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Neil Young, the Incidental (?) Prophet of Pfizer
Half of his catalogue is owned by an investment fund with ties to BlackStone.
This is a quick story that I didn’t really plan on writing—but it’s just too funny, and I cannot resist. But before that, I want to thank you all for being so wonderful. You really are, and it fills my heart with all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings. It’s true that the insanity of the moment brought the best out of us.
So, Neil Young. You know how he recently demanded that Spotify should deplatform Joe Rogan over “misinformation”?
Very disappointing for a rebellious artist, without a doubt… but there could be more to the story.
#1. In early 2021, Neil Young sold half his catalogue to an investment fund called “Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited.”
Neil Young has sold 50 percent of the worldwide copyright and income interests in his 1,180 song catalogue to Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited, the U.K. investment firm founded by manager-turned-investor Merck Mercuriadis. The move comes days after Hipgnosis, which has spent the last year snapping up music catalogs left and right, announced it had acquired 100% of Lindsey Buckingham’s publishings rights as well as Jimmy Iovine’s producing royalties.
An intellectual integrity disclaimer: Without looking at Neil Young’s actual contract with Hipghosis Songs, we cannot determine his exact financial relationship with Hipgnosis—and to which extent he does or does not financially benefit from the successes of the investment fund. Also the benefits could be intangible, as in, they now own 100% of publishing rights for half of his catalogue, and they could be including him in whatever promotional efforts they do, which would benefit the sales of his entire catalogue, not just their half. All we honestly know is that he has a commercial relationship with them.
#2. Okay so what about this not very subtly named investment fund?
Yahoo! Finance does not seem to list the institutional holders for Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited (they only list their mutual fund investors)—but Wikipedia to rescue!
In October 2021 The Blackstone Group, an alternative investment management company, announced that it would partner with Mercuriadis to invest $1bn US to acquire song catalogues and music rights. It also announced that Blackstone would take an ownership stake in Hipgnosis Song Management.
#3. Meet Pfizer:
Which, now, makes me wonder…. I used to think that the strange transformation of “rebellious artists” that started during the previous election cycle, was purely a result of the artificially created nervous breakdown (“TRUMP!!!!!”), peer pressure, and a misguided but sincere sense of justice. And it could still be the case for many—but it seems like at least in the case of Neil Young, money could also be involved in determining his position… Either that or his sense of morality just naturally aligns with Big Pharma!
A note to avoid confusion: BlackStone and BlackRock are different companies but they are very interwoven, seemingly by design. Here is the official story:
And here is a list of top BlackStone institutional shareholders. See BlackRock lurking out there (just like that white concert grand piano lurking in the bushes, from the Russian joke about coincidences that I mentioned earlier)??
UPDATE: On a side note stocks held by BlackRock
And here’s this entire story in one tweet:
I would like to add that to be fair to reality, Spotify is no beacon of freedom. In terms of how they treat artists, they are more or less satan, and if you look at who owns them, you’ll see all the familiar faces. So, this is all rather cynical.
By the way, for the sake of philosophical honesty, I believe that human beings are pretty temptable, and having a financial interest in a corrupt entity does change one’s sincere emotional bias. Which is to say that Neil Young might be very sincere, having sincerely convinced himself that his push for censorship is somehow virtuous. Human psyche is funny like that!
To counter the cynicism of this story and to finish it on an inspiring note, here is a video of my compatriot in Canada, talking about the truckers, the sanctity of freedom, and the lying media. She is pretty blunt. :)
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