Multi-talented musician Justin Timberlake is feeling his suit and tie vibes. A private fund bought his entire music catalog for $100 million. However, Timberlake only gets the bulk of that if he owns his own masters.
Here are the details on who owned Timberlake’s masters before the sale and whether he gets a healthy payout following the deal.
A Blackstone-backed private fund bought Justin Timberlake’s music catalog.
A private fund backed by investment management firm Blackstone Inc. (BX) purchased Timberlake’s music catalog for approximately $100 million. The deal went through between the private fund and a music investment company called Hipgnosis Song Management Ltd. The parties haven't disclosed the details of the deal.
The move is part of a larger deal between Blackstone and Hipgnosis. In October 2021, Blackstone agreed to invest a collective $1 billion in Hipgnosis to acquire and manage music catalogs. Blackstone is sending the involved deals through the unnamed private fund, which reportedly holds $900 billion in assets under management. This fund also holds a stake in Hipgnosis as part of the deal.
The Timberlake deal consists of 200 songs that the artist wrote or co-wrote, beginning with his days in the 1990s and early aughts boy band NSYNC. Perhaps most interestingly, Timberlake is 41 years old — much younger than other artists who sell their catalogs to manage their estates (think Bob Dylan and the late Leonard Cohen).
What does it mean to own your masters?
A master recording is the original recording of a song, which producers can copy for different purposes. An artist’s music catalog is made up of master recordings.
When an artist owns their masters, they're free to use, sell, and capitalize on their music. They can also license the music to third parties, allowing various forms of media (including TV, movies, and even other artists) to use the music.
Owning your masters is a big deal. Taylor Swift was famously bound to her label for years due to not owning her masters. She's in the process of rerecording all of her own songs so she can own her masters. Recently, Halsey took to TikTok to share an original song that her record label won’t let her release.
Did Justin Timberlake own his masters before the $100 million sale?
London-based Hipgnosis trades on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:SONG). The company is helmed by founder Merck Mercuriadis. It’s likely that Timberlake has granted a stake in his music catalog to Hipgnosis, but maintains his own share — perhaps even a majority.
It’s also likely that Timberlake owns the masters for many of his solo songs. He founded and served as chief executive officer of his own record label, Tennman Records, in 2007. This left him in charge of his own music and gave him more power over the masters than some other artists have had.
Since the details of Timberlake’s $100 million deal weren't shared, it isn't clear who gets what portion, which is intentional. The more transparent these deals are, the more artists will ask for, and thus the more money asset managers must pay out of the deal. Whatever the case, Timberlake — who recently appeared in the Hulu TV show Candy and owns Sauza Liquors tequila brand — could potentially set the bar for other established artists to follow suit.