Justin Bieber has sold everything. All of it! “Baby”? “What Do You Mean?”? “Sorry”? Gone! 

The private-equity-backed Hipgnosis Song Management bought Bieber’s entire music catalog, meaning publishing rights and his masters, for a lot of money presumably (Universal Music Group has retained the recorded-music copyright). Neither side will confirm how much, but the catalog is grade A, pure American-by-way-of-Canada pop. The estimate is just above $200 million, per Billboard. 

Catalog sales seem to attract musicians at the end of their careers, ones who can look back on their body of work and say, sure, use those songs in car commercials, or whatever. If you need me for anything, I’ll be at my seventh home enjoying my beautiful life. People like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks, Paul Simon, the Beach Boys, Neil Young, who have sold their catalogs, or large portions of them. They have a proven legacy to cash out on. 

I’ve long maintained that Justin Bieber, who was discovered on YouTube by his manager, Scooter Braun, when he was barely a teenager, has already lived several lives. He was up, he was down, he was up again. He peed in that bucket. There was the thing with the monkey. He got Lyme disease and has had a couple wedding ceremonies (to one person—Hailey Bieber). This guy has really lived. Technically, Bieber is two years shy of 30, but he’s a wildly famous pop star. In regular human years, he’s 87. And by that logic, this catalog sale is right on time. 

There’s probably a reason based more firmly in reality, or at least market trends. These catalog sales have ramped up in the last half-decade or so. The sales from legacy musicians get a ton of headlines, but Hipgnosis and Vine Alternative Investments have snapped up the catalogs of younger musicians like Shakira and Calvin Harris, respectively. Hipgnosis also has Barry Manilow and the other Justin, Justin Timberlake. 

When Hipgnosis acquired his catalog last year, Timberlake, 41, was considered on the younger side of a catalog sale; The Wall Street Journal speculated that an artist in their late 30s or early 40s might go for the sale in order to capitalize on the hot market, which was driven by private equities’ newfound interest in music rights. That interest itself might have been driven by that warm feeling of good music during the hardest pandemic years, and also companies like Spotify, which have provided new avenues for the tippy-top of successful musicians to make money. Also, Hipgnosis’s founder, Merck Mercuriadis, has been clear about wanting to turn the artist catalog into an asset class of its own, which in part requires the public airing of big numbers for big names. 

What Bieber, Timberlake, and the others are getting, besides an enormous paycheck, is also a booster for their music. It’s Hipgnosis’s job to seek out partnerships and new sales avenues, or to phrase it differently, it’s Hipgnosis’s job to burnish their music legacies. 

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