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Elvis Costello Signs Publishing Deal With BMG

The deal includes the acclaimed singer-songwriter's entire catalog.

Elvis Costello, a model “songwriter’s songwriter” if there ever was one, has signed an exclusive, worldwide publishing administration agreement with BMG, the company announced on Tuesday (Jan. 25). Moving forward, the music company will administer the publishing rights to the acclaimed artist’s entire catalog of 32 studio albums dating back nearly 44 years. The arrangement includes future works as well, the company said.

Costello’s works had previously been represented by Universal Music Publishing Group, which had inherited the catalog in the mid-2000s when then-parent company Vivendi bought BMG Music Publishing.

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“It is not often that a catalogue as distinguished as Elvis Costello’s becomes available,” noted Alistair Norbury, BMG president repertoire & marketing UK. “We look forward to working with Elvis and his management to further raise awareness and appreciation of one of the greatest songwriters the UK has produced.”

Costello’s songbook is filled with tightly crafted songs spanning numerous genres (new wave, country, classical, lounge pop), backing bands (The Attractions, The Imposters), and collaborators (Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint), and includes pop standards like “Alison,” “Watching the Detectives,” “Oliver’s Army,” “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down,” “Everyday I Write the Book,” “Veronica,” “She” and countless others.

His discography includes a now-inconceivable string of critically revered albums that kicked off his career, beginning with 1977’s My Aim Is True and followed (yearly) with gems This Year’s Model, Armed Forces, Get Happy!!, Trust, Almost Blue, Imperial Bedroom and Punch the Clock. After the scorched-earth messiness of 1984’s Goodbye Cruel World he returned to best-of lists two years later with 1986’s King of America and Blood & Chocolate. He closed out the decade with Spike, a mostly solo effort co-produced by T Bone Burnett.

In the mid-1990s, Costello released fan favorites Brutal Youth and All This Useless Beauty, and in 1998 turned to lush baroque pop with Painted from Memory, his meet-up with Bacharach that yielded a best pop collaboration with vocals Grammy Award for their composition, “I Still Have That Other Girl.” Noted releases since the turn of the century include 2002’s When I Was Cruel, 2010’s National Ransom, 2013’s collab with The Roots, Wise Up Ghosts, and this year’s The Boy Named If, which just entered the Official UK Albums Chart at No. 6.

Born Declan Patrick MacManus in London, Costello was inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Songwriters Hall in 2016. He’s been the subject of several tribute albums and his songs have been covered by a who’s who of great song-pickers, including Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Roy Orbison, George Jones and Diana Krall, his wife of nearly 20 years.

As Ian Ramage, BMG vp A&R UK, put it in the deal’s announcement: “As a music publisher, this is the quality of work we all aspire to represent.”

BMG, Alistair Norbury, Elvis Costello, Ian Ramage, Hartwig Masuch
From left: Alistair Norbury, Elvis Costello, Ian Ramage, and BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch. BMG