How a longtime music director tries to protect artists’ legacy


Irving Azoff wants to preserve the legacy of artists in the age of music streaming, and his.

The music industry specialist has run several companies, including a concert promoter and record company, and has led some of the greatest artists of several generations, such as the Eagles, Bon Jovi, Steely Dan and Nicki Minaj.

His latest venture, Iconic Artists Group, joined a market crowded with musical investment and signed songwriting and recording catalog deals for The Beach Boys, David Crosby and Linda Ronstadt.

Over the past five years, music rights have become more valuable as streaming revenue on services such as Spotify Technology. HER

and apple Inc.

Apple Music has grown, and music is used more in other areas, such as digital fitness, video games, and social media. Songwriters’ catalogs have selling prices that are 10 to 20 times their annual royalties, compared to eight to 13 times in previous years.

Mr. Azoff, a recent inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has raised nearly half a billion dollars from Guggenheim Securities for Iconic, and is selecting the artists he will hire as custodian of the work of their life. He also thinks about his own heritage and what he will entrust to his children.

“It’s a good thing for the family,” he said.

Irving Azoff, in a beige shirt, with the Eagles in 1977.


Brad Elterman / FilmMagic / Getty Images

Mr Azoff spoke to The Wall Street Journal about the copyright craze, legacy and how the pandemic has changed the music industry. Edited excerpts follow.

WSJ: What prompted you to create Iconic?

Mr. Azoff: If you do the right thing for the artists, it will be good for your own business as well. I saw a void to the extent that everyone who acquired these rights, it didn’t seem like anyone focused solely on adding value to intellectual property in a way that would preserve and enhance the legacy of intellectual property. ‘artist. People come to a point in their life where some of them have no heirs at all. Others have children who they believe may not be able to handle the inheritance the way they should.

WSJ: And what about the business opportunity?

Mr. Azoff: When I run our family funds, especially with yields now, and bonds, if you’re trying to preserve and not take big risks, and having been in this business for 52 years, I kind of realized that I feel much better about my family having a flow. It feels like a safer, more growing flow than if I were just putting money into bonds.

WSJ: Why is music a good investment?

Mr. Azoff: Music stands the test of time. It is essential. I bet my career on good music. To this day, it has never failed me. There are always new technologies. I can only think of two technologies in 50 years of activity that have failed to increase the value of musical assets and copyright. One was the 8 track and the other was Napster and File Sharing. Other than that, whether it’s when it’s gone from glass records to vinyl records, vinyl records to cassettes, cassettes to CDs, and now CDs to streaming, there has been a huge boom in valuation.

WSJ: How is Iconic’s strategy and structure different from others who also invest in music?

Mr. Azoff: We are not a fund. We are an operating company that intends to be long term and create long term value. Everything I’ve done is from a manager’s perspective, so we don’t really see ourselves as owners. We see ourselves as managers.

WSJ: Why is wealth management important and who should be thinking about it?

Mr. Azoff: I can’t imagine that an artist who spends their life creating and marketing their music and imagery not caring about “what happens when I’m gone”. It is not a job that can be learned overnight, it is a job that requires expertise, resources and weight. I think every artist should think about it.

WSJ: What does legacy management look like at Iconic?

Mr. Azoff: On the Beach Boys, they don’t get along well. It was the subject of a famous column, but we believe that we are the glue that now allows them to get along well, and we think that in the last decade of fighting there has been a lot of fighting. ‘missed opportunities. They are the American Beatles, and they are not recognized like that. We’re going to start with this documentary, and then their 60th anniversary will be next year. We planned a tribute concert that we filmed and that we sold to a big chain. There will be everything from a Sirius XM channel to traveling exhibits of all their memories. There have been several offers for a feature film, a biopic. These are some examples of things they would not have accomplished on their own, because they were unable to run their business.

WSJ: Looking at this music intellectual property market, what do you think of the frenzy and valuations?

Mr. Azoff: I am delighted that the work of all these great artists is finally being recognized for its true worth, and I think the reviews will increase. We are far from having finished with streaming, and there will be new technologies that will arrive. No one knew TikTok could exist. No one knew things like Peloton were going to take hold, or that Apple was going to enter the health and fitness business. Our returns on investment are, even at current levels, very acceptable.

WSJ: How do you envision your own legacy?

Mr. Azoff: At this point, I can’t control it because so many years are gone, so that’s what it is. But I believe the business will continue. I hope they will say not only that he created great companies for himself and his family, but that his artists became major stars and kept their fortunes under his leadership. Say what you want from me, I have recognized that there is no business without artists, and that we treat them with respect.

WSJ: What about ticket prices? Do they go up or down?

Mr. Azoff: I think they will go higher. I think artists want to make up for lost time.

WSJ: What other lasting changes will we see emerge from the pandemic?

Mr. Azoff: I think the day of the awards ceremony can be in serious danger. Grammys, American Music Awards, Academy Awards. Filmed entertainment, late night TV shows, and morning show appearances have become much less important. All that kind of kind of music on TV makes it seem like it might not be coming back.

WSJ: What will be your first comeback show?

Mr. Azoff: I have already been to my first show. I went to San Diego, Jimmy Buffett played two shows and he recorded it. It’ll be a live broadcast that he’s going to post, but it was a show. There were 40 fans in an 800-seat club. It was my first concert.


How do artists deal with their legacy and brands in the age of streaming? Join the conversation below.

Write to Anne Steele at [email protected]

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