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Investment Firm Buys Rights To Neil Young's Music Catalog

NOEL KING, HOST:

An investment firm is buying the rights to songwriters' music. Here's some of what Hipgnosis Songs Fund bought just this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REFUGEE")

TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS: (Singing) You don't have to live like a refugee - don't have to live like a refugee.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GO YOUR OWN WAY")

FLEETWOOD MAC: (Singing) You can go your own way - go your own way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEART OF GOLD")

NEIL YOUNG: (Singing) That keep me searching for a heart of gold and I'm getting old...

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Hipgnosis Songs Fund has made deals with the producer Jimmy Iovine, musicians Lindsey Buckingham and Neil Young.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HARVEST MOON")

YOUNG: (Singing) Come a little bit closer.

MERCK MERCURIADIS: I created Hipgnosis really with artists like Neil in mind.

INSKEEP: Merck Mercuriadis is CEO and founder of Hipgnosis, which has spent well over a billion dollars since 2018 buying song rights.

MERCURIADIS: I'm focused on songs and artists that are of genuine cultural importance. And I think that, you know, when you look at the gravitas of Neil Young, there are very, very few people that come close.

KING: The music industry cratered during the pandemic. Artists had to cancel all their tours last year. Streaming was less affected, though. Mercuriadis tells investors that music royalties are financial assets like gold or oil but, he says, even better.

MERCURIADIS: The revenues that come from these great, proven songs are predictable and reliable. And the truth about Neil's catalog is that there are literally hundreds of amazing songs. Our job is just going to be to continually remind people of what an important set of songs he has.

INSKEEP: As to whether you will hear Neil Young songs in films or ads, Mr. Young still has a say. He sold only a 50% stake in his catalog.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' IN THE FREE WORLD")

YOUNG: (Singing) Keep on rockin' in the free world. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.