What do Blackstone’s billions mean for Merck Mercuriadis’ mission for songwriters?

What do Blackstone’s billions mean for Merck Mercuriadis’ mission for songwriters?


Merck Mercuriadis now has a platinum-plated status for irritating a few of the strongest gamers within the fashionable music enterprise. He wouldn’t have it every other method.

With the $2 billion-backed Hipgnosis Songs Fund, Mercuriadis has constantly admitted to 2 motives: (i) Getting his shareholders a pleasant return whereas rising the worth of music rights; and (ii) Changing, as he all the time places it, “where the songwriter sits in the economic equation”.

Songwriters have, understandably, loudly cheered motivation (ii) – demanding, because it does, that extra of the music business’s streaming income ‘pie’ be tipped of their course.

Major document firms are a bit extra cautious. After all, a recalibration of how the ‘pie’ will get divided may not in the end work of their favor.

Mercuriadis has continued to poke the bear via this cage, brazenly alleging that the most important music firms – Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group, and Warner Music Group – are incentivized to keep up the present stability of fiscal energy within the enterprise to the detriment of songwriters. (A controversial declare – for which he has his opponents.)

Now, Mercuriadis has a colossal new associate backing either side of his mission.

As MBW reported Tuesday (October 12), Blackstone – one of many world’s largest various funding homes – is pumping a billion {dollars} into a brand new non-public fund, Hipgnosis Songs Capital.

In addition, Blackstone is investing an undisclosed quantity into Mercuriadis’ Hipgnosis Song Management, the funding adviser that in the end chooses tips on how to deploy the cash in Hipgnosis Songs Fund… and now, in Hipgnosis Songs Capital, too.

Hipgnosis Song Management is additionally accountable for maximising every fund’s return on their funding in music rights – i.e. the cash that comes again by way of royalties, sync licensing offers and so forth.

(MBW understands that Hipgnosis Song Management can by no means really lose its administration contract of the rights acquired by way of the Blackstone fund, even when lengthy into the long run Blackstone sells some or all of those rights to a different get together. Likewise, we’re instructed that HSM has first refusal to accumulate any rights that the general public fund – Hipgnosis Songs Fund – decides to eliminate within the years forward.)

MBW just lately sat down with Mercuriadis and the person who struck the Blackstone take care of him, Qasim Abbas, to quiz them on the brand new music biz alliance that’s bought everyone speaking.

London-based Abbas, the Senior Managing Director of Blackstone’s Tactical Opportunities Group, may be very bullish on the long run worth progress of music rights.

As you’ll learn, he believes that we’re nonetheless within the “first innings” of an explosion within the value of songs – with the largest uptick nonetheless to come back…

Qasim, in brief, why is Blackstone doing this deal now?

Abbas: Broadly, we regard music rights and catalogs as an already engaging asset class with very robust potential for future progress. It’s an asset class which continues to be within the early innings of its improvement.

We all notice that recorded music and publishing went via a disruptive section with the emergence of assorted digital platforms. But that digitization is now driving a whole lot of progress within the sector.

That has created a context and a framework for songs as an asset class to emerge as a way of offering long run, predictable, model-able returns for institutional traders.


Why decide Merck and Hipgnosis as your associate?

Abbas: We as a agency has some historical past in investing in music broadly. And we used a whole lot of that [experience] that exists inside Blackstone, to essentially do a deep dive and work out who we needed to work with.

Frankly, the conclusion for us was fairly definitive: partnering with Merck, and constructing a brand new idea with him via which [Blackstone’s private capital] can come into the area, was the way in which to go. We have a whole lot of respect and a whole lot of consciousness of the truth that Merck has been very instrumental and pioneering in bringing this asset class to the fore.

“We have a lot of respect, and a lot of awareness, of the fact that Merck has been very instrumental and pioneering in bringing this asset class to the fore.”

At this cut-off date what we’re trying to do, as a place to begin actually, is purchase a couple of billion {dollars}’ [worth] of catalogs. I’d emphasise that’s simply the beginning. Our ambition is far more substantial than that.

We’re going to spend money on Hipgnosis Song Management to scale up and construct its numerous capabilities to the subsequent [level]. The shared imaginative and prescient is to create the best-in-class platform [to maximise returns from music rights], of considerable scale and of a skill-set that’s unrivalled out there.


How does the preliminary billion-dollar funding break down by way of the place the cash’s going?

Abbas: We have two issues that we’re investing in: we’re investing in Hipgnosis Song Management, and the aim of that’s to additional develop and scale up the capabilities of the track administration platform; then there’s a dedication to create a brand new automobile [Hipgnosis Songs Capital], which is able to purchase a couple of billion {dollars} in catalogs.

As I discussed, that billion {dollars} in our thoughts is simply the beginning.


When you say it’s simply the beginning, how a lot further cash are you going to take a position sooner or later? Are you open to committing multiples of the billion {dollars} in Hipgnosis Songs Capital down the road?

Abbas: If you think about Blackstone as a agency, for those who take a look at many different issues that we’ve got achieved up to now, you understand that once we go into an area, and we excel in that area, our skill to supply capital, carry capital and produce sophistication is substantial.


Merck, how does this deal have an effect on your targets within the music business?

Mercuriadis: I had a mission: (i) to determine track as an asset class; (ii) to make use of the success of that to alter the place songwriters sit within the financial equation; and (iii) to take what I think about to be a damaged publishing mannequin, and to exchange it with ‘song management’, the place these songs are managed with nice duty and the place their legacy is de facto delivered to its full potential.

The relationship with Blackstone is one which I believe ensures that we succeed on each stage. They have a stage of experience and class that you just’ll see present up in how Hipgnosis Song Management operates going ahead.


What does Blackstone’s stage of dedication to this operation mean for your private stage of affect within the enterprise?

Mercuriadis: It means lots. At a simplistic stage: In the final three, nearly 4 years, I’ve most likely needed to spend 30% to 40% of my time elevating cash. Now, that 30% to 40% of my time will go into administration of those belongings, overseeing the crew that manages these nice songs, in addition to the ulterior motive of fixing the place the songwriter sits within the financial equation. All as a result of I don’t have to fret about elevating cash anymore.

I’ll nonetheless proceed to boost some cash for Hipgnosis Songs Fund [which can co-invest in rights with the new private fund], working along side our public market shareholders, however this will likely be a [relatively] small quantity of my time.

“we’ve now got a platform with what I consider to be the gold standard of partners. That has to be reckoned with, regardless of where you sit in this business.”

This further time will enable me to determine the Songwriters’ Guild that I’ve talked about, that can carry songwriters collectively to make a distinction. It may even enable me to name on some essential relationships that the Blackstone crew has that may have a huge impact as properly.

From our early conversations straight via until now, the entire design of all this has been to construct a platform that no-one [in the industry] can come alongside and type of swat like a fly. In order to struggle that good struggle.

That’s an important factor right here: we’ve now bought a platform with what I think about to be the gold customary of companions. That needs to be reckoned with, no matter the place you sit on this enterprise.


Qasim, why did Blackstone resolve to place this cash with Merck and into the non-public rights acquisition area, versus making an institutional funding in a large-scale music firm that’s at the moment on the general public markets like Universal Music Group or Warner Music Group?

Abbas: [Those] music firms do many various issues, proper? It’s not simply publicity to catalogs in that sense.

What we needed to do, working with Merck, was create a really particular publicity to a catalog-oriented money circulation.

Mercuriadis: One of the issues that’s additionally vital right here is to create an working firm that may make a distinction. Because for those who take a look at the Hipgnosis public fund, it’s structurally a traditional Investment Trust assemble, the place you’ve bought belongings that sit in a holding firm, however all the pieces is finished by the [investment] supervisor.

Because of that, Hipgnosis Song Management has now grow to be one of the acknowledged and most well-liked cash managers and funding advisors within the [UK’s financial world] and on the general public market. Yet earlier than the Blackstone [deal] it solely had one shopper [Hipgnosis Songs Fund], which may be very uncommon.

I doubt that HSM will ever have greater than two shoppers now as a result of we’ve got the perfect of each worlds: we’ve got our public fund with Hipgnosis Songs Fund, and now we’ve got Hipgnosis Songs Capital with Blackstone.

That offers us all the pieces that we’d like, significantly with Qasim and Blackstone’s [additional] backing of Hipgnosis Songs Management, which we are able to actually construct into… I don’t need to speak about ‘building an alternative to Universal Warner or Sony‘, I’m far more enthusiastic about characterising [HSM] as being a brand new firm, a brand new paradigm.

It’s a ‘song management’ firm. It’s one thing that hasn’t existed on this enterprise earlier than. And I imagine that our success will likely be one thing that can see this mannequin emulated elsewhere sooner or later.


Qasim, do you assume you’re coming into this market at a time nonetheless stuffed with alternative? It’s getting aggressive on the market – the Giants Are Coming! – with KKR pumping a billion {dollars} into shopping for Kobalt‘s catalog, plus Apollo Global Management backing the new music-centric venture, HarbourView.

Abbas: We’re in a market right now the place each [type of] asset class is very competed and priced fairly aggressively. Our viewpoint on that is that we’re not pushed by worth motion at anybody cut-off date in a market. Our goal, all the time, is to be dedicated to the markets that we select to enter for the long-term, and that ship a superior risk-adjusted return for our final traders.

Markets can worth in very totally different contexts throughout totally different cycles: We’re by no means targeted upon how a lot cash exists or doesn’t exist at anybody level.

The second factor that I’d say is that, regardless of all these numbers which might be being bandied about, there’s a very important market alternative [in music], which is able to play out over the subsequent few years.

“The numbers you mention don’t dwarf the market opportunity in music; in fact, I would say it’s probably the other way round.”

The numbers you point out don’t dwarf the market alternative; the truth is, I’d say it’s most likely the opposite method spherical.

And then lastly however positively not least, this can be a market the place your companions, the artists, require a counterpart – in the event that they’re buying and managing what’s in the end an important legacy for them – to be very reliable and really near them.

That’s why we couldn’t consider a greater associate than Merck, as a result of the philosophy Merck brings to the entire setup is crucial to how we take into consideration our success on this market: giving these artists a constructive and significant relationship as a supervisor of their legacy going ahead.Music Business Worldwide

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