UPDATE: This story has been updated Dec. 16 to included Bruce Springsteen’s statement and Eldridge’s involvement.
In what may be the biggest deal in music for an individual body of work, Bruce Springsteen has sold his masters to Sony Music and his music publishing to Sony Music Publishing in a combined deal that sources tell Billboard is in the area of $500 million.
“I am one artist who can truly say that when I signed with Columbia Records in 1972, I came to the right place,” Springsteen said in a statement. “During the last 50 years, the men and women of Sony Music have treated me with the greatest respect as an artist and as a person. I’m thrilled that my legacy will continue to be cared for by the Company and people I know and trust.”
As Billboard reported in November, Sony has been in negotiations to purchase Springsteen’s album catalog, while the superstar was also shopping his publishing catalog, which Universal Music Publishing Group has been administering, at the same time. Sources tell Billboard the floor to bid for the combined assets was $350 million, though that number was quickly surpassed. Sony Music Publishing partnered with Eldridge on the music publishing portion in their first deal together. Eldridge purchased the Killers’ music publishing catalog in 2020.
Springsteen has recorded for Sony’s Columbia Records imprint for his entire 50-year career and, like other top-selling 1970s and ’80s stars, was granted ownership of his earlier albums as incentive to re-sign with the label in the late ’80s and ’90s as sales boomed during the CD explosion.
The Springsteen album catalog, which has racked up 65.5 million sales in the United States according to the RIAA website, and which includes the 15-times platinum Born In The U.S.A. and the five-times times platinum The River, still has plenty of firepower, as his music has generated 2.25 million album consumption units in the U.S. since the beginning of 2018, according to MRC Data.
Billboard estimates that the Springsteen catalog generated about $15 million in revenue in 2020 in a year that saw his catalog activity buoyed by a new release — last October’s Letter To You — and the carryover from 3 albums that were released in 2019: Western Stars, the Western Stars soundtrack and the Blinded By the Light soundtrack.
By averaging the last three years of financial statistics from the Springsteen catalog — a common strategy used in determining valuations — Billboard estimates the Springsteen master recording catalog averaged about $12 million in sales. After deducting production and distribution costs of 20% of revenue, Billboard estimates the Springsteen catalog produced a gross profit of $9.6 million. At a 15-times multiple, that would suggest a $145 million valuation; at a 20-times multiple that would put the valuation at about $190 million.
Further, Billboard estimates that Springsteen’s publishing catalog brings in about $7.5 million a year. Consequently, the estimated value of the Springsteen publishing catalog is between $185 million (at a 25-times multiple) to $225 million (at a 30-times multiple).
The 30-time multiple of $225 million and 20-times multiple for the masters would bring the total to $415 million, but sources say the final price was considerably higher.
The deal comes a year after Universal Music Publishing Group purchased Bob Dylan’s publishing catalog for between $375 million and $400 million.
Springsteen’s longtime manager Jon Landau could not immediately be reached for comment. Representatives for Sony Music and Sony Music Publishing declined to comment.
[Eldridge CEO/chairman Todd Boehly is chairman of MRC, which owns a stake in PMRC, the parent company of Billboard]