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‘Record companies have me on a dartboard’: the man making millions buying classic hits

‘Record companies have me on a dartboard’: the man making millions buying classic hits

Hit songs can be a better investment than gold – and by snapping up the rights, Merck Mercuriadis has become the most disruptive force in music

Merck Mercuriadis had a good Christmas. On Christmas Day, the No 1 song in the UK was LadBaby’s Don’t Stop Me Eatin’, a novelty cover version of Journey’s 1981 soft-rock anthem Don’t Stop Believin’. It replaced Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You, which had topped the chart 26 years after its original release. Both songs are unkillable, evergreen hits, which are closing in on 1 billion Spotify streams apiece. Both songs are among the 61,000 owned, in whole or in part, by Mercuriadis’s investment company, Hipgnosis Songs Fund, and epitomise the thesis that has made the 57-year-old Canadian, in less than three years, the most disruptive force in the music business.

Put simply, Hipgnosis raises money from investors and spends it on acquiring the intellectual property rights to popular songs by people like Mark Ronson, Timbaland, Barry Manilow and Blondie. In a fast-growing market, what sets Hipgnosis apart from competitors is its founder’s bona fides as a veteran A&R man, manager and record label CEO. Like an old-school music mogul, Mercuriadis sells his brand by selling himself. Unlike those moguls, he’s a buff, teetotal vegan with spartan tastes. “The only material thing that I really care about is vinyl,” he says. “And Arsenal football club.” He looks rather like a rock-concert security guard: shaven head, burly torso, plain black T-shirt, hawkish gaze. Mark Ronson calls him “the smartest guy in the room”.

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