Pink Floyd’s $500 Million Catalog Sale Is ‘Basically Dead’ — Or Is It?
Pink Floyd’s proposed $500 million sale of the rights to their iconic five-decade, multiplatinum recorded-music catalog is “basically dead” because the surviving band members “just can’t get along,” four sources close to the situation tell Variety — however, sources close to the band insist that it’s not.
“You could say the deal is no longer ‘active,’” one of the four sources says. “But at the same time, it’s still on the table. It’s a strange situation!”
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It’s par for the course with this long-running and contentious proposed deal, which sees Roger Waters and David Gilmour, the two long-feuding principals of one of the most critically and financially successful acts of the rock era, taking public potshots at each other while simultaneously trying to find enough common ground to close a deal sources say could reach a half-billion dollars.
Complicating matters further, Waters has been arguably lowering the value of the catalog by making repeated shocking statements about Israel, Ukraine and other political matters. His comments have been so strident that a concert in Germany on his ongoing “This Is Not a Drill” tour was recently canceled due to “the persistent anti-Israel behavior of the former Pink Floyd frontman, who is considered one of the most widely spread anti-Semites in the world,” according to a Google translation of a statement from the city of Frankfurt.
Among many other incendiary statements, Waters has compared Israel to Nazi Germany and said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “not unprovoked.” (Waters’ concerts in Poland last fall were canceled over his comments about neighboring Ukraine.) “You are anti-Semitic to your rotten core,” Gilmour’s wife, novelist Polly Samson, told Waters on Twitter, amid other colorful comments; “Every word demonstrably true,” Gilmour added. Waters refuted their comments as “incendiary and wildly inaccurate.”
While representatives for the long-running British group have never officially said the catalog was up for sale, multiple parties, including Financial Times, confirmed that the band members were seeking as much as $500 million for the recorded-music catalog and other assets. However, a variety of factors — including rising interest rates, tax issues, the sinking value of the British pound and not least Waters’ comments — have slowed down the process.
But ultimately, sources say that the inability of the principals — which also include drummer Nick Mason and the estates of keyboardist Richard Wright and original singer-songwriter Syd Barrett — to work together has been the primary impediment to closing a deal that was moving ahead at speed last fall but has been stalled for several months.
“It’s not just that it’s personal — those things extend to business,” another source tells Variety. “There were certain [long-term band associates] that one member felt were too close to another member, so they’d have to spend weeks finding someone else they could all agree on, situations like that.”
Caught in the middle is Mason, who said in 2018, “It’s really disappointing these rather elderly gentlemen are still at loggerheads.”
Reps for the group did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.
The members of Pink Floyd, which first formed in 1965, always have had fractious personal relations, even as they became one of the most commercially successful rock acts in history. The group initially split in 1983 after Waters increasingly became the band’s dominant songwriter over the preceding decade (Wright had left a couple of years earlier). In the mid-‘80s Gilmour reunited the band under the Pink Floyd name without Waters, toured stadiums and released several albums, while Waters pursued a solo career and played considerably smaller venues.
Over the decades the bandmembers have argued about virtually everything, often publicly. The recent release of a remastered edition of the group’s 1977 album “Animals” was held up for months over disagreements regarding Waters’ liner notes, which he eventually published on his website with a snarky note about the other members. And two different 50th anniversary editions of their epochal 1973 album “Dark Side of the Moon” are on the way: a remastered version from the band’s camp, and a newly recorded one from Waters that did not include his erstwhile bandmates. (Waters told the Telegraph last month, “I wrote ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ Let’s get rid of all this ‘we’ crap! Of course we were a band, there were four of us, we all contributed – but it’s my project and I wrote it.” However, he is the sole credited writer on just three of the album’s 10 songs, which may complicate plans to release his new version.)
Yet the band was always savvy about the value of the catalog and far-sighted about its ownership: On a purely business level, the Pink Floyd recorded-music catalog, not to mention its merchandising rights, is one of the most valuable in contemporary music; it also includes classic albums like “The Wall,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Meddle,” “Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” “More” and more. (Song publishing is not included in the prospective Pink Floyd deal.) And after the sales of catalogs by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen — both for a total of around $600 million — Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, James Brown (all around the low nine figures) and many others, it is one of the most lucrative and desirable known to be on the market.
Although the group participated in the boxed-set mania of the 1990s, they held back most of the vast amount of archival material in their vaults until they acquired the rights to the catalog (presumably in a contract renegotiation), and in 2016 began a lavish reissue campaign that includes dozens of unreleased songs, alternate versions, live recordings and videos. The first of these, “The Early Years 1965-1972,” was released in 2016 in formats ranging from a 2-CD set to a gargantuan 33-disc, $699 deluxe edition. Although many expected the next set to feature the band’s commercial peak years of 1973-80 — which include “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Animals” and “The Wall” — instead the group released a collection of less-popular material from the ‘90s. Why? Because the catalog is much more valuable with that peak-era material still in the vault, which would enable the buyer to release it; even the forthcoming “Dark Side” anniversary reissue contains no previously unreleased material.
However, Waters’ recent remarks gave pause to some prospective buyers — which FT said include Sony Music, Warner Music, BMG, Primary Wave and Blackstone-backed Hipgnosis Songs Capital — and arguably have had a negative impact on the value of the catalog. At least one potential buyer is known to have pulled out because of them.
Of course, it’s possible that the band members, all of whom are in their late 70s, and their advisers have decided to bide their time for a while longer, let the tempest around Waters’ comments subside, and try again in a couple of years. After all, they’ve waited this long.
“It’s one of the most valuable music catalogs of the past 50 years,” one source concluded. “Will it be worth as much in two or five years — or worth even more? Sure. They can afford to wait.”
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