Lately, white male arena-rock artists have really been cashing in on their back catalogs as they approach retirement age. But in a surprising pivot, Warner Music Group, the third-largest record label, has partnered with BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, on a new $750 million fund that will promote specifically female and diverse musicians.
Rather than buying the rights to whomever comes next—after Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Sting, David Bowie, Aerosmith, Neil Young, Paul Simon, Motley Crue, and the Beach Boys—the two companies say they will focus on pursuing younger “modern evergreen” music by joining forces with Influence Media, a music investment and management firm, run by industry heavyweights Lylette Pizarro and Lynn Hazan.
The fund has already spent $300 million on some 20 different catalogs that have over 20 billion lifetime streams. Among them is the work of songwriter Tainy (who’s worked with Bad Bunny, reggaeton artist J Balvin, and Cardi B), the Stereotypes (who cowrote several Bruno Mars hits), Jessie Reyez (who’s penned songs for Dua Lipa and Sam Smith), and Skyler Stonestreet (who’s helped Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande). These artists will reportedly also retain stakes in their catalogs, and have a hand in promoting and marketing their music alongside their new investors.
Influence founder Pizarro says the data show listenership is evolving to where it’s not just old white dudes’ songs that have broad appeal anymore. “What we’re seeing now is newer titles behaving differently than they have historically,” she tells the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news. As an example of where this is happening, she points to video games—an industry that grew bigger than movies and sporting events combined during the pandemic—and other nontraditional avenues, like fitness apps that are better suited for “modern evergreen.” There’s real opportunity, she believes, if those industries are attracted to that genre, they own rights to the emerging artists’ work, and they can offer hundreds of songs from dozens of catalogs.
While BlackRock has invested in music before, it’s traditionally been what you would expect from a money manager that handles pension funds: the established catalogs of legacy artists. However, as Pam Chan, chief investment officer and global head of the alternative solutions group at BlackRock, tells the Journal today: “The notion of modern evergreen seems like a natural evolution from how we’ve been investing in older music previously.”