Universal Music Group Buys Neil Diamond’s Entire Catalog of Songs
The acquisition of Diamond's song and master recording catalogs acts as the culmination of a decades-long relationship between the artist and UMG.
Universal Music Group has announced a new landmark deal with Neil Diamond, including the acquisition of the entirety of his song and master recording catalogs. The deal also includes the rights to record and release any future music by Diamond, should he return to the studio, and to the rights of the recordings of 110 unreleased tracks, an unreleased album and long archival videos of Diamond. UMG declined to state the price of the deal, but Billboard estimates a $145 million valuation.
The deal with Diamond acts as the culmination of the decades-long relationship between the artist-songwriter and UMG. The music business behemoth has worked with Diamond since he was signed to UMG’s MCA Records between 1968 and 1972, a heyday which saw the release of “Sweet Caroline” — his most enduring hit. (Recordings made at that time have long remained with UMG — the deal sees the union of all of his music — compositions and recordings — under the UMG umbrella.) In 2013, Diamond entered a recording agreement and licensing deal for his non-MCA recordings through Capitol Music Group and Universal Music Enterprises. The following year, UMPG became Diamond’s publishing administrator as well.
Diamond — the sole songwriter credited on evergreen records like “Sweet Caroline,” “I’m a Believer,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” and more — has had an indelible impact on the history of popular music over the course of his career, something which is soon to be immortalized in the premiere of the biographical The Neil Diamond Musical: A Beautiful Noise, which premieres at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre on June 21 before heading to the Broadway stage.
His work has been recorded many times over, including Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Solitary Man,” The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer,” former high school classmate Barbra Streisand’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” Frank Sinatra’s “Sweet Caroline,” and more. Diamond has also made an impact on the small and big screens, with unforgettable song placements in shows like “The Simpsons” and “Friends” as well as films like “Shrek,” “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood,” “Pulp Fiction” and his own starring role in “The Jazz Singer.”
Born Jan. 24, 1941, the future Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee tried his hand at penning songs and playing guitar after seeing folk artist Pete Seeger perform at his summer camp one year. Growing up in Brooklyn, Diamond also took a liking to poetry, but he did not pursue his love of music and writing professionally until he dropped out of New York University, where he was on the pre-med track and on a scholarship for fencing, when Diamond was offered a 16 week gig, penning songs for Sunbeam Music Publishing. He was just 10 credits shy of graduation.
After his 16 weeks at Sunbeam, Diamond was not rehired, but he began focusing on his musical career full time. First in a duo called Neil and Jack, then solo as Neil Diamond. He signed first to Columbia Records in 1962 but eventually was dropped after failing to gain much traction with his early releases.
Diamond first found popularity by writing songs for others during the mid sixties — including The Monkees” “I’m a Believer” (which sat at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 for seven weeks) — and soon after, the multi-hyphenate became a prominent performer in his own right, bouncing from Bang Records (Atlantic Records) eventually to MCA Records in 1968, a period in which he recorded his greatest hits as a solo artist.
Since then, he has become an American icon and has won countless accolades, including a Grammy, a Golden Globe, Kennedy Center Honors, an induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and more. In 2018, Diamond announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinsons’ Disease.
In the deal, Diamond was represented by Gene Saloman of Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman, Inc. and by his manager Katie Diamond.
Sir Lucian Grainge, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, said of the deal that, “Neil Diamond is by definition, a truly universal songwriter. His immense songbook and recordings encompass some of the most cherished and enduring songs in music history. Through our existing partnership, we are honored to have earned his trust to become the permanent custodians of his monumental musical legacy.”
Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of UMPG, added that Diamond is “a legendary artist and songwriter.” “Neil’s music exemplifies how truly great songs have lasting power and stand the test of time. With this acquisition, which UMPG COO Marc Cimino played an invaluable part in, our global teams across all of Universal Music will work together to ensure that all of his timeless hits like “Sweet Caroline,” “Red Red Wine” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” will continue to impact generations of fans, both existing and those to come.”
Bruce Resnikoff, president and CEO, Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) and Michelle Jubelirer, the recently-named chair and CEO, Capitol Music Group, jointly said, “Over his meteoric career, Neil Diamond created one of the greatest recording catalogues in pop music history. To be able to represent it in its entirety is both an honor and a thrill, and the entire Universal Music team looks forward to upholding his iconic legacy.”
Diamond says of the deal that “after nearly a decade in business with UMG, I am thankful for the trust and respect that we have built together, and I feel confident in the knowledge that Lucian, Jody, Bruce, Michelle and the global team at UMG, will continue to represent my catalogue, and future releases with the same passion and integrity that have always fueled my career.”
UPDATE: This article was updated March 2 at 3:15 p.m. EST to include an estimate on the deal’s valuation.