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Elvis Presley Catalog Lands at UMPG for Publishing Administration

The deal acts as an extension of the 2021 partnership between Authentic Brands Group (ABG) and Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG).

Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) will now act as the global publishing administrator, excluding the U.K., for the historic song catalog of Elvis Presley. This acts as an extension of a partnership between UMPG and Authentic Brands Group (ABG) — the majority stake holder in Elvis Presley Enterprises, which controls the artist’s name, likeness, image, and publishing catalog. Announced in Nov. 2021, ABG and UMPG will also create merchandise, memorabilia, licensing, brand experiences and entertainment opportunities worldwide for the brand owner’s musical artists.

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The administration deal includes most of the King’s greatest hits, including “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Love Me Tender,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “It’s Now or Never,” “Memories,” “A Little Less Conversation,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Teddy Bear,” “Amazing Grace,” “All Shook Up,” “Tears On My Pillow,” and many more. UMPG declined to disclose any financial terms of the deal, and stressed that ABG remains owner of the catalog.

Presley, however, was never a songwriter himself but shared a portion of composition ownership with his first publisher, Hill & Range publishing, for songs purchased by Hill & Range for him to record, according to the official Graceland website. (The cut that his songwriters ceded to Hill & Range and Presley was famously nicknamed the “Elvis Tax” in the book Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life and Times of Doc Pomus.)

Announced just before what is set to be a “banner year” for Presley’s work, Marc Rosen, president of entertainment at ABG, says the iconic musician’s life is soon to be immortalized in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic and in the Netflix animated series Agent King. “We are honored to work in partnership with UMPG as guardians of Elvis’ incomparable catalog, bringing his music and cultural influence to audiences around the world,” says Rosen.

Presley has had “an unprecedented and lasting global impact on music and pop culture,” notes Marc Cimino, COO of UMPG. “[CEO] Jody Gerson and I, along with UMPG’s teams around the world, couldn’t be more excited and honored.”

Though the UMPG and ABG deal settles Presley’s personal share of publishing assets, the rights and royalties earned from the artist’s records and publishing have proven to be a complicated business, changing hands many times over the decades and with exorbitant funds flowing straight into the bank account of carnival barker-turned-Presley manager Colonel Tom Parker (who is set to be portrayed by Tom Hanks in the Luhrmann film).

A Timeline of Elvis Presley’s Rights and Royalties

In 1955, Presley signed a contract, ceding his manager to be his “sole and exclusive adviser, personal representative and manager,” and upping the manager’s fee to the high rate of “25 percent of gross income received by Elvis Presley.” That same year, Presley inked a deal with RCA Records, which included his previous Sun Records contract. Plus, he signed a publishing contract with Hill & Range publishing company (a then-popular firm for country talent) and formed Elvis Presley Music, Inc. so that Elvis could share publishing ownership of songs bought by Hill & Range for him to record, according to the official Graceland website.

In 1966, Presley and Parker agree to up the manager’s fee to the sum of 50 percent gross income, according to the Washington Post. 

In 1974, Presley, under advisement from Parker, sold his catalog of 1,000 master recordings to RCA Records for a paltry $5.4 million price tag.

In 1982, Parker lost his 50% manager fee in the Presley enterprises after an estate hearing questioned his shady business practices and declared him “guilty of self-dealing and overreaching…handling affairs not in Elvis’s but his own interest,” according to the Washington Post.  

In 2004, it was announced that Elvis Presley Enterprises sold an 85% stake to investor Robert Sillerman, owner of SFX Entertainment and CORE Media Group, in exchange for about $100 million. Though Lisa Marie Presley retained a 15% cut (including the title to Graceland), other essential rights like name, likeness, image and Presley’s publishing catalog went under Sillerman’s control.

In 2011, Elvis Presley Enterprises sued RCA Records (named as “Arista Music” in the lawsuit) in German court, alleging that Presley was “unjustly exploited during his lifetime by his record company” in Germany, hoping to secure payment for the rock-n-roll icon’s music when used in new media overseas like ringtones, downloads, and entertainment apps. The legal fight over Presley’s records spilled into New York federal court four years later as the estate battled with Sony’s company structure and internal licensing deals to secure more information concerning how Presley’s records were exploited.

Though the 1974 record catalog buy out has been ubiquitously considered a bad deal for Presley (and too good of a deal for his manager, who earned 50% commission on the deal) since the beginning, the sellers did not foresee the changes in copyright law which would allow RCA to exploit the catalog for decades longer than they intended. At the time of the master recordings sale, the works were scheduled to expire in the 1990s.

In 2011, Imagem Music (now part of Concord) signed a worldwide publishing administration agreement with Elvis Presley Music/Gladys Music, two entities co-owned by Elvis Presley Enterprises and Hill & Range’s Jean and Julian Aberbach’s families. The deal became effective Jan. 1, 2012.

In 2013, Authentic Brands Group bought out CORE Media Group’s stake in Elvis Presley Enterprises, allowing the company to exploit Presley’s image, name, likeness, and publishing catalog.  Though the price tag was never disclosed, the New York Post reported ABG offered $125 million.

In 2016, Kobalt struck a publishing administration deal with ABG to administer the same portion of Presley’s publishing catalog as is included in the new UMPG deal, taking effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

In Nov. 2021, Universal Music Group announced a new partnership with ABG to create merchandise, memorabilia, licensing, brand experiences and entertainment opportunities worldwide for the brand owner’s musical artists.