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musician died almost exactly five years ago, on Jan. 10, 2016, after a diagnosis of liver cancer.

"This fantastic pact with the David Bowie estate opens up a universe of opportunities to take his extraordinary music into dynamic new places," enthused WCM's co-chair and COO, Carianne Marshall in a statement. "This isn't merely a catalog, but a living, breathing collection of timeless songs that are as powerful and resonant today as they were when they were first written."

The announcement follows a string of similar ones over the past two years; Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks and Neil Young are just some of the stars who have recently sold off substantial rights to their music.

(It should be noted: There are huge differences between royalties for songwriting and performance. Some of these deals are just for publishing, as with the Bowie deal; others also include the original recordings, known as masters.)

Springsteen sold his entire back catalog – including songwriting and recordings – to Sony Music Group, according to a Dec. 16 announcement. Industry reports placed the purchase at north of $500 million.

Even before the official announcement of the purchase in May, Sony Music Group's chairman, Rob Stringer, told investors he's spent about $1.5 billion just on music acquisitions since the beginning of the year.

"Including rights to some of the most iconic artists of all time, such as Paul Simon," he gloated.

Serona Elton used to work with the major labels. Now she's a professor and associate dean at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. She compares being a celebrity musician with a catalog of hits to owning property someplace like Austin, Texas. "It's scorching hot," she exclaims. "Hot, hot, hot!"

"All of a sudden the market is crazy and everyone's paying ridiculous sums of money," she says. "And people worry it's a bubble. Maybe it's the right time to sell."

But we're talking about huge musicians who are not exactly starving artists, and famously careful about creative control. Why sell of so much of their precious back catalogs?

"The pandemic is part of it," explains Tatiana Cirisano, a music analyst at MIDiA Research. "Touring has been stalled for some time. It could be stalled again. "

Even Springsteen took a hit when it came to revenues from live performances and touring last year. And, Cirisano points out, these musicians' accountants know very well that capital gains taxes may change unfavorably for people holding such assets. Moreover – to be blunt – many of these musicians are senior citizens. They're planning their estates.


When Bob Dylan sold his entire songwriting catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group last year, it included music he'd written more than 50 years ago. So he's taking a lump sum now, rather than counting on royalties from whenever "Mr. Tambourine Man" goes viral on whatever platform might be most popular in a few decades. Even younger artists like Shakira and Calvin Harris recently sold parts of their back catalogsbecause corporations are paying so much for them.

Rob Stringer of Sony Music Group told investors this spring not to worry about the price of these acquisitions. Stocks go up and down, butlucrative music rights feel safer, he noted, due to Spotify, Apple and other streaming and subscription services.

"The number of users of paid music streaming services went up by almost 100 million in 2020 to 443 million globally, " he explained. "Many research analysts are projecting this figure to well exceed one billion by 2030. In the music publishing market, streaming is driving similar sustained growth. The publishing industry achieved its seventh straight year of consecutive expansion, rising 5.2 percent in 2020," he continued.

Synergy is also the name of the game here; when Sony buys up Springsteen's music, they can use it more easily in movies and TV made by Sony studios. Other artists on Sony labels can sample or cover his songs, and whenever a Bruce Springsteen biopic comes out, you can bet a Sony movie studio will make it.

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Be on KRCB 104.9...answer this month's "Talk to Me" question: With fire season upon us, are you having second thoughts about Sonoma County?
You can do a recording right from your computer or smartphone, but please use an external microphone (ear buds are good enough). Don't worry, you can try as many times you like until you get a "good take." We won’t hear any of the bad ones. After you finish, the page will give you a chance to listen and decide if you like it. Once you get a good one, you'll be asked for your name and email address. Then hit "Send.” (Click "reset" if you would rather try again.)
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Listen to the Sonoma County Birdwatch!

fullerThroughout the week, we play short segments about what birds are out in Sonoma County and what they sound like, from Harry Fuller. Here's what we've aired so far. Harry spent his working career as a TV and Internet newsman in the Bay Area.  He’s been leading bird trips and writing about birds for thirty years.  He has written three natural history books: Freeway Birding, I-5 San Francisco to Seattle; San Francisco’s Natural History, Sand Dunes to Streetcars; Great Gray Owl in California, Oregon & Washington. He blogs regularly about birds:  And he frequently leads birding trips on the Pacific Coast. Check him out at

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8ff1 Asset 6 p 500Our podcast "Living Downstream" has been named by the Global Center for Climate Justice as one of "Five Climate Justice Podcasts You Need to Follow." Wow:

Listen to some recent episodes! Generations in Houston's Fifth Ward Contend with Contamination, Cancer Clusters will break your heart, and perhaps solidify your resolve to make change. The Sea Next Door is told in true partnership with the community living near California's Salton Sea, an environmental powder keg, where the state has no idea how to avoid a coming health disaster.

Get them here, or wherever you get your podcasts.



Postcards from Sonoma County...
        ... What people are talking about, direct from the locals.
Each week, our correspondents from all over Sonoma County check in with a weekly "postcard" of what people are talking about in their area. Not always "news," but still worthy of a mention. It's our way to give voice to communities that may not make it into the standard news cycle.
We play these in a random rotation throughout the week. Generally, each postcard airs from Sunday morning at midnight thru Saturday at 11:59:59 pm.
We archive all our postcards here. Have a listen!

 Week of Sunday, January 9th, 2022:
Greetings from Healdsburg
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
Greetings from Petaluma
Greetings from Rohnert Park
Greetings from Sebastopol
Greetings from Windsor

Week of Sunday, January 2nd, 2022:
Greetings from the Lower Russian River
Greetings from Petaluma
Greetings from Rohnert Park
Greetings from Windsor

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