Blackwell signs 'Primary' deal

Monday, January 15, 2018

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ISLAND Records co-founder Chris Blackwell, according to Billboard Magazine, has signed a US$50-million deal with American entertainment company Primary Wave.

This gives them 80 per cent stake in Blackwell's Blue Mountain Music which part-owns some of reggae legend Bob Marley's biggest songs.

Blue Mountain Music is formidable. It also has titles from Toots and the Maytals, Free, and U2.

Blackwell, who co-founded Island Records in 1959, signed Marley to the independent label in 1973 when he was a member of The Wailers, which also included Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer.

Island Records distributed 11 albums featuring Marley — two with The Wailers and nine as a solo artiste.

Marley died in May 1981 of cancer. He was 36.

According to the article by Ed Christman, sources say that Blackwell's Blue Mountain has a co-publishing stake in the Marley catalogue, which means that Marley Estate still retains a stake in the publishing. Typical publishing deals comprise 50 per cent publishing and 50 per cent writer share, while a co-publishing deal might give the writer anywhere between 10 per cent and 25 per cent slice. So, if the Marley estate had a typical co-publishing deal (half the publishing), that means it still has a 75 per cent stake, while Blackwell's share would be a 25 per cent stake in the catalogue's revenue. Primary Wave would own 80 per cent of the latter.

Primary Wave was founded in 2006. The company sold the the bulk of its catalogue to giant publishing company BMG in 2013, and then started rebuilding its catalogue when it acquired the writer's share of Smokey Robinson's catalogue in 2016, with the backing of US$300 million from BlackRock and other institutional investors.

Marley's Island Records catalogue has had to strive with the evolution of music formats.

In the US, Marley's catalogue scanned 22,000 copies while his songs were downloaded 61,000 times; and on-demand streams totalled about 100 million, according to Nielsen Music. Since Nielsen Music started tracking music sales and activities in 1991, the Marley album catalogue has scanned about 28 million copies, while his songs have been downloaded 14.8 million times and streamed 1.68 billion times.

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