American musician, best known as the lead singer and a founding member of the punk rock band Ramones Joey Ramone’s publishing catalog acquired for million dollars.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Primary Wave Music has acquired a major stake in Joey Ramone’s music-publishing assets for around $10 million, according to people close to the transaction. Terms of the deal include non-exclusive rights to license Joey Ramone’s name and likeness, as well as income for songs across the band’s repertoire of music.
While the music-catalog market has been booming for the past several years, with blockbuster deals for catalogs by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen (both for around $600 million), Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, James Brown (all around the low nine figures) and more, this is possibly the first such deal for a punk-era artist, and could open up a new field of opportunity in a rapidly narrowing market.
The asset manager, which hasn’t previously invested in music catalogs, will take a significant minority interest in Primary Wave, and commit $1.7 billion to fund a permanent capital vehicle focused on acquiring music rights from top acts.
Unlike Primary Wave’s existing funds, which have a typical 10- to 12-year lifespan, the new vehicle is structured to hold catalogs as long as it wants to have them and never has to sell. The deal also brings on Creative Artists Agency as a strategic partner and minority investor in Primary Wave, tapping the talent agency’s film, television, theatrical and branding teams to help market and find uses for the acquired copyrights.
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“It means there isn’t any good acquisition that we couldn’t do in the music business,” said Primary Wave Chief Executive Larry Mestel. “We’re not limited by size or opportunity.”
Already, the new outfit, which the companies say has several deals in the pipeline, has acquired a majority stake in all of punk icon Joey Ramone’s music-publishing assets for around $10 million, according to people close to the transaction. The acquisition includes the Ramones frontman’s songwriting interests in “I Wanna Be Sedated,” “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.”
Formed in 1974 in the New York City borough of Queens, the Ramones initially were lambasted early in their career for the deliberate simplicity of their music — a combination of power chords and pop hooks — but they were indisputably the pioneering punk-rock act and their music has lived far beyond its initial audience, with songs like “Blitzkreig Bop” and its infectious “Hey ho! Let’s go!” chorus being played everywhere from baseball stadiums to children’s movies (although usually minus the “Just shoot ‘em in the back now” following lyric), according to Variety.
The simplicity of their songs — many of which barely passed the two-minute mark — was a deliberate reaction against the bloated solos and progressive-rock pretense of the early 1970s. While the Sex Pistols and other British groups are often considered the leaders of punk, a Ramones concert in London on July 4, 1976 is widely considered to be the “big bang” of British punk, as it was attended by dozens of key players in that scene.
While the group continued to tour and release music until disbanding in 1996, their first five albums — the 1976 eponymous debut, “Leave Home,” “Rocket to Russia,” “Road to Ruin” and “End of the Century” — are all considered classics, including songs like “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” “Rockaway Beach,” “Beat on the Brat,” “I Wanna Be Sedated” and many others.
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and later received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
All four founding members of the Ramones have since passed away, with Joey (real name: Jeffrey Ross Hyman) dying of lymphoma in 2001 at the age of just 49. The block that held CBGB, the New York City club where the Ramones and dozens of punk acts incubated, was co-named Joey Ramone Place two years after his death.
Joey’s brother and sole heir, Mitchel Hyman, says, “I’m happy to welcome Primary Wave as partners in my brother’s interests in Ramones. I’m thoroughly convinced of their eagerness to perpetuate his legacy, and their sincerity about doing it in a way that will never compromise his credibility. I, very much, am looking forward to working with them.”
Brookfield and Primary Wave began discussions about a tie-up in the spring as the publisher—about halfway through investing with its third fund—was looking to raise more capital. The conversations centered on creating a company that could hold music assets in perpetuity, per Wall Street Journal.
“Increasing demand for content from streaming services and social media make iconic music IP a scarce and irreplaceable asset,” said Angelo Rufino, a managing partner at Brookfield, pointing to how music is being licensed to Peloton, TikTok and the metaverse. “One of the cheapest forms of entertainment is going to keep finding ways to weave itself into our everyday consciousness and that just means more revenue.”
Primary Wave’s acquisition business differs from the buy-and-hold strategy of many of the market’s newer players. The company, whose three funds hold some $2.1 billion in value, typically takes controlling interests in catalogs—often joining with artists or their estates—and then works to actively increase the value by commissioning biographical films, Broadway shows, interpolations and brand deals. Since taking a 50% stake in the Whitney Houston estate three years ago, Primary Wave has helped quadruple its income, through endeavors such as Kygo’s “Higher Love” hit featuring Ms. Houston’s vocals recorded in 1990, a MAC cosmetic line and a coming biopic, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
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Sources: Variety, The Wall Street Journal
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