The market for song royalties is a hit for investors

收听 Tuning in-书迷号

BEN STENNIS is a country-music songwriter from Nashville who has written hits for performers such as Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean. Earlier this year, as the music industry was stopped in its tracks by the coronavirus, a company called Royalty Exchange offered him the chance to raise some cash. Since 2016 it has run an online marketplace that brings together musicians who want to sell their work and punters wanting to invest in royalties. Anthony Martini, a partner in Royalty Exchange, says it has 25,000 potential investors on its books, from pension funds to “dentists from Ohio”. The rate of investors signing up has doubled this year, compared with 2019.
本·斯坦尼斯(Ben Stennis)是一名来自纳什维尔的乡村音乐创作人,他为蒂姆·麦格罗(Tim McGraw)和杰森·阿尔丁(Jason Aldean)等表演者创作了多首热门歌曲。今年早些时候音乐产业因疫情而受阻时,一家名为“版权交易所”(Royalty Exchange)的公司向他提供了筹措现金的机会。这家公司从2016年开始经营一个线上市场,把想要出售作品的音乐人和有意投资版税的投注者聚集在一起。“版权交易所”的合伙人安东尼·马丁尼(Anthony Martini)表示,公司有2.5万名潜在投资人在册,从养老基金到“俄亥俄州的牙医”都有。同2019年相比,今年投资人的签约率翻了一番。

Music royalties are a complicated business. When a song is recorded, copyrights are created both for the composition of the song and the recording itself. Each of those rights is then split into mechanical rights (generated when a song is sold in a physical format or streamed), performance rights (when it is played on the radio or live at a concert) and synchronisation rights (when it appears in a film, television programme or a video game).

The idea of investing in royalties is not new. In 1985 Michael Jackson forked out $47.5m for the rights to the recordings of around 250 songs by The Beatles; Taylor Swift is trying to buy the rights to some of her master tapes after her previous record label was sold. But firms like Royalty Exchange are making rights affordable to a wider pool of investors; some auctions start with prices in the four figures. (Mr Stennis sold his rights, and paid off his mortgage with the proceeds.)
投资版税并不是新鲜事。1985年,迈克尔·杰克逊花了4750万美元购买了披头士乐队约250首歌曲的录音权; 泰勒·斯威夫特(Taylor Swift)在她之前的唱片公司被卖掉后,正试图买下她一部分母带的版权。但像“版权交易所”这样的公司正在让更多各种各样的投资者能够负担得起版权,一些拍卖的起始价为四位数。(斯坦尼斯在卖出版权后,用收益还清了自己的按揭贷款。)

There are several reasons why music royalties seem attractive at the moment. Mr Martini believes investors are drawn in by a rate of return that is insulated from macroeconomic trends. Music rights offer a predictable stream of income—people tend to tune in no matter what the economy is doing. Owning a song is more fun than buying a slice of a company. And once they have been bought, songs need not require much attention.

Not everyone agrees that buying royalties should be a passive business, though. In 2018 a former manager of Iron Maiden and Guns N’ Roses, Merck Mercuriadis, founded an investment company called Hipgnosis. More than 90% of the firm’s shares are held by institutional investors, including AXA, an insurer, and the Church of England. The aim is to improve the lot of songwriters, who do not have the same opportunities as performers to make money through tours and merchandise.
不过,并非所有人都认同购买版权应是一门被动的生意。2018年,铁娘子乐队(Iron Maiden)和枪炮与玫瑰乐队(Guns N’ Roses)的前经理人默克·梅库里亚迪斯(Merck Mercuriadis)创立了一家名为Hipgnosis的投资公司。该公司超过90%的股份由机构投资者持有,包括保险公司安盛(AXA)和英格兰教会。其目的是改善词曲作者这个群体的处境,他们不像艺人那样有机会通过巡演和周边商品赚钱。

Hipgnosis has spent more than £650m ($870m) buying the rights to over 13,000 songs. It now owns a share of eight of the 25 most-played songs of all time on Spotify, a streaming platform, including tunes co-written with Ed Sheeran (“Shape of You”) and Justin Bieber (“Love Yourself”). In addition to the hits, Mr Mercuriadis also wants to boost returns from songs that have “been left to languish” by big labels.
Hipgnosis已经花费超过6.5亿英镑(8.7亿美元)购买了超过1.3万首歌曲的版权。现在它拥有流媒体平台Spotify上播放量最高的25首歌曲中的8首,包括艾德·希兰(Ed Sheeran)和贾斯汀·比伯(Justin Bieber)分别与人共同创作的“Shape of You” 和“Love Yourself”。除这些大热歌曲之外,梅库里亚迪斯还想提高那些被大唱片公司“晾在一边”的歌曲的收益。

Hipgnosis seeks to promote its catalogue by trying to place them in films, TV programmes and streaming playlists. Since it went public in July 2018, the cumulative return on its net asset value is just shy of 40%. Music to investors’ ears. ■