[Blackstudies-l] Buying a Piece of Bob Marley’s Song Catalog, and His Enduring Legacy

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Thu Jan 18 11:34:09 EST 2018

lisaparavisini posted: " A report by Ben Sisario for the New York Times.
When Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, first met a journeyman
musician named Bob Marley in 1972, he had a feeling that the young man
might find success. “He had a kind of aura about him,” M"
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<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Buying a Piece of Bob
Marley’s Song Catalog, and His Enduring Legacy
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: rs-135001-square.jpg]

A report by Ben Sisario for the *New York Times*.

When Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, first met a journeyman
musician named Bob Marley in 1972, he had a feeling that the young man
might find success.

“He had a kind of aura about him,” Mr. Blackwell, 80, recalled in a recent
interview. “I had an idea that he could have an impact.”

But Mr. Blackwell said he did not imagine the kind of pop-culture sainthood
that Marley would ultimately achieve: tens of millions of albums sold,
instant name-and-dreadlock recognition around the world
and an estate that, in Forbes’s estimate, earned $23 million last year,
partly from the sale of family-branded products like speakers, coffee
and Marley
Natural cannabis <https://www.marleynatural.com/>.

While the family of Marley, who died in 1981 at 36, handles most aspects of
his estate, Mr. Blackwell controls the rights to Marley’s music publishing
catalog, including the copyrights to classic reggae songs like “One Love”
and “Three Little Birds.” On Saturday Mr. Blackwell signed a $50 million
deal with Primary Wave Music Publishing, a boutique New York music company,
the latest in a string of high-profile transactions reflecting how
streaming has boosted the value of music catalogs.

“Basic publishing is absolutely important, but it’s not very exciting,”
said Mr. Blackwell, who speaks in a slow, soft British accent but carries
two cellphones that chirp constantly. “But now it *is* the music business.
Record companies used to manufacture, and that was the difference between a
record company and a publishing company. All that is really gone now.”

Under the deal, Primary Wave will control 80 percent of Mr. Blackwell’s
share of two catalogs: Marley’s songs and Blue Mountain Music, a publisher
that Mr. Blackwell set up in 1962, which has reggae hits by Toots & the
Maytals and rock classics by Free (“All Right Now”) and Marianne Faithfull.
Blue Mountain also has rights to U2 songs, but those are excluded from the
deal, Mr. Blackwell said.

Primary Wave has carved out a lucrative niche in music publishing by
focusing on aggressive branding and marketing campaigns for what its
founder, Larry Mestel, calls “the icons and legends business.” The company
has a relatively small catalog of about 12,000 songs — its roster includes
Smokey Robinson, Def Leppard and Steve Cropper, who wrote “(Sittin’ On) The
Dock of the Bay” with Otis Redding — that it promotes heavily through
commercial tie-ins, movies and TV shows.

Mr. Mestel, whose first job was working for Mr. Blackwell at Island,
declined to offer any specifics about his plans for the Marley songbook. As
examples of his company’s approach, he cited two past campaigns. When
Primary Wave managed Kurt Cobain’s catalog, it struck a deal with Converse
to drape sneakers in Nirvana lyrics; for Aerosmith, the company helped
create a state lottery game
with each scratch-off card revealing words from Aerosmith songs.

For the estate of the pianist Glenn Gould, Primary Wave plans to send a
hologram of Gould — who died in 1982 and famously hated playing live — on a
concert tour.

“There are a lot of inbound calls that music publishers get, where they
hang up the phone and give each other a high-five, saying, ‘We just did a
great job in marketing,’” Mr. Mestel said. “That’s not marketing. We’ve got
almost 100 people that all they do is marketing, all day long.”

The Marley catalog is unusual. During his lifetime, he had few chart hits,
but his music has achieved steady, far-reaching popularity that has lasted
for decades. According to Nielsen, Marley’s songs have been streamed more
than 1.7 billion times in the United States alone, and his fame permeates
deep into emerging markets like Africa and India.

“There isn’t a crevice of the world,” Mr. Mestel said, “where Bob Marley
isn’t a god.”

Unlike most publishers, Primary Wave sees itself as a branding house and an
asset manager, exploiting song catalogs on behalf of investors that have
contributed to an acquisition fund. The company, Mr. Mestel said, has about
$400 million to invest in music on behalf of those investors, a group that
includes BlackRock,
world’s largest money manager.

Over the past year, hundreds of millions of dollars have changed hands in
music-publishing transactions. In June, Concord paid almost $600 million
Imagem, which includes the Rodgers & Hammerstein catalog. In December,
Kobalt bought Songs
the Weeknd) for $160 million, and this month Round Hill Music closed a $240
million deal for Carlin Music, which includes standards like “Fever.”

Money managers, lawyers and music executives say that a confluence of
factors, including low interest rates and a roaring stock market, has
created an especially frothy market for alternative investments like music
rights. And the success of streaming has quickly given a boost to catalog
valuations, pointing to the possibility of steady growing returns for years
to come.

“We’re experiencing growth from multiple sources simultaneously,” said
Barry M. Massarsky, an economist who specializes in valuing music catalogs.
“It’s a perfect storm of value for music publishing assets.”

In a competitive market, Primary Wave’s pitch to songwriters is that it can
find new ways to market old material. For Mr. Robinson, who signed a $22
million deal with Primary Wave in 2016, the company did a deal with
American Greetings to promote a new holiday, Father-Daughter Day, using Mr.
Robinson’s song “My Girl.” When he was looking for a new home for his
songs, Mr. Robinson said in an interview, those ideas sold him.

“When I got to Primary Wave, they had made up a brochure with all kinds of
things to show me how they operate,” Mr. Robinson said. “It had my picture
on the cover and my songs listed and everything. It was just so attractive
to me, I signed with them.”

Mr. Mestel said that he seeks only tasteful deals. But the Marley family
controls the use of their patriarch’s name and likeness, and Mr. Blackwell
said that the family, which earns the majority of the songwriting
royalties, has the final right to refuse any use.

Mr. Blackwell, who began his career selling Jamaican singles out of the
trunk of his Mini Cooper in London, built Island into a major power with
Marley, Steve Winwood, Cat Stevens, Grace Jones and U2. In recent years, he
said, he has devoted himself to his Island Outpost collection of resorts
and Blackwell Rum, shrinking his music publishing business to just a few

The new partnership with Primary Wave, Mr. Blackwell said, had him excited
about returning to music, and to the worldwide popularity of Marley.

“I was in Singapore last year in a little bar,” he said. “Suddenly you look
up, and there on the TV, singing a song, is Bob Marley.”
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
January 17, 2018 at 7:42 am | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: https://wp.me/psnTa-zjm

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