These musicians make millions each year from their collection of songs!
Over the course of a musician’s career, they can easily create a collection of hundreds of songs that all become a part of their music catalogue. These catalogues have major value as songs can create revenue long after a musician stops making music. Through streams, sales, and use in television, movies and commercials, musical creations from major artists can earn millions of dollars a year.
While some artists are lucky enough to own their catalogues, others are sometimes in the possession of publishing companies. And when it comes time for a catalogue to be bought or sold, there’s a lot of money involved. Forbes recently compiled a list of the most valuable catalogues of all time based on conversations with experts across the music industry and you might be surprised about some of the artists who made the cut!
Here are the musicians with the most valuable catalogues…
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5. Paul Simon – $250 million
Paul Simon recently cashed out on his catalogue of musical creations from his six-decade career, selling his catalogue to Sony Music Publishing for an estimated $250 million. As the sole songwriter for Simon & Garfunkel, he penned hits like “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “The Sound of Silence” as well as solo music and contributions to soundtracks.
“I’m pleased to have Sony Music Publishing be the custodian of my songs for the coming decades. I began my career at Columbia/Sony Records and it feels like a natural extension to be working with the publishing side as well,” Paul said in a statement.
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4. Bob Dylan – $325 million
Last year, Bob Dylan sold his song catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group in an astounding deal that was reported to be worth well over $300 million. Over the course of his career, Bob crafted a collection of more than 600 songs, which he both owned the rights to and wrote entirely by himself. His multi-million dollar catalogue includes hits like “Blowin in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin.’” The deal was reportedly negotiated directly with Bob, who had previously largely maintained control over his songwriting copyrights.
“It is with enormous pride that we welcome Bob Dylan to the UMG family. It’s no secret that the art of songwriting is the fundamental key to all great music, nor is it a secret that Bob is one of the very greatest practitioners of that art. Brilliant and moving, inspiring and beautiful, insightful and provocative, his songs are timeless — whether they were written more than half a century ago or yesterday. It is no exaggeration to say that his vast body of work has captured the love and admiration of billions of people all around the world. I have no doubt that decades, even centuries from now, the words and music of Bob Dylan will continue to be sung and played — and cherished — everywhere,” Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, said in a statement.
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3. Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II – $350 million
Broadway legends Rodgers & Hammerstein have one of the world’s most valuable song catalogues even six decades after they wrote their last hit. Their catalog is currently worth $350 million and is owned by Concord Music Group. In 2019 alone, the duo’s works are said to have brought in $40 million in revenue thanks to more than 1,200 local productions of their musicals, a Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!” and a reported 90% ownership of the publishing rights to Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings,” which was based on “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music.”
2. Michael Jackson – $375 million
Michael Jackson may have passed away over a decade ago but his music is still as popular as ever, giving him one of the highest valued music catalogues in the world. Before his death, Michael consolidated his copyrights to his own music publishing company, Mijac Music. This includes his hits “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and “The Way You Make Me Feel,” which reportedly help bring in over $20 million a year in publishing revenue. Mijac Music also owns the rights to songs by Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley, but their yearly revenue is surpassed by the King of Pop himself.
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1. John Lennon & Paul McCartney – $500 million
The vast majority of albums by The Beatles were written by band members John Lennon and Paul McCartney and their catalogue of hits are valued at an insanely impressive $500 million. At first, the duo owned a minority stake in the publishing company that managed their rights but it was eventually sold from under them and John and Paul both sold their remaining shares. The Beatles’ catalogue was later purchased by Michael Jackson’s acquisition of ATV Music Publishing. Years later, the catalogue was purchased again by Sony Music Publishing, which was sued by Paul for control of his share of the catalogue. They eventually reached a confidential settlement.
“I don’t want to talk too much about it, but there’s a certain right under U.S. law where these things revert to me. Sony didn’t agree. And then they came to us, tail between their legs [to settle], and said, ‘One condition is that you don’t really talk about it.’ Believe me, I would love to give you every single detail,” Paul once said about now having control of the catalogue.