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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

VENTURE DEALS

- Wiz, a Tel Aviv and Palo Alto-based cloud security company, raised $100 million in Series A funding. Investors included Index Ventures, Sequoia, Insight Partners, and Cyberstarts. 

- Isar Aerospace, a German builder of a micro-satellite launcher, raised €75 million ($91 million) in Series B funding. Lakestar led the round and was joined by investors including Earlybird and Vsquared Ventures. Read more.

- SingleStore, a San Francisco-based database management system formerly known as MemSQL, raised $80 million in Series E funding. Insight Partners led the round and were joined by investors including Dell Technologies Capital, Hercules Capital, Accel, Anchorage, Glynn Capital, GV and Rev IV.

- DataRobot, a Boston-based A.I. platform, raised $50 million in additional Series F funding valuing the company at $2.8 billion. Snowflake, Salesforce Venture, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise invested in the company.

- Weaveworks, a London-based Kubernetes platform provider, raised $36.7 million in Series C funding. Investors included Amazon Web Services, Ericsson, Orange Ventures, SonaeIM and Telekom Investment Pool, and follow-ons from Accel, GV, and Redline Capital.

- Brightflag, a New York-based legal spend management platform, raised $28 million in growth equity. One Peak led the round and was joined by investors including Sands Capital Ventures and Frontline Ventures

- Skyflow, a Palo Alto-based data privacy focused business, raised $17.5 million in Series A funding. Canvas Ventures led the round.

- WorkRamp, a San Francisco-based enterprise learning platform, raised $17 million in Series B funding. OMERS Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Bow Capital.

- Arthur, a New York-based business focused on A.I. monitoring and management, raised $15 million in Series A funding. Index Ventures led the round and were joined by Acrew and Plexo Capital

- Synctera, a San Francisco-based company seeking to help banks scale, raised $12.4 million in seed funding. Lightspeed Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Diagram

Ventures, Zachary Perret (CEO of Plaid); Max Levchin, (founder of SciFi VC); Alexa Von Tobel, (founder of Inspired Capital); and Henry Ward (CEO at Carta).

- battleface, a Columbus, Oh.-based travel insurance startup, raised $12 million in Series A funding. Drive Capital led the round.

- Branch Technology, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based construction-scale 3D printing company, raised $11 million in funding. EquipmentShare led the round and was joined by investors including Brick & Mortar Ventures and Chattanooga Renaissance Fund.

- Akasha Imaging, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based pioneer deep imaging technology startup, raised that $10.8 million in Series A funding. Khosla Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Sierra Ventures and Promus Ventures

- OfficeTogether, a scheduling software provider, raised $2.2 million in seed funding. Defy Partners' Brian Rothenberg led the round and was joined by investors including Neo, MGV and January Ventures.

- FLEx Lighting, a Chicago-based maker of ultrathin LCD displays, raised $9 million in funding. Anzu Partners led the round.

- Sunlight, a Cambridge, U.K.-based developer of virtualisation technology for data-intensive applications, raised $6 million in Series A funding. OpenOcean led the round and was joined by investors including Robert Bosch Venture Capital

- Einblick, a Cambridge, Mass.-based visual data computing company, raised $6 million in seed funding. Amplify Partners led the round and was joined by investors including Flybridge and Samsung Next

- Voodle, a Seattle-based maker of a short video platform for remote teams, raised $6 million in funding. Madrona Venture Group and Vulcan Capital led the round and was joined by investors including M12, Cisco Investments, and Hearst Ventures

- Upvest, a Berlin-based startup offering an API, raised an additional €5 million ($6.1 million) in funding. Earlybird led the round.

- Reface, a Ukraine-based maker of an A.I. app for placing selfies in GIFs and videos, raised $5.5 million in seed funding. Andreessen Horowitz led the round. Read more.

- Smartvid.io, a Cambridge, Mass.-basedconstruction safety platform, raised $5 million in funding. Sony Innovation Fund and IA Capital Group led the round and were joined by investors including Building Ventures, Companyon Ventures and Converge.

- Simple, a Limassol, Cyprus-based maker of an app for intermittent fasting, raised $5 million in Series A funding valuing it at $42 million. Target Global and Palta co-led the round and were joined by S16 Angel Fund and Supernova.

- myInterview, a Tel Aviv and Sydney-based smart video interview platform, raised $5 million in seed funding. Aleph led the round and was joined by investors including Entrée Capital and SeedIL Ventures

- Aglet, a Los Angeles-based developer of a sneakers-focused app, raised $4.5 million in additional seed funding. Sapphire Sport led the round and was joined by investors including Lakestar Ventures and Forecast Ventures

- Smartlook, a Czech Republic-based behavioral analytics company, raised $3.6 million in Series A funding. Airbridge Equity Partners led the round.

- Blueprint, a Chicago-based software company for mental health clinicians, raised $3.4 million in seed funding. Bonfire Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Lightbank.

- Metafy, a Pittsburgh-based platform for one-on-one coaching from champion-level gamers, raised $3 million in seed funding. Forerunner Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Tekton Ventures and M25.

- Pair Team, a San Francisco-based operations platform for primary care providers and patients, raised $2.7 million in seed funding. Investors included Kleiner Perkins, Craft Ventures, and YCombinator.

- Richpanel, a San Francisco-based customer service platform for the e-commerce industry, raised an undisclosed amount of funding. Sequoia Capital invested.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Riverwood Capital invested $32 million in intelipost, a Brazil-based e-commerce and omnichannel logistics technology company. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- 3Pillar Global, backed by CIP Capital, acquired Tiempo Development, an Arizona-based software company.

- ARES Security Corporation, backed by Corbel Capital Partners, acquired certain assets and contracts of Vidsys, Vienna, Va.-based cybersecurity software firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Bregal Partners invested in The Mochi Ice Cream Co., a New York-based maker of mochi ice cream backed by Lakeview Capital. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- By Light Professional IT Services, backed by Sagewind Capital, acquired Raydon Corporation, a Port Orange, Fla.-based provider of virtual military training technology. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Dubilier & Company and Hoffman & Company recapitalized Carter & Clark, a Duluth, Ga.-based land surveying firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- geoLOGIC systems, a portfolio company of BV Investment Partners, acquired SubsurfaceIO, a Houston-based oil-and-gas mapping and analytics solution. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Harvey Performance Company, backed by Summit Partners, invested in Titan USA, a West Springfield, Mass.-based maker of steel and cobalt cutting tools. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- The Halifax Group invested in PJU Holdings, a Birmingham, Ala.-based franchisee of Papa John's Pizza. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- JMI Equity invested in Swiftly, a San Francisco-based analysis platform for public transit. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- PSG invested in NoFraud, a New York-based provider of fraud prevention software. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Searchlight Partners invested in Sightline Payments, a Las Vegas-based payments business. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Service Champions, a portfolio company of CenterOak Partners, acquired ProSkill Services and Jet Plumbing Heating & Drain Services, two home services brands serving the Phoenix, Ariz. and Reno, N.V. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Sovos, backed by Hg, acquired LTtax, a New York-based provider of payroll withholding and unemployment tax software. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Vander-Bend Manufacturing, a portfolio company of Aterian Investment Partners, acquired Swiss Precision Machining, a Wheeling, Ill.-based precision manufacturer of consumable instrument components utilized in robotic surgery. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Wilson Electronics, backed by Sorenson Capital, acquired SignalTeQ, a French cellular site survey firm. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- WilliamsMarston, an Align Capital portfolio company, acquired BA Major Associates, a provider of corporate tax advisory services focused on the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device, healthcare, renewable energy and technology sectors.  Financial terms weren't disclosed.

EXITS

- MTG acquired Hutch Games, a British developer and publisher of mobile racing games, for $275 million. Hutch was backed by Backed VC, Index Ventures, and Initial Capital.

- Thumbtack acquired Setter, a Toronto-based home management platform backed investors including Sequoia and NFX. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Ro acquired Workpath, a Richmond, Va.-based software platform for healthcare companies to offer on-demand, in-home care and diagnostic services. Workpath was backed by Heritage Group and Inevitable Ventures. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Partners Group agreed to acquire Wedgewood Pharmacy,  a U.S.-based animal-health compounding pharmacy business, from New Harbor Capital. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

OTHER

- Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) agreed to acquire IMImobile (LON: IMO), a U.K.-based customer service firm, for about 543 million pounds ($721 million).

- Uber Technologies (NYSE: UBER) invested $75 million in Joby Aviation, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based transportation company developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft, while Joby will acquire Uber Elevate, Uber’s flying taxi unit. 

- United States Steel Corporation (NYSE: X) agreed to exercise its call option to acquire the remaining stake in Big River Steel, a steelmaker, for about $774 million.

- Allied Universal will acquire G4S, a London-based security group, for 3.8 billion pounds ($5.1 billion).

- Baxter International has offered to acquire Omnicell, a Mountain View, Calif.-based maker of medication management software, for over $5 billion, per Reuters citing sources. Read more.

IPOs

- Robinhood Markets, the stock trading app, picked Goldman Sachs to lead an IPO in 2021 that could value it at more than $20 billion. Read more.

- Relx Technology, a Chinese e-cigarette company, is seeking to raise as much as $1 billion in a 2021 U.S. IPO, per Bloomberg. Sequoia Capital backs the firm. Read more.

- Blue Moon Group Holdings, a Chinese detergent maker backed by Hillhouse Capital, will raise $1.27 billion in its Hong Kong IPO.

- Rede D’or, Brazil’s biggest hospital chain, was valued at 112.5 billion reais ($22 billion) in its IPO. Carlyle backs the firm. Read more.

- C3.ai, a Redwood City, Calif.-based company developing ways to deploy AI applications, raised $651 million by offering 15.5 million shares priced at $42 a share, above its range. Existing investor BlackRock and new investor Capital Research Global Investors plan to buy 20% of the shares in the IPO while Koch Industries and Microsoft plan to buy $150 million worth of shares in a private placement. TPG and Baker Hughes back the firm. Read more.

SPAC

- HumanCo Acquisition, an Austin-based SPAC formed by CAVU Ventures targeting the U.S. health and wellness industry, raised $250 million. 

- The HydraFacial Company, a Long Beach, Calif.-based beauty company, will go public via merger with Vesper Healthcare Acquisition Corp., a SPAC led by Allergan executive Brent Saunders. The deal values the business at about $1.1 billion.

FFS

- Forbion, a European life science venture capital firm, raised €460 million ($558 mllion) for its fifth fund.

- Ada Ventures, a U.K. and Europe-focused VC focused on diverse founders, raised $50 million for its first fund. Read more.

PEOPLE

- Unusual Ventures hired Sandhya Hegde as a partner focused on early-stage enterprise SaaS startups.

- REMUS, an early-stage venture capital firm, named TikTok influencer Josh Richards as a venture partner. 

- Crestview Partners, a private equity firm focused on the middle market, named Brian Cassidy and Alex Rose as co-presidents.