December15 – Santa Came Early For Springsteen

Santa Claus came to town a year ago for Bruce Springsteen. It was on this day in 2021 he and Columbia Records/CBS seemed to finalize a deal selling them the rights to his entire music catalog to that point… for a cool $500 million, or perhaps a little more! It capped off a year of spending by Columbia that tallied over $1 billion, with them doing similar deals with Paul Simon and other artists. Meanwhile Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks were among the artists who’d made similar (but smaller) sales to their record companies. The New York Times reported the Springsteen deal was “the biggest transaction ever struck for a single artist’s body of work.”

I am an artist who can truly say that when I signed with Columbia Records in 1972, I came to the right place,” Springsteen said, adding “I’m thrilled that my legacy will continue to be cared for by the company and people I know and trust.”

There were two parts to the deal, Springsteen’s recorded music back catalog and his songwriting/publishing credits. Thus any copies of say, Born in the U.S.A. that sell in the future will give money only to Columbia, not “the Boss”, and every time someone streams “Hungry Heart”, they too get the money. And it gives Columbia the right to license out his music for use in TV, movie and ads and take in the revenue. Potentially insiders say Springsteen could have raked in even more money from those sources, but hey, when you’re 72, financially comfortable (to say the least), why not take the one-time winfall and enjoy it while you still can, not to mention have a lot less paperwork to deal with in the future collecting royalties? Besides, he’ll still make money on any future music he releases and from any tours.

It makes a lot of sense from Bruce’s standpoint, but one might raise an eyebrow over how beneficial it is to CBS. No one doubts Springsteen’s impact and popularity – 17 different platinum-selling albums in the States including Born in the U.S.A., which has sold beyond 17 million there alone – and a great run of songs still popular on rock radio and streaming services from “Born to Run” to “Tunnel of Love” and the perennial Christmas favorite, “Santa Claus is Coming To Town.” But still, in an age of rapidly declining sales of hard copy music like CDs and even LPs and reduced listenership to radio, one might think it seems a quickly declining source of revenue for the large companies. The days of people rushing to stores and buying albums, old or new, in the millions seems long gone. And it takes a lot of plays for streaming services or Youtube to really generate money for the artist – Spotify, for example, pays about half a cent for each time a song is streamed. But, with over 400 million users, most using it daily, that can add up! This deal (and the others, including $300 million for Dylan’s catalog) suggest there is still a lot of money to be made in music. It just arguably is finding its way into fewer and fewer hands.

As for The Boss, he did indeed come up with a new record, Only the Strong Survive, an album of cover songs, last month.


18 thoughts on “December15 – Santa Came Early For Springsteen

  1. Take the money, why not? The record companies are plenty savvy, and if they have carte blanche to licence it out to a blockbuster that generates traffic all over, as in ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Running Up That Hill’… The down side is, what if some politician wants to use, say ‘Born In The USA’ as a, say, campaign song? IF he stumps up the cash to the record company for the rights to it, then the artist has no comeback. Of course the politician could just appropriate the song without paying for it. Not that that would ever happen, of course!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. good points. Oh yeah, I certainly don’t blame Springsteen or the others for cashing in while they can. Like I said, if you’re getting up there in years, why not get the one time payout you can enjoy instead of getting little monthly royalty cheques and probably having to hire an accountant just for them alone? But the loss of rights over advertising and political activities would be a kicker. Maybe a post topic for the future – artists who’ve complained or actually sued Donald Trump and his colleagues for using their music without permission. I don’t say every Democrat would be above such things but I doubt too many of them would want to use a Kid Rock or Ted Nugent tune to get their crowds going…

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Badfinger (Max)

    Obbverse and Dave I agree with the Why Not but…just like you said…what if in 10 years they start licensing out to cheesy things…that would be my fear. Yea he trusts the people there now but what about later when there is turnover…and there will be turnover.
    Can you imagine some conservative person paying for the rights to use Born in the USA? Bruce would be pissed but there is not a thing he can do.

    It shocked me that Bruce would do this because he has always been so protective of his songs…I don’t think he needed the money…but yes it cuts out a lot of headaches. I wonder if it’s written in the contract about things they can or cannot do?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. good question, because you also make a fair point – let’s face it, he didn’t NEED the money, though sure it would be nice, and yes, one can imagine him cringing if he flips on one of those 57 Channels and sees ‘Born to Run’ selling Nike runners or ‘I’m on Fire’ introducing a new flame-broiled burger at BK.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Badfinger (Max)

        That’s why if all people to do it… I wasn’t expecting him to sign off on it. He might have put that clause in the contract. He refused 10 million for Born in the USA in 1985 by Chrysler.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. On the whole selling your music rights thing there are some good points already mentioned and as you all know some lofty names have given into the temptation if you will. I would not have guessed Neil Young either, who I’m sure would not get the big bucks like Bruce and Dylan but in the end it’s a business. I am sure Edith Piaf never imagined her music would be used in commercials or tv shows!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Still it’s sad to see a song you love being used for some consumable- it ruins the pureness, if that doesn’t sound too snooty and trite. Years ago, here back in the 70s or 80s ‘Heart Of Gold’ was played over a hokey pokey ice-cream ad. (Hokey pokey is a flavour, vanilla with chunks of honeycomb- very popular here.) It put a bad taste in my mouth- it was just crass.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I guess so much money can be very tempting, even for an artist like Bruce Springsteen who has often sung about blue collar America. I have to say I was disappointed when I saw the prices for Springsteen on Broadway. The same is true when it comes to tickets for his upcoming tour. Yes, his shows are outstanding. There’s probably no other artist of his caliber playing 3.5 to 4-hour concerts. At the same time, it’s sad when many of Springsteen’s fans can no longer afford to see him!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true. I mean he might not have total control over it but I’m sure he could use his influence to reduce the prices. I felt same about Eagles. Flipside- I remember REM doing a free concert in Toronto on Yonge St. (Main street) when they were hot. Man, the feeling of happiness in the crowd was unbelievable & you think they could buy more love or radioplay in town for weeks to come? Not likely!

      Liked by 1 person

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