Recently, I read a newspaper article reporting that Bing Crosby’s estate is selling an equal stake in the rights to Bing Crosby’s catalog to Primary Wave Music for an estimated $50 million dollars, making Primary Wave Music and the estate partners. Of late, contemporary musicians, such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, have made lucrative deals to sell their catalog rights for many millions of dollars. Those artists wrote their own songs. Bing Crosby did not. He interpreted songs written by others. Messrs. Dylan and Young are alive. Mr. Crosby died in October 1977, forty-four years ago.
Although recorded by many artists, Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas,” written by Irving Berlin in or around 1940, is perhaps the most famous version of the song. Mr. Crosby recorded it in 1941. A quick glance at Wikipedia shows that he publicly debuted it on Christmas Day of that year on the NBC radio show, The Kraft Music Hall. That must have been a moving performance given that it came just two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Apparently, Mr. Crosby had ownership rights in that performance of the song. Those rights are now an asset of his estate, along with a vast catalog of musical performances.
Primary Wave Music must be pretty confident of its ability to popularize the music of the long-deceased Mr. Crosby with younger generations to pay such a whopping sum of money. The beneficiaries of Mr. Crosby’s estate must be very happy to have a $50 million infusion into the estate’s coffers.
The lesson to be learned is to write or sing a classic song and your children and their children will have happy holidays for many years to come. Now, all I need is some musical talent.