Sony buys MJ rights as music catalogues become chart-topping investments

The competition might’ve been tough for the King of Pop’s music library, but Sony and its big chequebook told the other investors to beat it

What happened: Sony is acquiring half of Michael Jackson’s music catalogue for around US$600 million, a deal that will make it the most valuable catalogue ever sold, per Axios.

Why it matters: The shift to the streaming model has made music rights more valuable than ever, and turned the catalogues of superstar artists with enduring appeal into assets that investors regard as a safe, recession-proof source of returns.

Catch up: Catalogue deals have become more common (and expensive) in recent years, with older and current artists alike cashing in on their rosters of hits. 

  • Canadian pop star Justin Beiber sold his entire music catalogue (up to 2022) to Hipgnosis back in 2022 for US$200 million.

  • The boss, Bruce Springsteen, sold his catalogue to Sony in 2021 for ~US$500 million, the record for the biggest deal before the Michael Jackson acquisition.

  • Future sold his music library from 2004 to 2020 to Influence Media Partners — an investment firm backed by BlackRock and Warner Music — for US$75 million.

Zoom out: If Universal Music is successful in its standoff with TikTok over a new licensing deal, social media platforms may need to pay even more in royalties, and we could see the value of artists' catalogues soar even higher.—LA