Paul McCartney had a special week. You may be thinking, when isn't it a great time to be Sir Paul...and you'd be right. Sure, he's had his times of despair. The death of wife #1, a messy divorce from wife #2 and the fans of Kanye West not knowing who he is, but all in all, it's great to be Paul McCartney.
It's already been a great summer for McCartney. He just turned seventy-five. He's healthy and looks great for that age. His tour starts tonight in Miami. He'll be playing to sold-out, adoring crowds throughout the USA. Not to mention that he has a lot of $$$. Estimates have his wealth at $1.2 BILLION!
BUT....McCartney has wanted something for almost fifty years and this week he finally got it. He finally owns the publishing rights to the Beatles/Lennon-McCartney catalog.
It's been a long time coming and the story has a lot of twists and turns. It's a lot of work to own the publishing rights to music. That's why there are companies set up to do it and why most musicians have those companies do the grunt work. The musicians want to concentrate on the music and leave the business end to someone else...at least until they realize how much money and power they're giving up. The Beatles were no different.
The company that originally owned The Beatles publishing was called Northern Songs. In 1969, it was for sale and McCartney, along with John Lennon, tried to buy the company. They lost out to a company called ATV Music.
Fast forward to the 1980's. John Lennon is dead and McCartney starts up a friendship with Michael Jackson. McCartney is giving him business advice, which includes how much money is in music publishing. ATV Music comes up for sale and in 1985, Jackson outbids McCartney by paying $47 million for the company. Jackson now owns McCartney's music. McCartney feels betrayed and that ends the friendship between the two pop legends.
Move ahead to 2016. Michael Jackson is dead and Sony gets involved. They purchase half of the company from Jackson's estate for $750 million. In twenty years, Jackson made over $700 million from this deal...and that was for only half of the company. McCartney was certainly right in the advice he gave to Jackson.
This, along with copyright law which reverts the rights to a song back to the original writer after fifty-six years, gave McCartney an opening to regain publishing rights. Law suits and lawyers became involved. Not too surprising with all this money involved. Last weekend there was a settlement and after close to five decades, Paul McCartney now owns the Lennon-McCartney portion of The Beatles catalog.
It's not just the money that makes this important, it's the power to control the music. McCartney now determines who can use his music and in what outlet. If a radical politician wants to use "Revolution" as a theme for a rally, Sir Paul gets the right to say yes or no. If he says yes, he controls the royalty for the song. Win/win. If a company wants to use "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" for a rifle commercial, they run it by Paul first. Can you picture Paul getting cash from the NRA?
Then there's vinyl albums, Cds, box sets, streaming, music in films and whatever forms of music you can imagine. McCartney controls and makes decisions on all of those. It's a lot of power along with all the money. McCartney can pass this on to his family for generations to come.
You can now see why Paul McCartney has been trying to own these rights for almost fifty years. You can now see why it's been a great week to be Paul McCartney.
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