This Man Is Betting $1.7 Billion on the Rights to Your Favorite Songs


Mercuriadis’ pitch and the big bucks Hipgnosis paid caught the attention of the industry. And at least in the headlines, Hipgnosis got off to a successful start. The latest financial results, released this month, showed that the independent valuer “fair value” of its catalog increased 10 percent from April to September.

Hipgnosis’ growing collection means his songs are everywhere. Recently, a piece of All I Wanna For Christmas Is You, Mariah Carey’s inevitable vacation standard, was purchased, and the new season of Netflix’s hit show The Crown features four songs from the Hipgnosis portfolio.

But Mercuriadis drew a backlash from the establishment he provoked. They wonder if Hipgnosis can ever get back the amounts it pays, and if song management is any different from what other music publishers do every day.

“One thing that Merck does really well is convincing people with deep pockets that music publishing is a simple business that others do badly,” said Jane Dyball, former executive director of the Music Publishers Association, a trading group in the UK. “In reality, it’s not an easy business.”

However, even its critics acknowledge that Mercuriadis has raised the temperature of the store and that Hipgnosis may be driving a fundamental change in the industry by paying the highest dollar to buy songwriters’ work. (In the publishing world with the sharp elbows, however, each other’s deals are never as golden as your own.)

“He stirred the bottom of the barrel,” said Larry Mestel, founder of Primary Wave Music, whose portfolio includes Nicks, Bob Marley, Burt Bacharach and Smokey Robinson. “Merck has generated a lot of buzz for closing a lot of high multiple deals, but it doesn’t close the quality that we do.”