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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Reconsidering Neil Young Selling Song Catalog Stake

Much reflection on the big news last Wednesday that  Neil Young has sold a stake in his song catalog or ... after the goldrush, as it were.

Merck Mercuriadis - Founder, Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited


Generally, there is sort of a sigh of "oh well, guess that's just the way it is."  Many applaud Neil for negotiating a deal and securing a nice nest egg.  Others fear that this is yet another step towards diminishing independent artists and their rights.

So who is Merck Mercuriadis and what is Hipgnosis really up to? (for more, see comments below)

Neil Young's 1988 "This Note's for You"


For us here at TW, we want to take a moment to clarify our position on the deal.

First, no one really knows what the terms and conditions are of the deal. Only a statement by Merck Mercuriadis, the founder of Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited was issued. There is even confusion over the amount of the deal. The $150,000,000* figure seems somewhat in dispute, however this BBC News headline cites the 9 digit figure. Is that British pounds? Euro? USD?

All that aside, here is how we see this from a positive perspective 1st. The deal achieves what we assume are Neil's 2 main priorities: his family and NYA.

The lump sum allows Neil not to have to worry over the care of his son Ben, who with special needs, requires expensive 24/7 health care. From that perspective, everything else is irrelevant.

Neil, Pegi & Ben say "Good Night. Thanks for coming. We love you all."
2015 Bridge School Benefit Concerts 
photo by thrasher

Second, the ability to sustain NYA in perpetuity is certainly another driver of the deal.  Running NYA with the enormous library, high resolution audio and video streams is very expensive in terms of staffing and technical services and support, particularly at the bargain subscription fee.

By guaranteeing early subscribers a lifetime annual fee of just 19.99/year, Neil has locked himself into a fixed revenue stream with ever increasing costs which clearly was not the best way to structure the arrangement. 


So those are the pros of the deal and all that really matters.

Yes, we do have a major concerns, as a fan and music lover.  But this is Neil's deal and he's done what he thinks is best -- with or without the late, great Manager Elliot Roberts' guidance.

Neil Young and Elliot Roberts, Manager
August 2016

Presumably it also gives Lookout Management staff leadership and direction folded under Hipgnosis, where they will continue to review and care for Neil Young's song catalog, per Neil's terms and conditions. This also avoids a day (like the Prince estate) of when the family and associates fight over the artist's legacy and how best to preserve and monetize. Again, another positive on the situation.

Otherwise, we do think that we've clearly expressed ourselves previously over our concerns. Did Neil sell out to vultures too quickly and leave money on the table? In the long run, who really has controlling interest given a 50/50 split? Questions, questions, questions. See coverage here and here.

Sponsored by Nobody?!
Neil Young's 1988 "This Note's for You"


In the meantime, see How Banning Neil Young Outed MTV’s True Corporate Colors
Also, see this 2007 piece The Price of Neil: When Art and Commerce Collide.  More on "Cough Up the Buck$": Neil Young's Song of the Day | NYA.

Cough Up The Buck$ Crew
HarryO w/ Volume Drinkers: Brand New Guy & Paul D.
Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY - 12/15/2008 
photo by TW

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At 1/10/2021 01:29:00 PM, Blogger danell yoch said...

I trust in Neil's ability to make decisions in his life, what's best for his music & projects/archive moving forward. Wish him & his family, friends & loved ones the very best.

At 1/10/2021 02:17:00 PM, Blogger Derek Joists said...

Neil hasn't been an independent artist since he first signed a record contract in the mid 60s.

At 1/10/2021 04:20:00 PM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Good luck to Neil I'd love to see his will and where ole Mrs Young features.

At 1/11/2021 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Hounds That Howl said...

Thrasher, you and Us Readers, need to pivot from being Bloggers and Commentators to being Investigative Bloggers and Investigative Commentators and dig into who is Merck and what is his company's Mission Statement? We need to understand the transaction and the catalogue's new coowner and the implications for the ecosystem of the music industry. What is this new evolution and what does this mean for the future of Neil's music for our and future generations, and for the rest of the industry? So to do this I have provided a link below to the Company's web page.

Most interestingly which has not been mention is that RUSTIES IN THE UK can also be a part owner of Neil's music by buying shares in Higpinosis on UKStock Exchanges.

Hipgnosis, which was founded by Merck Mercuriadis, is a Guernsey registered investment company established to offer investors a pure-play exposure to songs and associated musical intellectual property rights. The Company's Investment Adviser is The Family (Music) Limited, which was founded by Merck Mercuriadis, former manager of globally successful recording artists, such as Elton John, Guns N' Roses, Morrissey, Iron Maiden and Beyoncé, and hit songwriters such as Diane Warren, Justin Tranter and The-Dream, and former CEO of The Sanctuary Group plc.

One of the things I am wondering is did Neil get a seat for himself (which he could have a Trusted business advisor occupy as proxy) on the Board of Directors of the Fund? A few other artist who have sold their property to Higpinosis have Board Seats. If not why not?

Among The other song catalogues Higpinosis owns are: DAVE STEWART, CHRISSIE HYNDE, DEBBIE HARRY AND Chris Stein (BLONDIE), BARRY MANILOW, JOURNEY, 10cc, RICHIE SAMBORA. We can only hope, for shits and grins, Higpinosis buy's Neil Diamond's and Neil Sedaka's catalogue and corners the market on all the great music by the Neils. By the way, I dyslexically (or maybe in a Freudian slip) read the name of the company as Pighignosis as in Capitalist Pig ;)

So be an informed Neil Young fan, do your own research. Here's the link to HIgpinosis

At 1/11/2021 11:17:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ HtH - thanks for the interest and sharing here.

good points. we hereby officially declare you to be Lead Investigative Bloggers and Investigative Commentators and dig into who is Merck and what is his company's Mission Statement.


As a starting point, why did Bob go down one path and Neil go down an almost completely opposite approach?

the TW platform is yours.

At 1/11/2021 11:25:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Thrasher doesn’t NEED to do anything. I second the motion that Hounds sniff out whatever needs to be sniffed out. Thrasher gives us TW out of the goodness of his heart, and Thrashette is a supportive spouse... Thank God TW is there. Have a great day. Alan in Seattle

At 1/11/2021 11:28:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

ps - So who is Merck Mercuriadis and what is Hipgnosis really up to?

Hipgnosis, the investment fund buying up song catalogs (most recently Neil Young's), can no longer solicit investors in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Africa.

hmmm, seems like this has already gotten a bit ... shall we say "phfishy"?!

At 1/11/2021 01:13:00 PM, Blogger NYBD11-12 said...

One thing that we don't know about are the deal or NY's intentions. For instnace, he may plan to invest a sizable amount of this windfall into philanthropy. Will he make a big donation to the Bridge School? Donate to organizatons dedicated to fighting climate change? Support indigenous people's efforts to stop pipelines on their sacred lands? We simply don't know. Such plans could put this deal into a whole new light.

At 1/11/2021 02:39:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Alan - thanks for support! :)
maybe we need to deputize you as well?! Any particular role you'd like to be appointed to? Rabble Rouser in Charge? Chief of Enthusiasm?

@ NYBD11-12 - good point about philanthropy.

actually that was something that we were hoping to see clarified by Neil himself.
He'll probably make a statement at some point. Afterall, folks are already saying, "So Neil. You just pocketed 150 million. So what're going to do?"

well, it certainly won't be going to DisneyLand.

Bridge, Farm Aid, Painted Turtle, the list goes on forever of worthy causes to endow.

At 1/11/2021 04:01:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

I'm just hoping that Neil himself is still making these decisions. To be honest, based on many of recent events surrounding Neil, I'm really starting to wonder....

And nothing for nothing, but speaking as someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, if guys like Neil and Dylan still need to worry about a "nest egg", then I gotta wonder what they've been doing with their money for the last 50 years or so.

At 1/11/2021 10:21:00 PM, Blogger anon said...

c’mon man!

NOBODY needs 150 MILLION pounds to raise his kid and run his website

At 1/11/2021 10:24:00 PM, Blogger anon said...

or 150 MILLION dolllars for that matter!
NY can do what he wants and always does!
let’s not lionize him or make excuses for his greedy hand!
also, he hasnt bothered to comment on it on NYA but he is happy go opine on those capitol hill morons who tried to disrupt the count

At 1/12/2021 10:54:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

As long as he keeps on writing more wonderful tunes, who cares. Rock on you old bugger.


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