Special Report

The Most Valuable Song Catalogs

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

This year, Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and record producer Justin Timberlake agreed to sell his music catalog to Hipgnosis Song Management, a U.K.-based business backed by Stephen Schwarzman’s private-equity behemoth Blackstone.

The deal includes copyrights to about 200 songs written or co-written by the former boy-band pinup, including hits like “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and “Mirrors.” The deal was estimated to be worth about $100 million, according to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal. (Timberlake is a prime example of solo artists who were more successful than their bands.)

The Timberlake deal is part of a trend in highly successful recording artists, estates of deceased stars, or recording companies giving up their intellectual property rights for enormous payouts. These so-called publishing acquisitions have always been around, but they’ve gained popularity thanks to music-streaming subscription services and new technologies that make it easier and less costly to collect royalties globally, according to Billboard Insights. (These are the artists with the most No. 1 hits.)

To determine the most valuable song catalogs, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on song catalog sales and valuations from Variety, Billboard, Forbes, and other sources. Songbooks were ranked based on the published purchase value of a disclosed songbook sale, the estimated value of an undisclosed songbook sale, or the current valuation of a songbook from an industry source. Only songbooks with available value estimates were included.

And some of these deals involve serious amounts of cash. In fact, Timberlake’s $100 million deal is only within the median of the top 35 most expensive music catalogs ever sold. Artists including New Orleans-born rapper Lil Wayne, Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, and Las Vegas pop rockers Imagine Dragons have all sold their catalogs for around the same price. 

Click here to see the most valuable song catalogs

The catalogs of Barry Manilow, Mötley Crüe, and Prince, sold for more than $100 million, while the music of Bob Marely, James Brown, and Tina Turner sold for less.  

Other deals have ranged from $25 million for the music rights belonging to Robbie Robertson, the 78-year-old former guitarist and songwriter for The Band, to a half-billion dollars for the songbooks of Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon and Paul McCarthey. Seven of the deals on this list closed at $300 million or higher.

Source: Evening Standard / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

25. James Brown
> Est. songbook value: $90 million

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Source: Joe Scarnici / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

24. Lil Wayne (Young Money label)
> Est. songbook value: $100 million

Source: Adam Bettcher / Getty Images for iHeartMedia

23. Calvin Harris
> Est. songbook value: $100 million

Source: Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

22. Justin Timberlake
> Est. songbook value: $100 million

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Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

21. Luis Fonsi
> Est. songbook value: $100 million

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

20. David Guetta
> Est. songbook value: $100 million

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Source: David Becker / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

19. Imagine Dragons
> Est. songbook value: $100 million

Source: Fin Costello / Redferns via Getty Images

18. Stevie Nicks
> Est. songbook value: $100 million

Source: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

17. Barry Manilow
> Est. songbook value: $139 million

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Source: Scott Gries / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

16. Red Hot Chili Peppers
> Est. songbook value: $140 million

Source: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

15. Neil Diamond
> Est. songbook value: $145 million

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Source: Matt Kincaid / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

14. Neil Young
> Est. songbook value: $150 million

Source: Clive Limpkin / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

13. The Beach Boys
> Est. songbook value: $150 million

Source: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

12. Mötley Crüe
> Est. songbook value: $150 million

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Source: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

11. Prince
> Est. songbook value: $156 million

Source: Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

10. Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic)
> Est. songbook value: $200 million

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

9. David Bowie
> Est. songbook value: $250 million

Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

8. Paul Simon
> Est. songbook value: $250 million

Source: Emma McIntyre / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

7. Taylor Swift
> Est. songbook value: $300 million

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Source: Andrew Toth / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

6. Sting
> Est. songbook value: $300 million

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

5. Bob Dylan
> Est. songbook value: $325 million

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
> Est. songbook value: $350 million

Source: Phil Walter / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

3. Michael Jackson
> Est. songbook value: $375 million

Source: Jamie Squire / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

2. Bruce Springsteen
> Est. songbook value: $500 million

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Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

1. John Lennon and Paul McCartney
> Est. songbook value: $500 million

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