In a move that reunites his music publishing rights with his master recordings, Sting has sold his entire song catalog from his early days in The Police through his solo career to the Universal Music Publishing Group.
While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Billboard previously reported that Sting had been shopping a music asset bundle that produced an annual royalty income stream of about $12-$13 million and was looking at a roughly $360 million payday.
That catalog includes such songs as “Roxanne,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Shape Of My Heart,” “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,” “Fields Of Gold,” “Desert Rose,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Englishman in New York” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” among countless other global hits. Between the Police and his solo career, Sting’s music globally has sold more than 100 million albums, according to the Universal Music Group, which has been Sting’s label home for his entire career through A&M, Interscope and Cherrytree Records.
“So many memories from my youth are tied to the great songs written by Sting — whether it was first seeing the Police perform in Philadelphia or hearing his music on the radio or playing those albums until I wore them out,” UMPG chairman & CEO Jody Gerson said in a statement. “I could never have imagined that someday I would get to lead a company that will be the guardian of Sting’s remarkable songwriting legacy. Every one of us at UMPG looks forward to this work with a sense of honor, responsibility and enormous excitement about what we can achieve for his music in the future.”
Since UMG already had his recorded masters, the addition of Sting’s music publishing rights provides UMPG and its parent a strong hand for synchronization and other income-producing, rights-licensing opportunities. That likely means that if someone wants to license his songs for a movie or a commercial, Universal can ensure his recordings are used, thus reaping a bigger payday instead of a less-costly license for recording of a cover version.
Besides giving UMG a stronger hand in licensing, sources say that the Sting music publishing catalog is boosted by a larger-than-usual component of royalties coming from cover songs and from samples used in hip-hop songs by the likes of Puff Daddy and Juice Wrld, Nas, RZA, 2Pac, Black-Eyed Peas, the Fugees and Cam’ron, among others. Also, his songs have been covered by such artists as George Michael, Johnny Cash, Herbie Hancock, Isaac Hayes, Eva Cassidy, Violet Femmes, Gloria Gaynor, Shirley Bassey and Fall Out Boy, amongs others.
According to the announcement, UMPG and UMG will work with Sting to further build and expand his vast audience reach, “strengthen the impact and influence of his timeless works,” and continue supporting future music releases.
“I’ve had the privilege to work with Sting for over 20 years and I’m so thrilled to expand our relationship to now include music publishing,” UMG chairman & CEO Sir Lucian Grainge said in a statement. “Sting is a songwriting genius whose music permeates global culture. We are honored that by choosing UMPG for his music publishing, Sting’s entire body of work as a songwriter and recording artist — from the Police to his solo work — will all be within the UMG family. It’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly as well as a great validation of what we have built for artists at UMG.”
By closing the deal, that means Universal Music Publishing Group has been involved in two of the three biggest single artist publishing acquisitions. In December 2020, UMPG acquired the Bob Dylan publishing catalog in a deal that is believed to have carried more than a $400 million valuation.
In December, Bruce Springsteen received about $500 million for selling his catalogs but beside music publishing catalog that sale also included his master recordings, which he had owned. It’s unclear what valuations were assigned to the Springsteen song catalog versus his master recordings.
Sting, born Gordon Sumner, has been the recipient of 11 Grammy awards for his solo woks, while the Rock Hall-inducted Police have earned six Grammys and two Brit Awards, according to UMPG. Moreover, Sting has also been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“I am delighted to have Jody and the team at UMPG curate and manage my song catalog,” Sting said in a statement. “It is absolutely essential to me that my career’s body of work have a home where it is valued and respected – not only to connect with longtime fans in new ways but also to introduce my songs to new audiences, musicians and generations. Throughout my career, I have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with UMG as my label partner, under the watchful guidance of Lucian, so it felt natural to unite everything in one trusted home, as I return to the studio, ready for the next chapter.”
Sting, who is managed by Martin Kierszenbaum/Cherrytree Music Company, was represented in the transaction by Allen Grubman with his partners Joe Brenner and Stuart Prager.