Justin Timberlake has become the latest musician to cash in on his song library, selling the rights to classics like “SexyBack” and “Cry Me a River” to a London-based music investment business financed by Blackstone. The details of the agreement with Hipgnosis Song Management were not published, but according to The Wall Street Journal, it is for slightly over $100 million and does not cover future releases.
Timberlake, 41, relinquishes complete ownership and control of more than 200 songs he composed or co-authored during his time as a member of the boy band NSYNC, as a solo artist, and for film soundtracks. “Bye Bye Bye,” and “Girlfriend,” from his NSYNC days, “Cry Me a River,” “SexyBack,” and “Mirrors” from his solo career, as well as “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from the 2016 animated film “Trolls” round out his list of hit songs. In discussing the deal, Timberlake stated, “I look forward to entering this next chapter.”
Timberlake’s agreement is the latest in a long line of successful singers who have sold their songbooks to wealthy investors or record corporations. They’re also propelled by streaming, which promises higher royalties as users rush to services like Spotify and Apple Music.
In recent months, Sting’s song collection was sold for $250 million to Universal Music Group. David Bowie’s estate also sold his catalog for $250 million to Warner Chappell Music, Warner Music Group’s publishing arm. ZZ Top sold their song portfolio for $50 million to finance firm KKR and record label BMG late last year. Bruce Springsteen’s legendary song and publishing portfolio was sold to Sony Music for a stunning $500 million. Additionally, Bob Dylan reportedly sold his 600-song collection to Universal Music Publishing Group for $300 million to $400 million in December 2020.
Hipgnosis Song Capital was launched in October as a collaboration between Hipgnosis and private equity firm Blackstone, which was created in 2018 by former music manager Merck Mercuriadis. Blackstone has put $1 billion into the fund and announced earlier this year that it was buying an 80% stake in Kenny Chesney’s recorded-music royalties as well as Leonard Cohen’s part of the late singer’s composition library from his estate. The Timberlake contract is the company’s third significant transaction and its largest to date.