Hair Metal Returns!
Bloomberg Businessweek|July 20, 2020
Investors are buying up song rights, and lots of artists need cash
By Lucca De Paoli, with Vernon Silver

Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer was a Billboard No. 1 hit for four weeks, the official video has more than 690 million views on YouTube, and it’s an enduring anthem of Gen X’s hairspray-drenched mid1980s glory days.

Jon Bon Jovi, the band’s lead singer, initially didn’t care for the song and had to be convinced of its merits by guitarist Richie Sambora. Thankfully the band’s most celebrated hit was saved. “I always look at songs as houses,” Sambora says on the phone from Laguna Beach, Calif. “And Livin’ on a Prayer was a mansion.”

The real estate comparison is apt. Earlier this year, Sambora, who co-wrote the song, sold his share of it and many of his other prized assets to Hipgnosis Songs Fund Ltd., an investment vehicle publicly traded in London. The fund works a little bit like a real estate investment trust, which holds a portfolio of property. Similarly, Hipgnosis, launched in 2018, allows billion-dollar pension funds and mom and pop investors access to royalty streams and intellectual property from a selection of tunes. Its portfolio includes rights to songs made famous by artists as diverse as Adele, the Eurythmics, and Al Green. The fund just raised £236 million ($297 million) in a share sale to help pay for further acquisitions.

Hipgnosis, named for a now-defunct design group that made iconic album covers, is run by Merck Mercuriadis, who used to manage artists such as Elton John, Beyoncé, and Iron Maiden. The stock is up more than 9% this year, making it a rare bright spot on the London Stock Exchange, where many companies have been roiled by the spread of coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns.

In fact, lockdowns have brought about new opportunities for those in the business of buying songs, with artists looking for alternative ways to get cash as the money they might have made from live shows vanishes. “There’s no question that our pipeline, which was already pretty massive, has grown during the course of the pandemic,” says Mercuriadis. “A lot of artists are going to not be able to tour for the next couple of years.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEKView All

Bet On It

A Silicon Valley-backed startup wants to bring Wall Street-style trading to the outcome of events. Some regulators say that’s a terrible idea

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)

You're Browsing All Wrong

A startup wants to discard the standard formula for the web browser

7 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)

Killer Heat Is Here

The record temperatures ravaging India are a warning of global catastrophes to come

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)

Opening the Spigot

Conservatives want to limit social media companies’ power to control content

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)

Expanding Access to Mind Expansion

Companies offer guided drug trips on jungle retreats, at city clinics, and in your living room

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)

Europe's Travel Rebound Wobbles

A staffing crisis at airlines, airports, and even the Chunnel left some operators overwhelmed

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)

Better-Odds Babies

Genetic testing companies promise they can predict an embryo’s probable future health. Some parents don’t want to stop there

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)

Are We Still Doing Scooters?

Lime says people are scooting more than ever, but providing urban transit is a hard way to make unicorn-level profits

2 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)

"You Know What's Cool?"

Facebook has spent a decade successfully ripping off its newer, hotter rivals. But this time, it tried to copy TikTok and blew up Instagram instead

10+ mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)

Pivoting to Troll

Elon Musk’s incessant posting may do wonders for his ego and clout in right-wing circles, but it has destroyed value pretty much everywhere else

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
May 30 - June 06, 2022 (Double Issue)