Their hit song “Money” satirised the excesses of capitalism.
But now Pink Floyd are looking to cash in on one of rock music’s most valuable catalogues with a £350m auction of their song rights.
Representatives of the band, who have sold 250 million copies of era-defining albums including 1973 release The Dark Side of the Moon, have reached out to potential buyers.
Formed in 1965 the band, which began playing London’s underground psychedelic clubs, became famed for their concept albums and spectacular tours which filled stadiums across the world.
Investors have seized on song rights as a valuable long-term asset, with Bruce Springsteen recently selling his hits for £366m whilst Bob Dylan pocketed £470m for his catalogue.
But the market may have peaked with streaming platforms facing slower growth as the cost-of-living crisis bites and only a limited number of “blue-chip” catalogues available for sale.
That may explain why Pink Floyd, whose hits include “Another Brick in the Wall”, has opened discussions with suitors, which Bloomberg News reported are in early stages.
Their catalogue, including studio albums Wish You Were Here and The Wall, was bought by Warner Music as part of a £487m deal in 2013 to acquire Parlophone, the former EMI label.
Singer and bassist Roger Waters left the band in 1985 and later sued his fellow band mates over their use of the name. Keyboardist Richard Wright died in 2008.
The last Pink Floyd album, The Endless River, was released in 2014. Guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason released a song last month under the Pink Floyd name to support Ukraine following the Russian invasion.
Possible bidders for the Floyd catalogue includes Hipgnosis, the investment vehicle which has spent £1bn snapping up the rights to 65,000 songs, including Neil Young’s back catalogue and hits by Shakira, Blondie, Stevie Nicks and Barry Manilow.
Founded by artist manager Merck Mercuriadis and Chic’s Nile Rodgers, Hipgnosis would be a good fit for Floyd – the company is named after the Hipgnosis design team behind Floyd’s eye-catching 70s album sleeves, which the teenage Merck was obsessed with. Hipgnosis declined to comment on the Floyd opportunity.
Warner Music, owned by Sir Len Blavatnik, the Ukraine-born, British-American billionaire, is expected to make a substantial offer to retain the catalogue of one of the jewels in its crown.
A long-running feud between Gilmour and Waters could complicate any sale. Waters has accused Gilmour of banning him from using Pink Floyd’s website to promote his solo work and said his former bandmate took excessive credit for the “ringing cash register” tape loop, which provides the distinctive opening to “Money”.
Waters signed his publishing share of Floyd classics, including “Money”, “Another Brick in the Wall” and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond”, the song dedicated to original frontman Syd Barrett, to German company BMG. Gilmour, Mason and Wright’s Floyd publishing rights are administered by Imagem Music UK.
Tackling themes of alienation, greed and mental illness in often extended compositions, Floyd’s catalogue, led by the 30 million-selling Dark Side of the Moon, continues to sell strongly on vinyl, winning a new generation of fans. Their catalogue of 28 albums, including compilations, could match the £366m Springsteen secured from Sony for his music.
Gilmour, 76, worth an estimated £145m, has been “downsizing” over the past 20 years, selling his London home for £3.6m in a bid to fund housing for the homeless. He auctioned 123 of his most prized guitars, raising £15m for charity. Singer and bassist Waters, who regularly tours his solo albums and Floyd songs, is worth £250m.
Drummer Mason, who invested his wealth in a classic car collection including Ferraris, Bugattis, Aston Martins and Porsches, formed a new band, Saucerful of Secrets, to tour Floyd’s early music.
Hipgnosis claims that songs are a more reliable asset that oil, now that streaming and platforms like TikTok are giving a new lease of life to hits that have proved their worth over decades.
Established music industry players argue that Hipgnosis, having raised £1bn in private equity, is paying multiples on songs which may not make a return on their investment.
Rockers realising their assets include Sting, who sold his back catalogue, featuring hits including “Roxanne”, “Every Breath You Take” and “Englishman in New York”, to Universal Music in a deal thought to be worth up to $300m (£221m).
Bob Dylan sold the master recordings to his entire back catalogue to Sony Music for £150m, after negotiating a £320m fee for his publishing rights.
Paul Simon sold his catalogue to Sony for £200m, the same figure David Bowie’s estate struck in a deal with Warner Music for his classic albums.
Representatives of Pink Floyd were approached for comment.
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