Hip-Hop Artists Are Parting Ways With Their Multi-Million Dollar Music Catalogs

By CultureBanx Team

  • HarbourView announced it acquired 50% of “select recorded music assets” from rapper Nelly reportedly for $50M and a similar deal for rapper Wiz Khalifa
  • Dr. Dre has sold assets including his artist royalties from N.W.A. and two solo albums, along  with producing royalties and other entities for more than $200M

It was once believed that rap and hip-hop would be a passing fad, yet those genres along with R&B have dominated the last decade of music, with people betting big on the future worth of nostalgia listening. More artists are jumping on the wave of parting ways with their catalogs including rapper Nelly’s recent $50 million deal for 50% of select assets, along with rapper Wiz Khalifa’s similar select asset deal both with HarborView. Is this a hip-hop business trend that’s likely to continue?

Why This Matters: Publishing and catalog ownership is big business, in the billions, to be exact. Selling music assets allows artists to leverage a move from another playbook. For example, in 1985, Michael Jackson purchased a portion of his publishing catalog for $41 million, which allowed his estate to net a 1,707% profit from its sale in 2016.

R&B and Hip-Hop have been the dominant music genre on the United States Billboard charts, becoming bigger than pop and rock, and the most streamed at nearly 30% of all songs. Hip-hop icon Dr. Dre sold his assets to Universal Music and Shamrock Holding, including artist royalties from N.W.A. and two solo albums, along  with producing royalties and other entities, for more than $200 million.

Dr. Dre followed the lead of his hip-hop predecessors, as Hipgnosis Songs acquired a 50% stake in rap legend RZA’s catalog, including Wu-Tang and Kanye West songs. For Nelly, his deal covers the purchase of some well-known tracks including hits like ‘Ride Wit Me’, ‘Dilemma’ featuring Kelly Rowland, and ‘Hot in Herre.’

The rapper ventured into country-inspired music with his eighth studio album, Heartland. This move aligns with HarbourView’s acquisition strategy with the company actively pursuing deals, including an acquisition of publishing catalogs from country music artists Lady A and Brad Paisley, according to Music Business World. They have already secured Big Loud Mountain Music’s publisher share of select songs from the catalog of country music duo Florida Georgia Line.

Assets in the HarbourView deal with Wiz Khalifa include his hits ‘See You Again’, ‘Black & Yellow’, and ‘The Thrill.’ It spans his career across dozens of albums, mixtapes, and collaborations. HarbourView claims it owns a catalog of more than 20,000 songs, encompassing both master recordings and publishing income streams.

Situational Awareness: Hip-Hop’s historical context provides insight into why publishing and catalog sales are significant to R&B and Hip Hop and the culture. Today, being independent is a bragging right many artists reference in their music as a critical contributor to their lucrative careers. However, it’s how you get to the bag after world tours and performing in front of sold-out stadiums. It’s the long game that cements your contribution to the culture, sustains your success, and diversifies a portfolio.

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