After The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Genesis, it’s Pink Floyd’s turn to join the long list of artists selling their music catalog. Is it because artists are reaching their creative limits? Or is there a more pragmatic reason?
What is a catalog?
A catalog is considered to be the entire management of the rights associated with an artist or a band. These rights can vary from one repertoire to another, but according to some sources “in addition to the recording rights, the use of the name, the image of the group and the album artwork” could be on offer from Pink Floyd. These catalogs are worth hundreds of millions of dollars for artists considered to be “evergreen” by rights managers, because they have been at the top of the listening charts for over forty years. The concerts held by Roger Waters or former members of Pink Floyd always sell out.
Business is good because finance is interested in the steady returns of music publishing. Record companies are willing to spend huge amounts of money to get their hands on these interesting catalogs. Although artists often let their record company collect and manage their royalties, this hasn’t stopped Roger Waters from having his say.
The Biden administration has implemented a tax increase on royalty income. Indeed, the taxes on this type of income will reach around 37% in the very near future, an amount currently capped at 28%. This increase would explain the explosion in the number of catalog sales, mainly by artists that are in decline, artistically speaking. The huge sums of money involved are motivated by streaming platforms, which are doing well and whose stock market quotations are exploding because there is such a high demand for their services. Warner Music, for example, recently spent $535 million to acquire several catalogs (including David Bowie’s) and labels.
So the market is now full of catalogs from artists who feel that it is the right time to sell. Either because their career is coming to a turning point (or simply ending), or because the temptation to get their hands on a check is strong. And sometimes when a band breaks up, it is easier to sell a whole package rather than scattered pieces.
The Roger Waters case
If Roger Waters wasn’t Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s catalog would certainly be sold already because the members are rock icons. But the band’s bassist isn’t afraid to say what is on his mind and his recurring nonconformism keeps getting in the way. And he doesn’t mind at all. He stays true to his word, “working all his [ma] life, sometimes at the cost of his personal life, in the service of human rights”. The elected official of the Polish city to which he is addressing in this quote has his concert dates cancelled for his statements on the war in Ukraine. Before adding “Hey! Lukasz Wantuch! Leave our kids alone!”.
This is a big turn-off for potential buyers of the legendary band’s catalog. Roger Waters had added during the interview for Rolling Stone magazine that he felt threatened by a far-right group via a website recognized as such, that is still active to this day. His various statements on the war come after Pink Floyd members David Gilmour and Nick Mason released a surprise song earlier this year in support of the Ukraine effort.
But the real reason of this impossible sale is mainly due to the altercations between David Gilmour and Roger Waters and to the somewhat different laws between England (where the guitarist and the keyboardist are from) and the USA (the famous bassist is American). The pound, at its lowest in recent history, reinforces the altercations between the members of the group. While the legal discrepancies and the resulting squabbling are the core of the problem, Roger’s statements have ultimately deterred some potential buyers. One can understand their frustration, as they had already called in mediators to ease tensions between the band members and reach a sale.
After having contacted the bidders, the Financial Times confirms that buyers are nevertheless willing to purchase the Pink Floyd catalog. Albums like The Dark Side of the Moon, The Walland Wish You Were Here represent a huge financial windfall and can only lead to sales. That will be devalued due to the stormy comments of the bass guitarist.
It’s quite funny that the band that sang and composed the song Money, whose lyrics include “Money, share it equally, but don’t touch my share of the cake”, are in such a situation. We hope that these “Relics” of psychedelic rock music will lose this “Momentary Lapse of Reason” and that the band will cross “The Wall” that stands in front of them.