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John Legend sells his music catalog to KKR, BMG

KKR & Co. Inc. and BMG have acquired the songwriting catalog of John Legend.

The deal, disclosed in a regulatory filing, closed last fall and illustrates how red-hot the market for music investments has become. Mr. Legend, at 47 years old—still an active songwriter, recording artist, and performer—is younger and earlier in his career than many of his peers who have been inking deals to help set up their legacies and cash in on their life’s work.

The R&B crooner sold his publishing copyrights and the rights to receive royalties from music he penned from 2004 through early 2021. BMG Rights Management and KKR each purchased a 50% stake in the catalog. BMG, which has been administering Mr. Legend’s work since it bought Cherry Lane Music Publishing in 2010, also struck a deal to administer his future compositions, according to a person familiar with the matter. BMG, both a record label and publisher, is a subsidiary of Germany’s Bertelsmann SE.

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One upshot of KKR and BMG’s investment in Mr. Legend’s work thus far is that his future releases and tours are likely to generate continued attention and streaming of his catalog. The deal encompasses Mr. Legend’s acclaimed 2004 debut album “Get Lifted” as well as hits like “All of Me” and “Love Me Now.”

John Legend appears at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, California, on Feb. 9, 2020.  ( Associated Press / AP Newsroom)

KKR last March teamed up with BMG to spend at least $1 billion on music copyrights. That commitment came amid a broader move into music last year for KKR, which last January struck a $200 million deal for a majority stake in Ryan Tedder’s catalog of hits including songs from Beyoncé, Adele, Stevie Wonder and Mr. Tedder’s band, OneRepublic. (Mr. Tedder, now 42 years old, was another relatively young entrant to the market.) In October, KKR spent $1.1 billion on investment advisory firm Kobalt Capital Ltd.’s KMR Music Royalties II portfolio, which includes more than 62,000 copyrights across music genres.

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Together, KKR and BMG last month invested in Texas blues-rock trio ZZ Top’s publishing catalog and recording music royalties in a deal valued around $50 million, according to people familiar with the deal.

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Fueled by strong demand from legacy publishing outfits and financial players alike, as well as low interest rates and tax incentives, an onslaught of artists have been striking deals for their music rights, including Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.

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