The Man Who Spent $1 Billion on Old Hits — Merck Mercuriadis

Music lovers hardly ever think about who owns their favorite song; they only care that they love it. But, did you know that Beyonce’s Single Ladies, Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack, and Rihanna’s Umbrella are all co-owned by none other than the Church of England? Yep, the church is one of the many investors in Hipgnosis, a company that has been buying the rights to hundreds and thousands of hit songs over the last few years. Its founder, Merck Mercuriadis, says that music is “more valuable than gold.”

Merck Mecuriadis 17-10-2018 Abbey Road LondonMerck Mercuriadis: “Music Is Always Generating Income”

When asked about his venture with Hipgnosis, Merck Mercuriadis said that music is always generating income and is a reliable investment to make because it doesn’t depend on fluctuations in the economy. What is more, as a result of the pandemic, streaming royalties have increased in the last year, which proves Merck’s point. An estimated 88 million people in the US alone have active subscriptions to streaming services, which is more than 25% of the total population. That’s a lot of people and a lot of money.

Streaming Services Changed Everything

Merck began his career working for Virgin Records in the 1980s until he became the CEO of Sanctuary Group and managed the careers of legends like Iron Maiden, Guns N’ Roses, Elton John, and even Beyoncé. He first got the idea for Hipgnosis in 2009 when streaming giant Spotify was launched in the UK. Mercuriadis was quick to realize how streaming services were changing the landscape.

Beyonce and Jay-Z in concert, 'On The Run II Tour', Cologne, Germany - 03 Jul 2018Unlike most music companies, Hipgnosis doesn’t aim to find “the next big thing,” but rather invest in timeless music. In fact, over 30% of their portfolio is made up of songs that are over ten years old, and less than 10% features newer releases. To Merck Mercuriadis, the songs he’s acquired through Hipgnosis are “the energy that makes the world go round.” He sure has a point.