The surviving members of the Beach Boys are feeling good vibrations after the group sold a controlling interest in the band’s intellectual property (IP) to Iconic Artist Group (IAG), a brand development and marketing company run by music industry magnate Irving Azoff. The sale included not only the band’s master recordings and publishing rights, but also the rights to the band’s brand, images, likenesses, and memorabilia. On the surface, this deal may seem like the latest in a string of recent music catalog sales by iconic artists including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Stevie Nicks. It is not – and it is the differences that we believe will mark the beginning of a new trend in industry IP transactions.
The Beach Boys’ deal differs from the typical music catalog sale because it is much broader. While most sales are limited to the master recordings and music publishing rights, this deal includes nearly all of the band’s IP. This acquisition of a portfolio of assets is an important distinction. It is important because IAG’s acquisition of the band’s brand and merchandising rights in conjunction with the music catalog will facilitate the active management and monetization of the Beach Boys brand and music.
While the acquisition of brand IP in addition to music rights is not always warranted, significant value can be found where a band or artist can be associated with a particular product or lifestyle. The Beach Boys are particularly suited for a deal of this nature as the brand represents a lifestyle that goes beyond the music. Few other artists in history have successfully created such deep lifestyle associations with their music – think Jimmy Buffet (beaches and margaritas), the Grateful Dead (hippies and the 1960s), or Snoop Dogg (cannabis).
Even when artists are not linked with a lifestyle, there is a long history of celebrities and artists leveraging their personal brands to drive products and other ventures. Some prominent examples include Jay-Z (clothing, liquor, and streaming services), Gene Simmons (television shows and Kiss memorabilia), Sammy Hagar (tequila), and Dr. Dre (Beats headphones).
From a branding perspective, the Beach Boys are rich with associations. The brand embodies the Southern California lifestyle of sunny beaches, fast cars, and good times. Their signature striped shirts are immediately recognized by fans. The group allowed listeners to live the SoCal lifestyle through their early albums like Surfin’ Safari and Surfin’ U.S.A. Later albums such as Pet Sounds and Smiley Smile represented the experimental, psychedelic sounds of an era that also included releases such as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s and the Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request.
Ultimately, the masterstroke of this deal is the acquisition of the Beach Boys’ complementary IP assets. By purchasing the portfolio of assets, IAG acquired more than a declining stream of royalty payments from an aging music catalog. They acquired the opportunity to build a business around the brand, the band, and its music. Options for IAG include development or collaboration efforts in hospitality, clothing, food & beverage, musicals, virtual reality concerts, and more.
The fact that music and the brand are much more valuable together was not lost on industry pundits. In a testament to the complementary nature of the IP, Universal CEO Bruce Resnikoff stated, “We have the original recordings, and we have the publishing, but our ability to do the most with this band [sic] relies on the ability to work with the band. Iconic will represent the band in a way that will only enhance. . . the value for everybody.”
The Beach Boys deal is an excellent case study of how realizing brand value goes beyond just names and logos. We will be exploring many of these issues and more in Ocean Tomo’s upcoming Business of Brands report. In this report, Ocean Tomo will look beyond the trademarks to explore the drivers of brand value. We will look at how businesses, the financial industry, and investment community are deploying brand assets to realize and create value. The report will focus on recent transactions, licensing agreements, and litigation where brands are front and center, including real world examples based on Ocean Tomo experience. Planned for release later this year, you can request an advance copy here.
 The transaction excluded the publishing rights to the 1960s catalog owned by Universal Music Group.