- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Neil Diamond has joined the growing list of artists selling their music catalogs, as Universal Music Group purchased his complete body of work, the company announced in a release Monday.

The deal includes the publishing of all written and recorded songs from Mr. Diamond’s entire career, as well as 110 unreleased songs, an unreleased album, and several long-form videos.
Financial terms were not disclosed.

Universal already had a relationship with the “Sweet Caroline” singer, having served as his publishing administrator since 2014 and as the parent company of the Uni recording label with which he had some of his earliest hits in the 1960s and early 70s.

“After nearly a decade in business with UMG, I am thankful for the trust and respect that we have built together, and I feel confident the global team at UMG will continue to represent my catalog and future releases with the same passion and integrity that have always fueled my career,” Mr. Diamond said in a statement.

Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of UMG, called Mr. Diamond’s recordings “some of the most cherished and enduring songs in music history.”

“Through our existing partnership, we are honored to have earned his trust to become the permanent custodians of his monumental musical legacy,” he said.

Mr. Diamond, 81, retired from touring in 2018, but he gave a surprise performance in Las Vegas in March 2020. The deal includes whatever future songs and recordings he may produce in the event he unretires.

In a storied career, Mr. Diamond sold more than 130 million records worldwide and, in the U.S. alone, hit the Top 40 on 37 occasions, with three of his singles (“Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Song Sung Blue” and his Barbra Streisand duet “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”) going to No. 1 and ten others making the Top 10. He also hit the Top 10 on the Billboard album chart 16 times.

Mr. Diamond is far from the first legendary artist to sell his catalog. Bruce Springsteen reached a $500 million deal with Sony Music Entertainment for his songs and publishing rights in December.

David Bowie signed a deal with Warner Chappell Music for his songwriting catalog for $250 million. Other artists who transferred their rights in 2021 include ZZ Top, Tina Turner and Paul Simon.

Music Business WorldWide estimates that in 2021 companies spent about $2.23 billion on rights acquisitions from artists and songwriters, and more than that purchasing various labels and publishing companies. Additional artists besides Mr. Diamond, such as John Legend, have sold their catalogs without disclosing the prices.

As lucrative as the deals were in 2021, industry insiders believe sales will grow even further in 2022, especially in country music.

Country music’s streaming market share grew by almost 1 percentage point in 2021 vs. 2020 and by 2 points vs. 2019, according to Nielsen/MRC data.

Additionally, several country-music icons — including Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks — have yet to sell catalogs.

Modern stars are also beginning to make deals — multi-platinum country superstar Jason Aldean sold his masters to Spirit Music Group for over $100 million on Feb. 24. Mr. Aldean maintained a 10% ownership stake in his music, according to MusicBusinessWorldwide.

“Jason Aldean has been a consistent hitmaker and trailblazer in country music for nearly two decades. His recordings have helped define the sound of modern country music,” Spirit Music CEO Frank Rogers told MusicBusinessWorldwide. “Spirit Music Group is excited to partner with Jason, and we look forward to further championing these important recordings to the world.”

• Peter Santo can be reached at psanto@washingtontimes.com.

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