Why are artists and companies selling off their music catalogs?

December 9, 2020, 3:37 PM UTC

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For some reason, music catalogs have been trading hands heavily in recent weeks. 

Former Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks reportedly sold an 80% stake in her roster of music for about $100 million in December. Shamrock Capital Advisors, meanwhile, acquired Taylor Swift’s early recording catalog for about $300 million. Then, Bob Dylan’s song catalog was sold to Universal Music Group for an estimated $300 million. 

So what gives? My colleague, Geoff Colvin, has the fascinating answer. In part, owning the music rights themselves has become increasingly important due to the explosion of music-streaming services like Spotify. The values of such catalogs have also soared as music has turned into a recession-proof bet, making it a good time to sell. Then, there’s the big T-word. No, not Taylor Swift. Taxes.

President-elect Joe Biden has proposed taxing capital gains for those with over $400,000 in income at a far higher rate. If Democrats were to win both Senate seats in Georgia, such a tax change could be plausible. Which means potentially, way higher taxes for deals with artists like Dylan and Nicks and for M&A deals in general.

“Bottom line: The tax on a deal like Dylan’s could almost double if it doesn’t get done by New Year’s Eve. ‘I have a number of clients who were trying to do deals before the first of the year because they had fear of the new administration pushing its tax agenda,’ says Josh Escovedo, a lawyer whose specialties at the Weintraub Tobin law firm include copyright and trademark issues. ‘It’s quite possible” that those considerations could have influenced Dylan’s deal, he notes.'” Read more.

A LAWN CARE STARTUP GETS FUNDING: Love them or hate them, there’s a lot of lawns in America (so many in fact that there are many, many meta pieces examining the historical, psychological, and socio-economic dynamics of the country’s love of lawns). Sunday, a subscription-based startup selling environmentally-friendly lawn-care products raised $19 million in Series-B funding led by Sequoia Capital and with participation from Tusk Ventures and Forerunner Ventures. This caught my eye for a few reasons: First, the company says it is growing much faster than expected in part due to the pandemic accelerating a move from cities to suburbs. And while many direct-to-consumer brands have focused on targeting city-based consumers, Boulder, Colo.-based Sunday is, by virtue of its business, targeting suburbs with customers concentrated in Middle America. Also, Sunday says Americans put down more pesticides in their own yards each year than industrial farms. Read more.

BETTING ON THE RISE OF MALE GROOMING: While Sunday emphasizes the massive size of its potential market (all lawns in the country), Iconiq, the multifamily firm with clients including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, has led a $60 million Series-C funding round in Squire Technologies, a company with payments and booking software specifically aimed at barbershops. The logic is that by targeting the very specific needs of the currently cash-heavy barbering industry, the company can tap into some deeply loyal customers and expand further—say into customer relationship software or even insurance—so that in the end, by expanding just product and features, “we’ll need fewer customers to build a really massive business,” Squire CEO Songe LaRon told me. Read the full story here.

AND DON’T FORGET: The U.S.’s largest food delivery company, DoorDash, is set to list on the New York Stock Exchange after boosting selling shares at a higher valuation than the company previously said it expected. The company sold shares at $102 apiece, valuing the company at about $32.4 billion, or about $38.7 billion on a fully-diluted basis.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda
Email: lucinda.shen@fortune.com


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