Bruce Springsteen has sold the master recordings and publishing rights for his life’s work to Sony for a reported $500m (£376m).
The deal gives Sony ownership of his 20 studio albums, including classics like Born To Run, The River and Born In The USA, according to multiple US reports.
A 20-time Grammy winner, Springsteen’s music generated about $15m in revenue last year.
His deal follows similar sales by Bob Dylan, Blondie and David Bowie.
Warner Music bought the worldwide rights to Bowie’s music in September, and Dylan sold his catalogue of more than 600 songs in December last year to Universal Music Group at a purchase price widely reported as $300m.
The deals provide immediate financial security to the artists and their estates, while the rights-holders hope to profit by building new revenue streams for the music via film and TV licensing, merchandise, cover versions and performance royalties.
At an investor relations meeting in May, Sony Music’s chief executive, Rob Stringer, said the company had spent $1.4bn in acquisitions over the previous six months. That included a multi-million dollar deal to obtain the rights to Paul Simon’s back catalogue.
Springsteen’s deal would be the most expensive so far, if the numbers reported by music industry bible Billboard are correct.
No public announcement has been made about the sale, and representatives for Sony and Springsteen did not immediately respond to queries from the BBC.
Springsteen is one of the most successful rock musicians of all time, and has recorded for Sony’s Columbia Records imprint for the duration of his career.
Born and raised in New Jersey, he once said he intended to make an album with words like Bob Dylan that sounded like Phil Spector where he sang like Roy Orbison.
It remains a neat encapsulation of his style, and a key to understanding his broad appeal – although he’s frequently, and successfully, experimented outside those constraints.
His reputation was cemented in 1974, when music critic Jon Landau reviewed one of his shows with The E Street Band in Boston.
“Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square theatre, I saw rock’n’roll past flash before my eyes,” Landau wrote. “And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.”
Springsteen’s commercial breakthrough came the following year, with the hit album Born To Run, trailed by its ambitious, wall-of-sound title track.
Greeted by rapturous reviews, it sold nine million copies and saw Springsteen achieve the rare feat of appearing on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazine in the same week.
One of the hardest-working entertainers in showbusiness, he built up a fearsome reputation for his sweat-drenched, hours-long concerts – and, somewhat unexpectedly, became one of the breakout stars of the MTV generation, with videos for songs like Hungry Heart and Dancing In The Dark on heavy rotation alongside hits by Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince.
His biggest hit was 1985’s Born In The USA, which sold 15 million copies in the US and 30 million worldwide.
After such huge success, he stepped away from his longtime companions, The E Street Band and subsequent albums varied in quality, while his marriage to actress Julianne Phillips ended in divorce after the star fell for his backing singer (and current wife) Patti Scialfa.
In the 1990s, he earned an Oscar for the theme song to the Tom Hanks’ Aids drama, Philadelphia; and a 1995 greatest hits album topped the charts, selling four million copies.
After reconvening the E Street Band at the turn of the millennium, Springsteen entered a creative hot-streak that has yet to fade – with highlights including 2002’s The Rising, a response to the terror attacks of 9/11, 2012’s politically-charged Wrecking Ball and 2019’s Western Stars, an homage to the 1970s-era golden age of the Laurel Canyon pop.
He was inducted to the Rock Hall of Fame in 1999, and played the Super Bowl Half-Time show 10 years later.
More recently, the 72-year-old has released his autobiography, also titled Born To Run, and staged a series of intimate, one-man Broadway shows looking back at his life and career.
His last album, Letter To You, was released in 2020; and this year, he made rare guest appearances on songs by The Killers and Bleachers.
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