British music publisher Boosey and Hawkes says it is in “unofficial talks” with a number of companies interested in buying the veteran firm.
The classical music specialist says its share of collected royalies (Net Publisher Share) rose to £13.25 million ($26.2 million) in 2007, upfrom £12.4 million ($24.55 million) in 2006. “The market for music rights is pretty hot at the moment,” says CEO John Minch. “We were basically waiting until we had good figures to disclose [before seeking buyers]. And classical music is as healthy as it’s ever been.”
Minch insists, however, that the buyer’s plans will be carefully inspected as the company will need to be sold as an entity, not merely a source of catalog. “The problem with music publishing,” he says, “is that people buy the rights and throw the people away. We want to be valued for what we do rather than what we own.”
Created in 1930 from two well-established British music businesses, Boosey owns the copyright to major 20th century music works including material by Benjamin Britten, Leonard Bernstein and Prokofiev. It also publishes many prominent contemporary composers such as Michael Nyman and Sir Harrison Birtwistle.
In 2003, after near-bankruptcy had seen the sale of its musical instrument-manufacturing division, Boosey & Hawkes was bought for £38 million ($66 million then) by venture capitalist firm HgCapital Trust plc. HgCapital sought buyers in 2005; however, the publisher remained unsold.
According to Minch, “the business has [now] been transformed into a pure rights company and our film and advertising rights area is growing at 30% per year. Companies want a sound of their own and we can offer them fresh composers — such as Christopher Rouse for the current Carling [beer] ad campaign.”
The company has also been enjoying wide exposure for “Eliza’s Aria” by Australian contemporary composer Elena Kats Chernin, featured in a TV ad campaign for U.K. bank Lloyds TSB and picking up U.K. radio airplay, while Prokofiev’s “Peter & the Wolf” is the subject of an Academy Award-nominated short film from BreakThru Films.
In 2006, the company moved into jazz publishing with the launch of its B&H Jazz division which handles works by David Benoit, Chick Corea, Charles Mingus and its most recent signing, trumpeter Winton Marsalis. It also operates a free online streaming service at www.booseyradio.com where novice classical fans can choose music to suit a particular mood, with the option to buy as a download.
These things get the customer on-side,” says Minch, “and create a classical-music following, rather than erect barriers.”