I Want It All: Sony snaps up Queen back catalogue for over $1 billion

Freddie Mercury at the Queen concert at Wembley stadium during the Magic tour on July 11, 1986 in London
(Image credit: Getty Images/FG/Bauer-Griffin)

Sony Music has acquired the Queen back catalogue for a cool $1.27 billion.

Sony has closed the deal for the rights to use the band’s music, including merchandising and other business opportunities. The only aspect it does not cover is revenue from live performances - not surprising given Brian May and Roger Taylor are both active musicians and have toured a version of the band with Adam Lambert on vocals for over a decade.

According to Variety's sources, Sony beat off competition from another bidder, who stopped short at the asking price of $900 million. There’s no word on who this party was and Sony Music has so far declined to comment on the deal.

The deal is slightly complicated in that the band’s North American recorded music rights were acquired by Disney in the Noughties after an initial $10 million licensing deal that was struck in 1991. 

Those rights will remain with Disney in perpetuity, although some of the band’s remaining royalties from them will go to Sony once the deal closes. Similarly, the group’s distribution deal, which is currently with Universal, will transfer to Sony in all territories outside North America when that expires in a couple of years.

When it goes through it will be the largest back catalogue acquisition yet. A number of ‘classic’ artists have gone down this route. With Bruce Springsteen selling his back catalogue to Sony for $500 million in 2021 and the David Bowie estate selling his to Warner Chappell for $250 the following year, there has been a stampede by music industry giants to secure the rights to songs, which in these troubled times are seen as more secure investments as many more traditional commodities. 

Even younger artists such gone down this route, including John Legend, Cardi B and Bruno Mars.

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The huge figure for the Queen back catalogue is a reflection of the band’s status, more than three decades after Freddie Mercury death in 1991. 

The jukebox musical We Will Rock You is still popular nearly a quarter of a century after its initial West End opening and the 2018 Bohemian Rhapsody biopic was hugely successful – making $900 million at the box office from an original budget of $50 million. And with Sony acquiring them it seems certain that We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions will be reverberating around sports stadiums for decades to come.

Will Simpson
News and features writer

Will Simpson is a freelance music expert whose work has appeared in Classic Rock, Classic Pop, Guitarist and Total Guitar magazine. He is the author of 'Freedom Through Football: Inside Britain's Most Intrepid Sports Club' and his second book 'An American Cricket Odyssey' is due out in 2025