Music Mogul Buys Beach Boys Songs, Calling Band ‘Underappreciated’

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Music mogul Irving Azoff sees the Beach Boys as an undervalued gem and thinks he can make the band cool again, profiting along the way. 

Azoff, manager of the Eagles and Jon Bon Jovi, has acquired a majority interest in the band’s music, as well as an archive of photos, videos and interviews — the latest in a flurry of deals involving classic rockers. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but the total value of the assets is $100 million to $200 million, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Formed in Southern California in 1961, the Beach Boys were one of the first great U.S. pop-rock bands and became synonymous with surf culture in the 1960s. But the group hasn’t held on to its cultural status like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones or even Queen. 

Music Mogul Buys Beach Boys Songs, Calling Band ‘Underappreciated’

“We think the Beach Boys is an underappreciated trademark,” Azoff said in an interview. “They are just not as important as they could and should be.”

The Beach Boys join a growing throng of artists who have cashed out of their catalogs in recent months, taking advantage of a hot market for music rights.

But this deal is different from those made by Neil Young or Bob Dylan — whose songs fetched as much as $300 million — in that the band is giving Azoff’s company, Iconic, control over everything from their social-media accounts to their names, likenesses and life stories. He will be the steward of the Beach Boys, overseeing their work even after the remaining members die.

There’s plenty of potential. The group’s music still ranks high on critics’ all-time lists, and Rolling Stone recently declared their 1966 studio release “Pet Sounds” as the second-greatest album of all time, behind Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”

Azoff blames decades of friction and division among members of the group for their fall from rock’s Mount Rushmore. Those troubles prevented them from coordinating on projects that could catalyze interest, like documentaries and music rereleases.

Mike Love has feuded with former bandmates Brian Wilson and Al Jardine over the years, fighting Wilson for credit on songs and suing Jardine for touring under the Beach Boys name. Love has held the license to use the Beach Boys’ brand for concerts. The group reunited in 2012 for a tour and album pegged to their 50th anniversary.

The band has been approached several times about selling their interest in Brother Records, which is co-owned by Love, Jardine, Brian Wilson, and the two sons of Wilson’s late brother Carl, Justyn and Jonah. But they held out until a conversation with Azoff and his team, whom they saw as true music fans who would act in the band’s interest and not just for financial gain.

The goal is “to bring the Beach Boys’ music and the depth of their catalog to the new generations,” said Justyn Wilson. “The music has been around for nearly 60 years, and there are generations of people who have yet to discover the depth.”

Many of the other companies now buying catalogs don’t have the infrastructure to properly exploit so much material. They are financial institutions or funds without much background in music licensing or Hollywood.

Iconic doesn’t have the money to buy up every artist, so Azoff and top deputies Susan Genco and Beth Collins are going to cherry-pick a handful of big acts from Southern California that started between about 1950 and 1990. They are in talks with Linda Ronstadt and David Crosby about similar deals.

Iconic is developing a business plan right now for the Beach Boys’ anniversary in 2022, which will include a channel on SiriusXM and the use of old interviews that have never been seen.

“The Beach Boys want to monetize their life work, but are also concerned about legacy preservation,” Genco said. “We’re building a company that brings all the rights together. We have a company that is able to carry on that legacy.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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