Merck Mercuriadis delights in being a bete noire at the biggest record labels around. 

Elton John and Iron Maiden manager Elton John used to manage his music investments firm Hipgnosis Songs Fund. In 2018, the stock exchange listed it. Since then, he has purchased the rights for hits by Blondie and Rihanna.

In the past year, he’s been at war with Universal Records, Sony Music and Warner Record Labels. 

According to his argument, artists and songwriters need to be compensated more for their streaming work. That would also benefit his company, which is valued at £1.5billion.

Track record: Merck Mercuriadis runs a music business worth £1.5billion

Track record: Merck Mercuriadis runs a music business worth £1.5billion

Canadian says, “I am not here with any sort of Robin Hood Complex.” There is a distinction between right and wrong. Without proper songwriter compensation, Ed Sheeran may choose to be a doctor and a lawyer rather than a songwriter. It is possible that the next John, Paul and George might choose to be lawyers instead of being part of the Beatles.

After a career in music for four decades, the self-confessed “advocate” of the artist adds that “Changing their place in the economic equation, rather than worrying about how anyone at the record company feels about you, is much more important.”

The pandemic brought his cause to light, as the closing of live circuits resulted in touring income being cut off, while streaming boom gave new life to an industry that was once devastated by piratery. 

This revival culminated in September’s $40billion (£30billion) float of Universal, estimated to have netted boss Lucian Grainge more than £100 million. 

Mercuriadis states: “When a record-setting executive makes more from this company than Paul McCartney’s, it’s clearly wrong.”

My company will pay songwriters more if they are paid higher. 

He isn’t being selfish. Hipgnosis buys up proven hits – including songs by Justin Timberlake and The Pretenders. The company then tries to generate new revenue streams through adverts, films and brand partnerships.

The fund was created with the goal of making music more investable than oil or gold. The fund has already spent $2billion and he just signed an $1billion agreement to co-invest alongside Blackstone, the private equity firm.

A rise in streaming revenue for musicians increases his income. According to the 58 year-old Quebecer, “The better off we are the more songwriters get paid.”

This shaven-headed executive speaks via Zoom, from his luxurious Hollywood Hills home. He is wearing his signature plain black T-shirt. Being a vegan-obsessed gym goer, he shuns rock’n’roll clichés.

Hipgnosis Songs Fund has built up a catalogue of hits worth more than £1.9bn, including songs by Rihanna (pictured) and Blondie

Hipgnosis Songs Fund has built up a catalogue of hits worth more than £1.9bn, including songs by Rihanna (pictured) and Blondie

Campaign to secure a better deal is high on the agenda. Following an inquiry conducted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, MPs called for a complete reset of streaming economics and fair payment for artists. CMA is poised for its own investigation.

Mercuriadis “applauded” a private member’s Bill that proposed reforms in musicians’ remuneration. However, the Bill was ultimately blocked by Government because it wants to be solved by industry. It hasn’t ruled out legislation.

Management stars, billion-dollar buyers 

Merck Mercuriadis started his career in music bombarding his favourite label, Richard Branson’s Virgin Records, with requests for work, and went on to run the US arm of the Sanctuary Group label.

Canadian music mogul, Iron Maiden, Beyonce, and Elton John have managed several artists. 

He floated his Hipgnosis Songs Fund in 2018 and has built up a catalogue of hits worth more than £1.9 billion, including songs by Rihanna and Blondie.

Mercuriadis is the one who funded Ivors Academy, and will be meeting with CMA leaders soon. 

As you can see, his views are met with a frosty response from the music industry.

Some critics claim that he does not find talent. Instead, he collects stream income. (He says his results prove his brand is growing and his licensing income increases).

They point out, however, that his business is located in Guernsey, which is low-tax (‘tax efficiency’, that’s what many investment trusts are known for) and that he overpays for back catalogues.

There’s also the argument that record labels make: If regulators stop their profits, they won’t have the money to risk on unknown artists. Mercuriadis smiles and says, ‘This is an incredible fallacy.

He claims that record labels have stopped making a real investment in artists twenty years ago, suggesting that social media is often the foundation for the creation of new acts. 

Mercuriadis believes that tech giants like Spotify and YouTube can also play a role in increasing payments for songwriters. But his primary target is the record companies.

The Canadian music mogul has managed many artists, including Elton John...

... and Beyonce

Canadian music mogul Elton John has worked with many artists, such as Beyonce.

Mercuriadis also faced criticism. Investec, a City Broker, questioned Hipgnosis Blackstone’s structure. It was unclear how shareholders would get a fair share of the new catalogs.

Mercuriadis claims that his shareholders wanted to be free from the obligation to finance deals. However, Blackstone’s large pockets ensures that their interests are still protected as new catalogues hit the markets.

The social media platform has many new ways to act, long before labels. 

Powered by Blackstone’s additional war chest, his chequebook could become a familiar sight with £2billion of new deals already in the pipeline. He says: ‘You will see us investing heavily in the coming months – our deal flow is incredible, some of the finest songs ever written.

“I believe we are only scratching to the surface of all that is possible.”

His love for music is unmatched. He was a charming man I met in London’s last remaining record store. His enthusiasm for music is unmatched. He claims that this fervent attitude attracts artists and he is confident that he will only use the songs in appropriate tie-ups.

While profit can be seen in arts as a negative word, Mercuriadis at least is self-aware enough to avoid being coy about his fortunes.

He stated, “I don’t bashful at any time.” He says, “I’ve earned my wealth through my successes with artists, songwriters, and producers. Not at their expense.”

Merck Mercuriadis, 58: record fan

Save LivesLos Angeles, Hollywood Hills and Notting Hill.

Families: Sue (wife); daughters Melody (33) and Rosa (30); Sunny (26); Storm (20); granddaughter Olive (11); 3 dogs; 3 cats

Education: Mercuriadis jokes: ‘BA, University of Neil Young; Masters, University of Lou Reed; PhD, University of The Clash.’

HobbiesVinyl records and Arsenal Football Club

Favorite album: Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.

Listening currently You can find it hereO: Neil Young’s Barn.

Favorite movie: The Beatles’: Get Back.

Your favourite bookPeter Guralnick: Looking for Robert Johnson

Favourite gig: Simple Minds at The Concert Hall, Toronto, in 1982, and Nile Rodgers & Chic at London’s O2 Arena in 2018.

Dream UK government policy: To allow the author to have a greater share of the economic pie

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