Song Sung Blue: Mega music publisher ousted from company that bought up rock stars' catalogs

I told you last October that Hipgnosis Music Publishing, founded by Merc Mercuriadis, was in serious trouble.

It took months, but now it looks like Mercuriadis – a towering figure – has been forced out of the company. His last day at work is July 8.

Many rock stars were persuaded to sell their music catalogues to Hipgnosis by Mercuriadis, who was very charming and persuasive. Hipgnosis artists include all-stars such as Barry Manilow, Neil Young, Carole Bayer Sager, Journey, Lindsay Buckingham, Chrissie Hynde, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Stewart and his Eurythmics songs.

As you may recall, we went through a critical period during and right before the pandemic when musicians were panicking about monetization. When live performances suddenly stopped, selling song rights became an overnight trend. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Fleetwood Mac, etc. generated over $300 million in sales to other publishers for their catalogs.

There's one problem, though: all of these catalogs need to be monetized. The songs need to be licensed by companies like Hipgnosis, Sony, Universal, etc. for movies, TV, commercials, etc., and that hasn't proven to be as easy as it looked. This resulted in me receiving calls last summer and fall claiming that the artists weren't getting the money they'd been promised. However, I was told that this was the case for most of them.

The Blackstone Group pulled the strings on the Hipgnosis deal and clearly had enough controversy. In February, Mercuriadis stepped down from running the day-to-day operations. But now it looks like he's out entirely. In a prepared statement, he says he'll continue to fight for songwriters' rights. We're sure to see him back in the music business.

Someday, someone might write a book about what happened to Hipgnosis. In May, Concord Music – the company owned by the late Norman Lear – withdrew a $1.4 billion takeover offer because it couldn't get a handle on this truly “mercenary” situation.