Merck Mercuriadis is the Founder and CEO of the Hipgnosis Songs Fund LTD, a £1.2 billion market cap FTSE 250 Song Management company which currently houses over 60,000 songs, including Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), We Are Family, Le Freak and Don’t Stop Believin’, among other hit songs.
Mercuriadis is the Canadian-born music business veteran whose name, well-known and legendary to those in the music industry, has now become familiar to the financial sector as well. In less than three years, he has steered Hipgnosis Songs Fund, Ltd.—a publicly traded, UK- based company invested in music publishing—to a leading position in a global market, building on a career’s worth of successful growth and defying trends at a time when words like “lockdown” and “pandemic” are commonly heard. In 2020, Mercuriadis remains one of the few music business leaders who excelled at positions in record companies and in artist management, surviving—in fact, thriving—through the most dramatic of shifts in music styles and technology from the analogue days of the 1980s—from LPs and CDs, to the mp3 files and streaming of today’s digital world. His credits range from head of A&R at Virgin Records in 1986—a position he achieved in his first three years in the business—to running an international management agency, spearheading chart-topping discs by the likes of Morrissey, Kelly Osbourne, and Iron Maiden, to guiding the careers of Beyoncé, Elton John, Guns’N’Roses, Robert Plant, Macy Gray, Mary J. Blige, Joss Stone, Jane’s Addiction, and many others. Most recently Mercuriadis was awarded an honorary Professorship at the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England.
In 1986, Mercuriadis co-founded Sanctuary Music (UK), which grew to become one of the most formidable independent artist management/booking/promotion firms in music history. He helped run and revive a number of record labels as well. Since departing Sanctuary in 2006, while continuing to personally manage major stars including, most notably, Nile Rodgers & CHIC, and working with major songwriters like Diane Warren and The Dream.
In 2017, Mercuriadis realized the most ambitious project of his career—forming Hipgnosis Songs Fund, Ltd., an artist- and songwriter-focused “song management” company aimed at investing in song catalogues with the goal of both protecting the financial interests and empowering the role of music creators in the burgeoning streaming model of the music industry. In June 2018 Hipgnosis went public, securing $260 million in funding with which to build its vision.
Mercuriadis made his name challenging the status quo with bold predictions and revolutionary ideas, being a visionary and a disruptor who was driven by a core belief—that the music, and the music creators, held the enduring value of the industry. As he explains: “The truth is that I don’t care whether someone wants to hear music that I’m involved with on music streaming services or on vinyl album, a CD, a cassette, or wants to buy a T-shirt, or go to the concert. What I care about is getting the music and the musicians the respect they deserve and that they
Merck Mercuriadis is the Founder and CEO of the Hipgnosis Songs Fund LTD, a £1.2 billion
market cap FTSE 250 Song Management company which currently houses over 60,000 songs,
including Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), We Are Family, Le
Freak and Don’t Stop Believin’, among other hit songs.
earn what they should so they can continue doing what they do, making music that matters and stands the test of time, and keep the fires burning.”
It’s the same philosophy that now leads Mercuriadis on his current path, and continues to draw the top-tier of songwriting talent and blue-ribbon song catalogs to Hipgnosis. As Bloomberg News reported in July (2020), he continues to “leverage his experience in the music business to match two seemingly disparate worlds: that of songwriters and artists…and that of investors— big or small—hungry for yield.”
Mercuriadis is no stranger to the notion of yoking what many still regard as opposing forces: creative and musical on one side, financial and commercial on the other. To him, they have been symbiotic, growth industries, and continue to be—even in the most challenging of times.
“Proven songs are predictable and reliable in their income streams [and] when I say it is as good or better than gold or oil, it is because it is uncorrelated to what is happening in the marketplace,” he recently told the Guardian, when he announced two more deals bringing the music of Blondie and Barry Manilow into Hipgnosis.
“Ultimately, if people are living their best lives, they’re celebrating with the soundtrack of music. Equally, if they are experiencing the sort of challenges we have been experiencing over the past 25 weeks or so, they are escaping and taking comfort in music. Music is always being consumed…and, as has been proven during the pandemic, [streaming] subscriptions have gone up as people have gone looking for comfort.”
Today, the financial world is following Mercuriadis closely and respectfully. “Our view remains that SONG [Hipgnosis’s ticker name] is one of the most attractive investments in not only the investment companies sector, but also the wider equity market,” stated J.P. Morgan in May, 2020. That same month, Market Watch observed: “The surge in music streaming has been to the benefit of a canny investment fund [Hipgnosis], which buys the rights to classic songs from artists including Bon Jovi and The Eurythmics, paying investors a share of each play.”
For Mercuriadis, helming an initiative with global, game-changing potential when he could easily retire and relax, is a path he’s compelled to follow. Hipgnosis is simply another step in a career-long effort to best represent the interests of the music-makers who inspired him to a life in the business. “I’ve spent the better part of the last 35 years advocating for great artists, songwriters, and producers and my ambition is to change the songwriter’s position in the economic model.”
Mercuriadis’s accomplishments, including the already substantial size of the Hipgnosis fund, speak well of his ability to take on this task. In his eyes, it all connects back to his first love— how he still feels about music and its life-altering power. Mercuriadis’s life story is as compelling in its details as in the lessons and philosophy it shares—and like many drawn to work in the music business, he heard his calling early. The circumstances were modest and the location was remote.
MUSIC IN THE COVID AGE
As the world faces the challenges of a global pandemic that is causing fortunes to shift and rules to be rewritten, Hipgnosis Songs Fund, Ltd. is bravely defying any sense of downturn. What was a 350 million valuation in the first quarter of 2019—representing between 3 and 4 percent of the worldwide publishing market—has become, a year later, a war chest valued at close to
$2 billion, accounting for over 20% of the international publishing pie. Such momentum continues to endow Hipgnosis with the power to acquire a vast number of significant hit-rich catalogs, adding songs owned by such songwriters as Neil Young, Lindsey Buckingham, Richie Sambora, Nikki Sixx, Blondie, Barry Manilow, Chrissie Hynde, RedOne, Rodney “Dark Child” Jerkins, Mark Ronson, Benny Blanco and Tricky Stewart—all major names in the realm of iconic songwriting—to the already purchased catalogs of such major players as The Dream, Poo Bear (Jason Boyd), and Nile Rodgers & CHIC.
On November 2, 2020, Hipgnosis acquired 42 catalogues from Kobalt Music Group, comprising
1,500 songwriters and 33,000 songs, for $322.9 million. The acquired catalogues had been
owned by Kobalt Capital’s first fund, including Nettwerk, 50 Cent, Skrillex, The B-52s, Enrique
Iglesias, and Steve Winwood. Kobalt, which is already Hipgnosis’ main publishing administrator,
will continue to represent these catalogues. Additionally, in January, 2021, Hipgnosis added
catalogues from Jimmy Iovine, Lindsey Buckingham and Neil Young.
It was noted in a recent Sunday New York Times profile, “Mercuriadis sees his deals as a
recognition of the great value of songwriters’ work and a source of empowerment for them…”
Mercuriadis adds a clear message to those who create music of enduring meaning and worth, and wish to maintain that value.
“At the end of the day [when buying catalogs] you have to
demonstrate to songwriters, artists, and producers that you are the right pair of hands for them
to put their children in. That’s not something you can do if you’ve never spent time – both good
times and bad times – dealing with great artists, songwriters and producers in helping them
achieve their dreams.”