Who owns the Beatles Catalog?

by / ⠀Who Owns / November 29, 2023
Who owns the Beatles Catalog

The Beatles’ catalog is currently owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing. The ownership of the catalog has a complex history:

1. Northern Songs:

Initially, the Beatles’ music publishing rights were held by Northern Songs, a company created in 1963 by their manager Brian Epstein, music publisher Dick James, and the Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr). Lennon and McCartney were the primary songwriters and majority shareholders of Northern Songs.

2. ATV acquisition:

In 1969, Associated Television Corporation (ATV) acquired a majority share in Northern Songs, obtaining control of the Beatles’ catalog. The Northern Songs catalog was then incorporated into ATV Music Publishing.

3. Michael Jackson partnership:

In 1985, pop star Michael Jackson acquired ATV Music Publishing, and with it, the Beatles’ catalog. He paid around $47.5 million for the acquisition.

4. Sony/ATV partnership:

In 1995, Sony Music Entertainment and Michael Jackson formed a joint venture, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, merging Sony’s music publishing business with ATV’s, which now included the Beatles’ catalog. As a result, the ownership became a 50-50 partnership between Michael Jackson and Sony Music.

5. Full ownership by Sony:

After Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, his estate continued to own his 50% share of Sony/ATV Music Publishing. In 2016, Sony Corporation reached an agreement with Michael Jackson’s estate to acquire its 50% stake, giving Sony/ATV Music Publishing 100% ownership of the Beatles’ catalog for $750 million. Sony completed the deal in 2017.

Since then, Sony/ATV Music Publishing has held full ownership over the Beatles’ catalog. However, it’s important to note that the individual Beatles and their estates still retain their respective songwriting royalties.

Company History

The Beatles catalog, which consists of their vast music collection, has gone through several changes in ownership since the band’s inception. The story of the ownership and the evolution of the catalog’s management is as follows:

1. 1963-1968:

Northern Songs Ltd. In 1963, The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein, along with publisher Dick James and the band’s principal songwriters John Lennon, and Paul McCartney, founded Northern Songs Ltd. to publish and handle the group’s music copyrights. Northern Songs went public in 1965, with Lennon and McCartney each retaining a 15% share while George Harrison and Ringo Starr only held a small percentage.

2. 1968-1985:

ATV Music PublishingIn 1968, following a failed attempt to regain control of the company by Lennon and McCartney, Northern Songs was sold to ATV Music Publishing, a division of Associated Television. At the time, it held the majority of the Beatles’ music copyrights.

3. 1985:

Michael Jackson acquires ATV Music PublishingIn 1985, Michael Jackson famously outbid Paul McCartney and purchased ATV Music Publishing, which included The Beatles’ catalog, for $47.5 million. This move strained the friendship between McCartney and Jackson, as McCartney had previously advised Jackson on the benefits of owning music publishing rights.

4. 1995:

Sony/ATV Music PublishingIn 1995, Jackson sold a 50% share of ATV Music Publishing to Sony Corporation, creating a joint venture called Sony/ATV Music Publishing. The deal was worth $90 million, helping Jackson to alleviate some of his financial burdens. Sony/ATV Music Publishing managed The Beatles’ music catalog along with many other artists’ work.

5. 2016:

Sony buys out Jackson’s stakeIn 2016, after Michael Jackson’s death, his estate sold its 50% share in Sony/ATV Music Publishing back to Sony Corporation for $750 million.

This move made Sony the sole owner of The Beatles’ catalog along with other artists’ music copyrights. As of now, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, currently rebranded as Sony Music Publishing, retains ownership of The Beatles’ catalog.

Who was the original founder?

The Beatles catalog is owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a joint venture between Sony Corporation and the estate of Michael Jackson. However, the company that originally managed the Beatles was founded by Brian Epstein. Brian Epstein was born on September 19, 1934, in Liverpool, England. He was the son of Harry and Malka Epstein, who owned a furniture store and later the NEMS (North End Music Stores) in Liverpool. Brian was not academically inclined, but he had a passion for music and theater.

In 1950, Epstein started working in the family business after completing his education. By 1954, the family had expanded the business to include selling records and musical instruments. Brian managed the music retail aspect of the business. In 1961, Brian discovered the Beatles while they were performing at The Cavern Club in Liverpool. He was impressed by their performance and decided to approach them to become their manager.

After convincing the band to let him manage them, Epstein officially became the Beatles’ manager in January 1962. Under Epstein’s guidance, the Beatles signed a recording contract with EMI’s Parlophone label, and their first single, “Love Me Do,” was released in October 1962. Brian Epstein played an essential role in shaping the Beatles’ image and promoting them worldwide. He managed the Beatles until his untimely death in August 1967, aged 32. The Beatles’ music catalog, however, was bought by Michael Jackson in 1985 when he purchased the ATV Music Publishing company.

In 1995, Sony and Michael Jackson joined forces to create Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which now owns and manages the Beatles’ catalog.

FAQ: Who owns the Beatles catalog?

1. Who currently owns the Beatles catalog?

The Beatles catalog is currently owned by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a joint venture between Sony Corporation and the Estate of Michael Jackson.

2. Did Paul McCartney ever own the Beatles catalog?

No, Paul McCartney never owned the Beatles catalog. It was bought by Michael Jackson in 1985, and later became a part of Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

3. When did Michael Jackson acquire the Beatles catalog?

Michael Jackson acquired the Beatles catalog in August 1985, when he purchased ATV Music Publishing.

4. How much did Michael Jackson pay for the Beatles catalog?

Michael Jackson paid $47.5 million to buy ATV Music Publishing, which included the Beatles catalog.

5. What happened to the Beatles catalog after Michael Jackson’s death?

After Michael Jackson’s death, his 50% share of Sony/ATV Music Publishing was passed on to his estate. In 2016, the Estate of Michael Jackson sold its stake to Sony, granting Sony full ownership of the Beatles catalog.

Sources for More Information

Featured image provided by Mick Haupt; Pexels; Thanks!

About The Author

Kimberly Zhang

Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.