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David Bowie’s estate sells his ‘entire’ songwriting catalogue to Warner Music

The estate of singer David Bowie, pictured at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1983, sold the publishing rights to his “entire body of work” to Warner Chappell Music. (Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images)
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In the latest instance of an industry giant acquiring the rights to a major artist’s body of work, David Bowie’s estate sold his songwriting catalogue to Warner Music Group. The deal, announced Monday by Warner Chappell Music, Warner’s music publishing subsidiary, includes hits such as “Space Oddity,” “Life on Mars?” and “Ziggy Stardust.”

“These are not only extraordinary songs, but milestones that have changed the course of modern music forever,” Guy Moot, co-chair and chief executive of Warner Chappell, said in a news release. “Bowie’s vision and creative genius drove him to push the envelope, lyrically and musically — writing songs that challenged convention, changed the conversation, and have become part of the canon of global culture.”

Bowie died of cancer in January 2016. The agreement encompasses the rights to 26 studio albums he put out while alive; the record “Toy,” which was released as part of a box set last year and whose stand-alone, deluxe version will be available Friday; and songs from soundtracks and other works. According to the release, because Warner had already licensed Bowie’s recorded music catalogue, the new deal marks the company’s complete acquisition of his work as both a songwriter and recorded performer.

“This isn’t merely a catalogue, but a living, breathing collection of timeless songs that are as powerful and resonant today as they were when they were first written,” said Carianne Marshall, Warner’s co-chair and chief operating officer.

Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan has sold the rights and royalties to more than 600 songs to Universal Music Publishing Group in a deal announced on Dec. 7. (Video: Reuters)

Several other artists have sold the rights to parts or all of their catalogues in recent years, including Stevie Nicks, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, the last of whom might have set a record with an estimated $550 million deal late last year. Variety reported that Bowie’s estate sold his catalogue for “a price upwards of $250 million.”

The sale coincides with the tail end of “Bowie 75,” a retail experience with pop-up locations in New York and London that Bowie’s estate launched in celebration of what would have been his 75th birthday this Saturday.

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