of others.
The deal includes songs from all 26 of David Bowie’s studio albums released during his lifetime, as well as the posthumous studio album release, “Toy,” which drops Friday. It also includes Tin Machine’s two studio albums, as well as tracks released as singles from soundtracks and other projects.
The deal brings nearly all of Bowie’s music into the Warner system. Last September, the estate announced a global partnership with Warner Music that will bring the late artist’s extensive catalog of recorded music from 1968 to 2016 under the company’s umbrella; the deal includes Bowie’s albums from 2000 to 2016, which were originally released through Sony Music. News that Bowie’s estate was in negotiations to sell his edition was reported by the Financial Times in October.
The announcement comes amid the “Bowie 75” celebration, surrounding the late singer’s 75th birthday on Saturday, January 8. The campaign also includes pop-up stores in New York and London and the November release of “Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001)” and, on Friday, his unreleased album “Toy,” featuring re-recorded versions of relatively obscure songs from the early of his career; while this album is available in the box set, it will be released separately on Friday.
In November, Variety announced that a new Bowie film culled from thousands of hours of rare performance footage, most of which has yet to circulate, is in its final stages and could premiere as early as the Sundance Film Festival. later this month. Brett Morgen, the director of “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” “Jane” and “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” has been working on the project for four years, sources say, with longtime Bowie collaborator Tony Bowie. Visconti, as Music Director.
The move is the latest in an extensive series of deals from Warner Chappell, which includes catalog deals with Bruno Mars, Cardi B, Quincy Jones, Anderson .Paak, Saweetie and the estate of George Michael, among others.
In a statement confirming the news on Monday, Warner Chappell Music Co-Chairman and CEO Guy Moot said: “All of us at Warner Chappell are extremely proud that the David Bowie estate has chosen us to be stewards of one of the most groundbreaking, influential and enduring catalogs in music history. These are not just extraordinary songs, but milestones that forever changed the course of modern music. Bowie’s vision and creative genius drove him to push boundaries, lyrically and musically – writing songs that defied convention, changed conversation, and became part of the canon of global culture. His work has spanned massive pop hits and experimental adventures that have inspired millions of fans and countless innovators, not just in music, but across art, fashion and media. We look forward to tending to his unparalleled body of song with passion and care as we strive to build on the legacy of this most extraordinary human being.
“I would like to thank everyone involved in bringing this wonderful deal to fruition,” Moot continued, “including Bill Zysblat, Tom Cyrana and the entire Bowie team at RZO, attorney Allen Grubman and the firm, and our own ‘Team Bowie’ made up of Warner Chappell colleagues Alice Aleksandrovich, Steve Butler, Michael LoBiondo and David Woirhaye.
WCM Co-President and COO Carianne Marshall said, “This fantastic pact with David Bowie‘s estate opens up a universe of opportunity to take his extraordinary music to vibrant new places. It’s not just a catalog, but a living collection of timeless songs that are as powerful and resonant today as they were when they were first written. We were delighted that the estate felt that Warner Chappell had the knowledge, experience and resources to take the reins and continue to promote a collection of this magnitude. All of our global leaders and departments are incredibly excited and ready to get to work with these brilliant songs across multiple avenues and platforms. And with both sides of WMG now representing Bowie’s career, we couldn’t be better organized to represent this illustrious body of work.
On behalf of David Bowie Estate and RZO, Allen Grubman added: “We are truly delighted that David Bowie’s musical corpus is now in the capable hands of Warner Chappell Music Publishing. We are sure they will cherish it and take care of it with the utmost dignity.
Bowie, who died of cancer in January 2016, was keen to maintain control of his work and regularly retrieved stray recordings and other material from his career as they became available. While his estate owns his catalog from 1968, his first officially released material – a series of singles and a self-titled album from 1967, all of which are vastly inferior to his classic work – is outside the Warner deal, although Ironically, many of the songs from that era appear in new versions on ‘Toy’.
The deal is the latest in an era that has seen song catalogs reach previously unimaginable values, with Bruce Springsteen’s publishing and recorded music rights going to Sony for a staggering number of sources, which ranges around $500 million, Bob Dylan’s edition goes to Universal for nearly $400 million, Paul Simon to Sony for $250 million, and many more. While selling song catalogs may seem unthinkable for many songwriters, for older artists it’s actually a sensible estate planning decision: the market for such properties is much hotter than it never was, and it saves the songwriter’s heirs from having to manage a very complicated asset. – and earns them a big pile of cash instead.