Mourned by his many fans across the world, the late David Bowie (1947-2016), famous musician, performer, fashion icon, artist, and actor, is less widely known for his incredible business acumen. In 1997, Bowie was the first musician to securitize the rights to his royalties by creating bonds that were backed by the future revenues to his albums recorded between 1969 and 1990. The bonds were sold to the Prudential Insurance Company of America and had a 7.9% annual interest rate over 10 years. David Bowie received $55 million for the sale of the bonds. After the 10-year period, the income to his music covered in the deal would revert back to Bowie.
David Pullman was the financier who helped create the deal, and the bonds became known as Pullman Bonds or Bowie Bonds. Initially, the bonds were considered a safe investment and rated by Moody’s Investors Service as investment grade, A3. In 1999, when Napster started the trend of online music sharing, the profitability of the bonds began to decline. By 2004, the bonds were considered to be just above junk status, and in 2007 they were liquidated. Prudential never sold the bonds and their returns are not known.
Bowie used some of the money he made in the deal to buy back the copyright to some of his other work. The bond deal was one of many astute business decisions David Bowie made to secure greater control of the intellectual property rights and income to his music. His blazed the way for other artists such as James Brown and Rod Stewart, to make similar financial deals.
David Bowie, a true innovator in many areas, will be missed by many.
Campbell, Peter. “‘Bowie Bonds’ Blazed a Trail through Capital Markets,” Financial Times, January 11, 2016.
Levine, Robert & Christman, Ed. “David Bowie, Businessman: A Deep Dive into the Musician’s Visionary Dealmaking,” Billboard.com, January 15, 2015.
Marsh, Alastair. “Bowie: The Man Who Sold Royalties and Brought Music to Bonds,” Bloomberg.com, January 11, 2016.
McGrath, Maggie. “David Bowie, Musical Visionary and Financial Pioneer? A Look Back at ‘Bowie Bonds’,” Forbes.com, January 11, 2016.
Moyer, Liz. “How David Bowie Changed Wall Street,” The New York Times, January 11, 2016.
Wikipedia. “Celebrity Bond,” retrieved, 1/31/16, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celebrity_bond#Bowie_Bonds