Sting sells song catalog to Universal for $300m+

Legendary artist and songwriter Sting has sold his entire song catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG).

Announced today (February 10), UMPG says that it has struck an “historic, comprehensive worldwide agreement for the catalog of one of the most commercially successful and critically-acclaimed songwriters of the last half-century”.

The catalog features the entirety of both Sting’s solo works, as well as those with The Police, including mega hits like Roxanne, Every Breath You Take, Shape Of My Heart, If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, Fields Of Gold, Desert Rose, Message in a Bottle, Englishman in New York and Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.

The price of the deal wasn’t disclosed by UMPG, but one expert industry source tells MBW the final acquisition fee reached north of $300 million.

Universal Music Group has been Sting’s label home for his entire career, through A&M, Interscope and Cherrytree Records, which means that Sting’s deal with UMPG sees him unite his song catalog with his recorded music catalog under UMG.

Together, UMPG and UMG say that they will work with Sting “to further build and expand his vast audience reach, strengthen the impact and influence of his timeless works, and continue supporting future music releases”.

UMPG’s deal for Sting’s song catalog marks the latest big-money catalog acquisition by one of the three major music companies, a trend that started back in December 2020, when Universal acquired the publishing rights to Bob Dylan’s songwriting catalog in one of the biggest acquisitions in UMG’s history.

Three months later, in March 2021, Paul Simon sold his song catalog to Sony Music Publishing (SMP).

SMP also became the home of Bruce Springsteen’s song catalog nine months after that, in December 2021, when Sony Music Group acquired two sets of rights – both recordings and music publishing – covering the entirety of Springsteen’s catalog, in a deal worth around $550 million.

This trend continued last month (January 2022), with Warner Music Group snapping up David Bowie’s song catalog for over $250 million, and Sony Music Entertainment acquiring Bob Dylan’s catalog of recorded music in a deal sources suggest was worth north of $150 million.

The three majors also have other competition of course, in the form of various acquisitive players with deep war chests operating within the music rights acquisitions market, including the likes of Primary Wave, Hipgnosis, KKR, and recently Iconoclast. MBW estimates that at least $5 billion was spent on music rights acquisitions in 2021.

British-born composer, singer-songwriter, actor, author, and activist Sting has sold more than 100 million albums throughout his career.

As co-founder, frontman and bassist of The Police, alongside Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers, Sting became one of the world’s best-selling artists.

The Police released five studio albums between 1978 – 1983, earning six Grammy Awards and two Brit Awards. The band were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

Sting, managed by Martin Kierszenbaum/Cherrytree Music Company, is described by UMPG as “one of the world’s most distinctive, prolific and acclaimed solo artists”, having released 15 studio albums between 1985’s debut The Dream of Blue Turtles and his most recent, The Bridge, released in November 2021.

Sting’s albums include UK No.1s …Nothing Like the Sun, The Soul Cages, Ten Summoner’s Tales, Mercury Falling, Sacred Love, Brand New Day, and more.

Sting has received an additional 11 Grammy Awards for his solo works, three further Brit Awards including the prestigious Outstanding Contribution to Music Award in 2003, a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award.

He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002 and presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2000.

“It is absolutely essential to me that my career’s body of work have a home where it is valued and respected – not only to connect with longtime fans in new ways but also to introduce my songs to new audiences, musicians and generations.”

Sting

Sting said: “I am delighted to have Jody and the team at UMPG curate and manage my song catalog.

“It is absolutely essential to me that my career’s body of work have a home where it is valued and respected – not only to connect with longtime fans in new ways but also to introduce my songs to new audiences, musicians and generations.

“Throughout my career, I have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with UMG as my label partner, under the watchful guidance of Lucian, so it felt natural to unite everything in one trusted home, as I return to the studio, ready for the next chapter.”

“Every one of us at UMPG looks forward to this work with a sense of honor, responsibility and enormous excitement about what we can achieve for his music in the future.”

Jody Gerson, Universal Music Publishing Group

Jody Gerson, Chairman & CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group added: “So many memories from my youth are tied to the great songs written by Sting — whether it was first seeing the Police perform in Philadelphia or hearing his music on the radio or playing those albums until I wore them out.

“I could never have imagined that someday I would get to lead a company that will be the guardian of Sting’s remarkable songwriting legacy.

“Every one of us at UMPG looks forward to this work with a sense of honor, responsibility and enormous excitement about what we can achieve for his music in the future.”

“Sting is a songwriting genius whose music permeates global culture.”

Sir Lucian Grainge, Universal Music Group

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman & CEO, Universal Music Group, said: “I’ve had the privilege to work with Sting for over 20 years and I’m so thrilled to expand our relationship to now include music publishing.

“Sting is a songwriting genius whose music permeates global culture. We are honored that by choosing UMPG for his music publishing, Sting’s entire body of work as a songwriter and recording artist — from the Police to his solo work — will all be within the UMG family.

“It’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly as well as a great validation of what we have built for artists at UMG.”


Beyond his own success, Sting’s songs have been sampled to shape global hits. In 2018, Sting’s Shape Of My Heart was used in Juice WRLD’s Lucid Dreams, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has since received more than 1.8 billion streams on Spotify.

In 1997, The Police’s Every Breath You Take was sampled by Diddy in I’ll Be Missing You featuring Faith Evans and 112, and received the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

The song spent 11 weeks atop the US Billboard Hot 100 and reached No.1 in 15 other countries.

Sting’s works have also been sampled by artists including Nas, The Roots, 2Pac, RZA, Kygo & Avicii, Black Eyed Peas, Craig David, French Montana, Talib Kweli, Fugees and Cam’ron.

Additionally, his songs have been covered by artists including George Michael, Johnny Cash, Herbie Hancock, Isaac Hayes, Eva Cassidy, Violet Femmes, Gloria Gaynor, Shirley Bassey and Fall Out Boy, amongst others.

In 2003, he was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his myriad of contributions to music and appointed Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2007.

He has received the Kennedy Center Honors, The American Music Award of Merit and The Polar Music Prize. Sting has been awarded Honorary Doctorates of Music by the University of Northumbria (1992), Berklee College of Music (1994), University of Newcastle upon Tyne (2006) and Brown University at its 250th Commencement ceremony (2018).

Sting has appeared in more than 15 films, executive produced the critically acclaimed A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and in 1989 starred in The Threepenny Opera on Broadway.

His most recent theatre project is the Tony-nominated musical The Last Ship, inspired by his memories of the shipbuilding community of Wallsend in the northeast of England where he was born and raised.

The show, with music and lyrics by Sting, ran on Broadway in 2014/2015 and completed a UK regional theatre tour which ran from March-July 2018. Thereafter, Sting starred as shipyard foreman Jackie White in the Toronto-based production of The Last Ship at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

In 2020, he reprised the role for productions in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre and San Francisco at the Golden Gate Theatre.

Sting will resume his “My Songs” world tour next month followed by his Las Vegas residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in June 2022.

He was represented in the transaction by Allen Grubman with his partners Joe Brenner and Stuart Prager.

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