Buying a Piece of Bob Marley’s Song Catalog, along with His Enduring Legacy

Under the deal, Primary Wave will control 80 percent of Mr. Blackwell’s share of two catalogs: Marley’s songs along with Blue Mountain Music, the publisher of which Mr. Blackwell set up in 1962, which includes reggae hits by Toots & the Maytals along with rock classics by Free (“All Right at This specific point”) along with Marianne Faithfull. Blue Mountain also has rights to U2 songs, although those are excluded coming from the deal, Mr. Blackwell said.

Primary Wave has carved out a lucrative niche in music publishing by focusing on aggressive branding along with marketing campaigns for what its founder, Larry Mestel, calls “the icons along with legends business.” The company features a relatively little catalog of about 12,000 songs — its roster includes Smokey Robinson, Def Leppard along with Steve Cropper, who wrote “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” with Otis Redding — although promotes them heavily through commercial tie-ins, movies along with TV shows.

Mr. Mestel, whose first job was working for Mr. Blackwell at Island, declined to offer any specifics about his plans for the Marley songbook. although as examples of his company’s approach he cited two past campaigns. When of which managed Kurt Cobain’s catalog, Primary Wave did a deal with Converse to drape sneakers in Nirvana lyrics; for Aerosmith, of which helped create a state lottery game, with each scratch-off card revealing words coming from Aerosmith songs.

For the estate of the pianist Glenn Gould, another client, Primary Wave plans to send a hologram of Gould — who died in 1982 along with famously hated playing live — on a concert tour.

“There are a lot of inbound calls of which music publishers get, where they hang up the phone along with give each various other a high-several, saying, ‘We just did a great job in marketing,’” Mr. Mestel said. “of which’s not marketing. We’ve got almost 100 people of which all they do can be marketing, all day long.”


Marley in 1979. His family handles most aspects of his estate, Mr. Blackwell controls the rights to his music publishing catalog.

Associated Press

The Marley catalog can be unusual. During his lifetime, he had few chart hits, although his music has achieved steady, far-reaching popularity of which has lasted for decades. According to Nielsen, his songs has been streamed more than 1.7 billion times within the United States alone, along with Marley’s fame permeates deep into emerging markets like Africa along with India.

“There isn’t a crevice of the globe,” Mr. Mestel said, “where Bob Marley isn’t a god.”

Unlike most publishers, Primary Wave sees itself as a branding house along with an asset manager, exploiting song catalogs on behalf of investors of which have contributed to an acquisition fund. Primary Wave has about $400 million to invest in music on behalf of those investors, who include BlackRock, Mr. Mestel said.

Over the last year, hundreds of millions of dollars have changed hands in music-publishing transactions. In June, Concord paid almost $0 million for Imagem, which includes the Rodgers & Hammerstein catalog. In December, Kobalt bought Songs (Lorde, the Weeknd) for $0 million, along with thist week Round Hill Music closed a $240 million deal for Carlin Music, which includes standards like “Fever.”

Money managers, lawyers along with music executives say of which a confluence of factors, including low interest rates along that has a roaring stock market, has created an especially frothy market for alternative investments like music rights. along with the success of streaming has quickly given a boost to catalog valuations, pointing to the possibility of steady growing returns for years to come.

“We’re experiencing growth coming from multiple sources simultaneously,” said Barry M. Massarsky, an economist who specializes in valuing music catalogs. “of which’s a perfect storm of value for music publishing assets.”

In a competitive market, Primary Wave’s pitch to songwriters can be finding ways to market old material. For Mr. Robinson, who signed a $22 million deal with Primary Wave in 2016, the company did a deal with American Greetings to promote a fresh holiday, Father-Daughter Day, using Mr. Robinson’s song “My Girl.” When he was looking for a fresh home for his songs, Mr. Robinson said in an interview, those ideas sold him.

“When I got to Primary Wave, they had made up a brochure with all kinds of things to show me how they operate,” Mr. Robinson said. “of which had my picture on the cover along with my songs listed along with everything. of which was just so attractive to me, I signed with them.”

Mr. Mestel said of which he seeks only tasteful deals. although the Marley family controls the use of their patriarch’s name along with likeness, along with Mr. Blackwell said of which the family, which earns the majority of the songwriting royalties, has the final right to refuse any use.

Mr. Blackwell, who began his career selling Jamaican singles out of the trunk of his Mini Cooper in London, built Island into a major power with Marley, Stevie Winwood, Cat Stevens, Grace Jones along with U2. In recent years, he said, he has devoted himself to his Island Outpost collection of resorts along with Blackwell Rum, downsizing his music publishing business to just a few employees.

although the fresh partnership with Primary Wave, Mr. Blackwell said, had him excited about returning to music, along with to the worldwide popularity of Marley.

“I was in Singapore last year in a little bar,” he said. “Suddenly you look up, along with there on the TV, singing a song, can be Bob Marley.”

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