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Music mogul Merck Mercuriadis: My fears for the next Beatles

Merck Mercuriadis revels in his place as a bete noire for the world’s largest report firms. 

The former supervisor of Iron Maiden and Elton John floated his music funding agency, Hipgnosis Songs Fund, on the inventory trade in 2018, and has since purchased up the rights to hits by Blondie, Rihanna and Beyonce.

Over the previous 12 months he has gone into battle with the world’s three largest report labels: Universal, Sony and Warner. 

Track record: Merck Mercuriadis runs a music business worth £1.5billion

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Track report: Merck Mercuriadis runs a music enterprise price £1.5billion

His argument is that songwriters and artists must be paid extra for their work in the streaming age. That would additionally profit his firm, which is valued at £1.5billion.

The Canadian argues: ‘I’m not right here with some type of Robin Hood advanced. But there is a distinction between proper and unsuitable. 

‘The next Ed Sheeran may select to be a health care provider or a lawyer as a substitute of a songwriter, until songwriters begin to get remunerated correctly. 

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‘The next John, Paul, George and Ringo may find yourself being a legislation agency as a substitute of the Beatles.’

The self-professed ‘advocate’ of the artist, with a four-decade-long profession in music, provides: ‘Changing the place they sit in the financial equation is much extra vital work than worrying about what anybody at a report firm thinks about you.’

His trigger has been introduced into focus by the pandemic, when the closure of stay circuits meant touring earnings dried up, and a growth in streaming breathed new life into an trade as soon as gutted by piracy. 

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This revival culminated in September’s $40billion (£30billion) float of Universal, estimated to have netted boss Lucian Grainge greater than £100 million. 

Mercuriadis says: ‘When a report govt has made extra money out of this enterprise than Paul McCartney, that is categorically unsuitable.’

If a songwriter is paid extra so is my firm 

But he’s not being altruistic. Hipgnosis buys up confirmed hits – together with songs by Justin Timberlake and The Pretenders. It then makes an attempt to seek out new income streams, by way of movies, adverts or model tie-ups.

He floated the fund with the intention of creating music investable, relatively like oil and gold. He has spent $2billion to date and simply signed a $1billion deal to co-invest with non-public fairness behemoth Blackstone.

An improve in the share of streaming income for songwriters will increase his income too. Or as the Quebec-born 58-year-old places it: ‘The increased a songwriter is paid, the higher off we’re too.’

The shaven-headed govt is talking through Zoom from his lavish residence in the Hollywood Hills sporting his trademark plain black T-shirt. 

As an early-rising, gym-obsessed vegan, he eschews the debauched cliches of rock’n’roll.

Hipgnosis Songs Fund has built up a catalogue of hits worth more than £1.9bn, including songs by Rihanna (pictured) and Blondie

Hipgnosis Songs Fund has constructed up a list of hits price greater than £1.9bn, together with songs by Rihanna (pictured) and Blondie

The marketing campaign to land a greater deal for songwriters has risen up the agenda this 12 months. 

MPs known as for a ‘full reset’ of streaming economics, and truthful pay for artists, after an inquiry by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is poised to start its personal inquiry.

Mercuriadis ‘applauded’ a separate non-public member’s Bill proposing reforms to musicians’ remuneration, which in the end stalled as a result of Government desires trade to discover a answer itself. And it has not dominated out laws.

From managing stars to billion greenback purchaser 

Merck Mercuriadis began his profession in music bombarding his favorite label, Richard Branson’s Virgin Records, with requests for work, and went on to run the US arm of the Sanctuary Group label.

The Canadian music mogul has managed many artists, together with Iron Maiden, Beyonce and Elton John. 

He floated his Hipgnosis Songs Fund in 2018 and has constructed up a list of hits price greater than £1.9 billion, together with songs by Rihanna and Blondie.

Mercuriadis, who has funded the Ivors Academy songwriters’ physique, will quickly meet with CMA executives. 

Predictably, his unabashed views have drawn frosty responses from the music trade over his enterprise mannequin and his personal riches.

His critics say he would not discover new expertise, he simply collects streaming earnings (he says his outcomes present his enterprise will increase model and licensing earnings).

They additionally level out that his enterprise is predicated in low-tax Guernsey (‘tax effectivity, you may discover that with many funding trusts’) and argue he is overpaying for again catalogues and is secretive on the situation (‘in the event you’re Neil Young, you don’t need your neighbour to know what you had been simply paid’).

Then, there’s the central argument of the report labels: if regulators stymie their income they are going to have much less cash to take dangers on unproven artists. Mercuriadis smirks: ‘This is a superb fallacy.’

He argues that the report labels’ ‘actual funding in artists stopped 20 years in the past’ suggesting that social media now usually lays the groundwork for new acts earlier than report firms swoop. 

Mercuriadis says tech giants together with Spotify and YouTube even have their half to play in growing funds to songwriters, however his predominant goal is the report labels.

The Canadian music mogul has managed many artists, including Elton John... ... and Beyonce

The Canadian music mogul has managed many artists, together with Beyonce and Elton John.

Mercuriadis has confronted different criticisms. City dealer Investec questioned the construction of the Hipgnosis-Blackstone deal as a result of shareholders might get only a fraction of the take from the finest new catalogues.

Mercuriadis says his shareholders wished a break from being requested to fund offers, whereas Blackstone’s deep pockets imply that they will nonetheless profit as catalogues come on to the market.

Social media finds new acts lengthy earlier than labels 

Powered by Blackstone’s extra warfare chest, his chequebook might change into a well-known sight with £2billion of recent offers already in the pipeline. He says: ‘You will see us investing closely in the coming months – our deal movement is unbelievable, a few of the most interesting songs ever written.

‘I feel we’re solely scratching the tip of the iceberg by way of what’s potential.’

His ardour for music is a minimum of past reproach. I bumped into him in considered one of London’s few remaining report shops and he flitted from rack to rack recommending a cascade of recent music. This fervent method attracts artists, he claims, assured he’ll solely use their songs for the proper tie-ups.

Profit is usually seen as a grimy phrase in the arts however Mercuriadis is a minimum of self-aware sufficient to not be coy about his riches.

He says: ‘I’m not bashful in any respect. I’ve made my cash in my success with artists and songwriters and producers, not at their expense.’

Merck Mercuriadis, 58: report fan

Lives: Notting Hill, West London, and Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles.

Family: Wife Sue; daughters Melody, 33, Rosa, 30, and Sunny, 26; son Storm, 20; granddaughter Olive; three canine and three cats.

Education: Mercuriadis jokes: ‘BA, University of Neil Young; Masters, University of Lou Reed; PhD, University of The Clash.’

Hobbies: Vinyl data and Arsenal Football Club.

Favourite album: Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.

Currently listening to: Neil Young’s Barn.

Favourite movie: The Beatles: Get Back.

Favourite guide: Searching For Robert Johnson by Peter Guralnick.

Favourite gig: Simple Minds at The Concert Hall, Toronto, in 1982, and Nile Rodgers & Chic at London’s O2 Arena in 2018.

Dream UK authorities coverage: To legislate an even bigger piece of the financial pie for the songwriter.

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