Just Give Me Money, Honey: The Cashing Out of Musicians and Their Catalogues

Many of America’s best known agents for change have become some of its wealthiest and most successful capitalists. Recently, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Shakira and several other famous musicians have cashed out by selling their music catalogues. Dylan for $300 Million, Young sold 50% of his for about $150 Million and Nicks sold 80% of hers for $80 Million. The list goes on among popular artists with a couple of major buyers and another forty or fifty sellers so far. Outside of a big pay day, the question is why? And why now?


I’m certain a number of factors weigh into each individual artist’s thought process and decision but, as an estate planner, I can’t help but think that estate liquidity was a major motivation. Each has turned an unknown and valuable asset into cash. Not that each of these very successful and very wealthy performers has taken an intangible and monetized it. For the artist, this should make division of their estate easier and possibly less contentious. For heirs, trying to find a buyer for mom or dad’s song catalogue within nine months of the death of their parent and knowing and realizing a fair value would have been a challenge. Fire sales are fire sales, after all.


What other planning have these artists done? What more will they do? All but Shakira, are well into their 70s and though many still perform, the end of their lives is likely closer than the beginning. Time to get their affairs in order, and doing so with cash should provide a foundation of resources and a certainty that didn’t exist before.


Well done.


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