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Why has Katy Perry sold the rights to her catalog to litMUS Music?

What would Taylor Swift say?

Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

Katy Perry is one of the most formidable pop stars in music history, having sold over 147 million records worldwide, with nine number-one singles and three number-one albums under her belt. She is also one of the most financially successful artists of all time, with a personal net worth of over $38.5 million, as well as her music catalog totaling a whopping $225 million, according to Forbes.

That gargantuan price tag was calculated earlier this year, when the singer-songwriter sold the rights to all music produced between 2008 and 2020 to litMUS, a music rights company. Owned by the Carlyle Group, the company’s press release today described a “creative partnership” between Perry and the company.

Under this new deal, the company would control the management of Perry’s five studio albums, One of the Boys, Teenage Dream, PRISM, Witness, and Smile, all released through Capitol Records. While certainly a great payday for Perry, many of her fans will question her decision to sell the ownership of her music, given fellow singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s highly-publicized dispute with music producer Scooter Braun and her former label, Big Machine Records, over the sale of her masters to Braun. In the sale, Swift loss significant rights over the use of her music in her work and performances, as well as the overall ownership of songs she had written herself.

So, why did Katy Perry sell her music, then?

First and foremost, the payout received by Katy Perry is generally considered a worthy and accurate one. For comparison, Bruce Springsteen sold his music rights for an estimated $500 million, and Justin Bieber sold his for around $200 million. In the 1980s, Michael Jackson outbid Paul McCartney for the Beatles’ back catalog at $47.5 million, estimated to be worth at least $1 billion today. Oops.

Secondly, Perry’s last two albums have been less commercially successful. The singer has not had a number-one single for over ten years, with her last being “Dark Horse.” Only one song off of Witness cracked the Top 40, and most of the singles from her last album, Smile, failed to chart completely. What Perry may want is a better promoter of her music than Capitol Records has been in recent years. In the statement regarding the new deal, the Carlyle Group said “Katy’s songs are an essential part of the global cultural fabric,” so perhaps they take her a bit more seriously.

It is also possible that Capitol Record was not paying Perry enough for her record-breaking music, and like Swift, she got a bad deal from her label. “When news like this drops it becomes very obvious most people don’t understand how the money in the music industry gets split and how label and publisher signed artist only control a certain percentage of their equity,” fellow musician Hoodie Allen wrote on Twitter.

About the author

Bethany Gemmell

Bethany Gemmell is a writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Bethany's beat on We Got This Covered is mainly reality television, but when she's off duty, she is often found re-watching Better Call Saul for the millionth time.