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Queen Catalog to Be Acquired by Sony Music for £1 Billion

Queen Catalog to Be Acquired by Sony Music for £1 Billion

The Queen music catalog, along with a number of other rights, is in the process of being acquired by Sony Music for £1 billion (around $1.27 billion), two sources confirm to Variety. The news was first reported by Hits; according to their report, the only revenue not covered in the deal is for live performances, which founding members Brian May and Roger Taylor, who still actively tour with singer Adam Lambert, will retain.

One other player was said to be very close in the bidding, but stopped short at $900 million.

The catalog, which has been in play for several years and inching toward Sony for the past few months, is part of a complicated deal whereby the group’s recorded-music rights for the U.S. and Canada, which were acquired by Disney at some point in the 2000s after an initial $10 million licensing deal that was struck in 1991, will remain with Disney in perpetuity, although certain of the bandmembers’ remaining royalties will go to Sony once the deal closes. Similarly, the group’s distribution deal, which is currently with Universal, will go to Sony in all territories outside the U.S. and Canada when it expires in the next couple of years.

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Reps for Sony Music, Sony Music Publishing, Disney’s Hollywood Records and the group either declined or did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment. However, in Sony’s case, that is not surprising as the company rarely comments on catalog acquisitions and its nine-figure deals for Bruce Springsteen’s publishing and recorded-music rights, and Bob Dylan’s recorded-music rights, have never been officially confirmed but have become common knowledge in the industry.

Queen’s music catalog is among the most valuable of the rock era — with classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Radio Ga Ga,” “39,” “Somebody to Love” and “You’re My Best Friend” as well as the perennial stadium-shakers “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” the songs are globally popular and enormously lucrative. The success of the 2018 biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” shows the potential for the group’s name and likeness rights, and the likelihood of a jukebox musical that could open in London or on Broadway and then tour indefinitely.

Queen originally formed in London in 1970 by May and Taylor — who previously played together in a group called Smile — joined by Freddie Mercury on vocals and piano and, the following year, John Deacon on bass. Multiple record labels initially passed on the group before the group struck a deal with EMI, releasing their self-titled first album, which included the May-penned hit “Keep Yourself Alive.”

While the group scored U.K. hits over the next couple of years with the singles “Seven Seas of Rhye” and “Killer Queen,” their global breakthrough came in 1975 with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a Mercury-penned mini-symphony that has become of the longest and most unusual hit singles of all time.

The group soon became one of the biggest in the world, with each member penning a No. 1 single over the following decade: Along with Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” there was May’s “We Will Rock You” in 1977, Deacon’s “Another One Bites the Dust” in 1980 and Taylor’s “Radio Ga Ga” in 1984. Although they never quite dominated the U.S. on the scale of other territories, the group played stadiums all over the world and for several years held the all-time attendance record for a single concert with their 1985 performance at the Rock in Rio Festival in Brazil. Yet Mercury was afflicted with AIDS and died of complications from the disease in 1991.

QUeen’s legacy has not only endured but grown over the years, with its songs still receiving extensive airplay on the radio and at sporting events — “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” are stadium staples — as May and Taylor, now in their mid-seventies, continue to tour under the group’s name.

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