Lockdown surge in streaming boosts music fund
When housebound music fans liven up their coronavirus lockdown by streaming hits from Lady Gaga’s “Shallow” to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” an investment firm in Guernsey is counting the cash.
Hipgnosis Songs Fund Ltd., which owns the rights to thousands of pop hits, saw streaming revenue soar by 51% in the 12 months through March. That growth has continued since, with people around the world stuck at home as governments restrict movement and gatherings to slow the virus outbreak. Income from concerts is down, but digital sales have more than made up the difference, according to Merck Mercuriadis, the firm’s founder.
“The growth in streaming has offset the slight hit that we take in public performance,” Mercuriadis, who once managed stars including Elton John, said by phone on Wednesday. Whether people are celebrating or “taking comfort and escaping with music, music is always being consumed and the revenues are uncorrelated to what is happening in the market.”
Shares in Hipgnosis jumped as much as 9.4% on Wednesday, touching a record 116.5 pence.
Music video streaming through sites such as Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube has surged during the pandemic. Streaming in the U.S. was up 12.5% compared with the average in the first week of May, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. Spotify Technology SA, the world’s largest music-streaming service, added 15 million monthly active users in the first three months of the year, bringing the total to 286 million.
All that streaming income is good news for investors. While many U.K. companies have delayed or reduced dividends as the country heads into an unprecedented recession, Hipgnosis maintained its full-year target of 5 pence per share, which is fully covered by earnings.
During the lockdown, Hipgnosis has banked on the appeal of “feel-good hits” such as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Thinking of You” by Sister Sledge, according to Wednesday’s trading update. It owns the rights to more than 13,000 songs in a portfolio valued at 757 million pounds ($953 million). And it’s still expanding, with some artists keen to sell as revenue from live performances is hit by social distancing measures.
“There’s no question that our pipeline, that was already pretty massive, has grown through the pandemic,” Mercuriadis said. “A lot of artists are going to not be able to tour for the next couple of years.”