Tina Turner (81) is retiring…seriously this time. The Queen of Rock ‘n Roll sold her song catalogue to BMG.
This means that Ms. Turner is relinquishing control over her music rights in a music catalogue spanning 6 decades.
Perhaps, the music legend is satisfied with the legacy she has created and now bids the business a fond farewell.
Why do artists sell their music rights?
In my previous post of December 14, 2020 about the Bob Dylan sale, I listed the main reasons why writers chose to sell their life’s work:
- Liquidity: a catalogue sale means a substantial capital injection
- Tax strategy: by selling a song catalogue, a songwriter can benefit from a more beneficial tax regime.
- Estate planning: Copyrights are a valuable asset, however they are often not included in estate planning.
- Copyrights are high maintenance: commercialization of rights means that decisions need to be made about the use of the songs.
- Lower their taxable or commissionable income in the following years: With less assets and income, income taxes or service providers’ commission’s over music income will drastically decrease;
BMG’s deal with Ms. Turner
According to several media articles, the Tina Turner catalogue sale allegedly comprises several IP -rights: copyrights, portrait rights, neighbouring rights and trademark rights. I write allegedly as most journalists may not know the difference between copyright, neighbouring rights, artist shares etc…..At least they didn’t call it music patents… The exact terms of the deal are of course confidential so there’s a lot of speculation about the high-profile acquisition by BMG.
What draws the attention in this particular transaction is the inclusion of portrait rights and trademark rights. Any exploitation agreement contains a clause licensing the artist trademarks and portraits in connection with the commercialization of the artist’s music. In this respect it would only be logical for BMG to acquire permission to use Tina Turner’s portrait and trademark to further commercialise her music. It would be interesting to know what scope of use BMG has obtained of Ms. Turner’s portrait and trademark rights. As Warner will continue to be Ms. Turner’s record label, BMG’s acquired portrait and trademark rights most likely won’t be unlimited. A full rights transfer would give BMG the right to ask a compensation every time Ms’ Turner’s portrait or trademarks are used by Warner or any other third party, such as merchandise sales. It is doubtful that situation is intended by either party.
So, what to make of this sale?
Is this simply the next artist cashing in and forfeiting their artistic merits in the hands of yet another industry behemoth? An artist can be both a creative force and be a sensible entrepreneur. As the rightsholder, it is Ms. Turner’s sole right to decide what she does with her vast catalogue. That is what intellectual property rights were created for: to give creators a competitive advantage in the market to monetize their creations. How BMG will use their acquired music rights remains to be seen. Perhaps the agreement with BMG also contains stipulations about such use, for example no syncs for certain products or services…..It is important to remember that contracts can be constructed to reflect both parties wishes. As no details of the deal have been disclosed, anything else remains pure speculation. At 81 and with a view over the Swiss lakes, Ms. Turner no longer has to worry about her music catalogue….