Nov 27, 2023 - Business

Hall and Oates lawsuit puts spotlight on secretive industry

Illustration of a quarter inside a guitar.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Daryl Hall's lawsuit against John Oates could pull back the curtain on the secretive and booming music rights market.

Why it matters: The growth of streaming music — coupled with the increase in licensing opportunities in TV shows, movies and video games — is increasing the value of holding song rights and making them attractive investments.

Catch up quick: Instead of licensing copyrights for a set amount of time, many artists are selling them outright to the highest bidder.

  • The benefit for the buyer depends on the deal. But investment firms view music rights as stable assets that likely won't depreciate.

Zoom in: Years ago, Hall and Oates sold part of their catalog. Now it appears that Oates recently agreed to sell at least some of his remaining rights.

  • Hall has long bemoaned the original deal and — under seal — sued to stop a new sale. The judge lifted some of it and said more information soon could be publicly disclosed.
  • That's of particular interest, given how little we typically learn about these music rights deals.

State of play: Money is flowing back into the industry after a yearlong dry spell and some financial trouble around Hipgnosis, one of its biggest players.

  • Last week, Broadcast Music Inc. — a major holder of music rights — was sold in a deal that could be worth $1.7 billion, according to industry trade outlet Music Business Worldwide.
  • Morgan Stanley is partnering with a large music publishing company to spend $700 million to acquire song copyrights.
  • Katy Perry sold catalog rights to five of her albums for $225 million.
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