Investors hungry for the back catalogues of ageing rock stars have sustained the fortunes of some of the UK’s wealthiest musicians through a year without gigs and tours.
The former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney was the only musician who ranked among the UK’s 250 wealthiest people, with an £820m fortune, according to the Sunday Times rich list, after Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer of hits such as The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, suffered a drop in his net worth as the pandemic forced theatres to shut.
Lloyd-Webber’s fortune slumped in value by £275m to £525m during the year as his seven London theatres remained closed for months, and he pushed back the opening of a new musical, Cinderella, until June.
However, the net worth of many other famous musicians increased – even as income from live performances dried up during lockdowns – thanks to billions of pounds of investor money targeting lucrative back catalogues.
Calvin Harris, the Scottish DJ and producer, enjoyed the biggest increase in his net worth of any musician during the year, up £40m to £220m. That came after he signed a deal worth £76m with Vine Alternative Investments, a New York private equity group, for rights to his music.
The rise of streaming – and the earning power of perennial classics for long-term investors – has prompted a flurry of similar deals as musicians cash in. Non-UK artists who have signed away rights include the Fleetwood Mac stars Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks, Shakira, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan, who earned a reported $300m (£212m) for his back catalogue.
The revaluation of musicians’ earning power has stretched from ageing rockers like Sir Elton John, Sir Mick Jagger and the members of U2 to newer artists such as Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles. Sheeran was named the wealthiest younger musician, with a net worth of £220m, up £20m despite his inability to tour.
The wealthiest female artist was Adele, with a £130m fortune. However, it was estimated that her net worth fell by £20m after her recent divorce.