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Global Deal Sets WMG as Definitive Home for Icon’s Body of Work
New Pact Encompasses Five Decades of Bowie Music
/PRNewswire/ — Warner Music Group (WMG) and the estate of David Bowie have signed a global, career-spanning partnership for Bowie’s timeless recorded music catalog. With this landmark new deal, Warner Music will now have worldwide rights to five decades of Bowie’s transcendent, culture-shifting work. Expanding on Warner Music’s current agreement with the estate, which encompasses Bowie material from 1968 to 1999, the new licensing agreement will include the entirety of Bowie’s 2000-2016 creative outpouring. Heathen, Reality, The Next Day, and the worldwide No.1 album ★ (pronounced Blackstar) are among the acclaimed works that will come into the Warner Music fold in 2023.
Much of Bowie’s catalog became part of the Warner Music family in 2013, when WMG acquired the historic London-based Parlophone Label Group. Since then, Warner Music and the Bowie estate have jointly embarked on an extensive, award-winning program of releases highlighting the astonishing, game-changing evolution of his career. This includes Five Years, which won the NME Award for Best Reissue in 2016; Conversation Piece, which earned the 2021 Making Vinyl Packaging Award for Best Book + Media Package; and the lauded Glastonbury 2000 live audio & video set (2018).
Prominent among the flow of recent Bowie releases has been the acclaimed Era series of box sets, each one covering a key period in Bowie’s career. Launched in 2015, there have been four Era sets released to date. The fifth Era box, Brilliant Adventure (1992 – 2001), is slated for release this fall, with details to come. Guided by Bowie’s vision for his catalog, Nigel Reeve – Warner Music’s SVP, Content Development & Marketing, Global Catalog, has worked in close partnership with the Bowie estate to curate and present a landmark release campaign celebrating Bowie’s unparalleled legacy, with many more exciting releases on tap.
Max Lousada, CEO, Recorded Music, Warner Music Group said: “It’s an incredible honor to have been chosen as the stewards of one of the most important and dynamic bodies of creative work in modern culture. The impact of Bowie’s repeated reinvention and endless experimentation continues to resonate around the world – through the genres he transformed, the timeless songs and sounds he invented, and the immeasurable influence he’s had on music, art, and fashion. We’re excited that our expanded partnership with the Bowie estate will help us deliver innovative, career-spanning projects and attract new generations to his extraordinary musical universe.”
Kevin Gore, President, Global Catalog, Warner Recorded Music added: “To be entrusted with this phenomenal body of work is truly gratifying. For the past eight years, we’ve enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the Bowie estate, collaborating on a fantastic series of releases. Nigel and our entire catalog team have taken great care to be thoughtful and steadfast in our promise to stay true to his artistic vision, while revealing previously unheard music and framing his genius in fresh contexts. With the addition of his immensely powerful later work to the Warner Music portfolio, we’re looking forward to bringing Bowie’s music to fans across the globe for many years to come.”
David Bowie was born in 1947. Between the late-’60s and the mid-’70s, he experimented with multi-media, recording the albums The Man Who Sold The World, Space Oddity, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Station to Station, and Young Americans. The track “Fame,” taken from the latter album, was his first U.S. No 1.
In 1976, he relocated to Berlin, recording Low and Heroes with Eno and Tony Visconti. In 1980, he made his Broadway debut in The Elephant Man and released the Visconti co-production, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, followed in 1983 by the Nile Rodgers-produced Let’s Dance. Between the mid-’80s and early ’90s, he worked with his band Tin Machine, collaborated with the dance company La La La Human Steps, and wrote music for Hanif Kureishi’s Buddha Of Suburbia.
1992 brought one of rock’s first CD-ROMs, Bowie’s Jump. In 1994, reunited once again with Eno, he produced the experimental Outside album, followed by Earthling in 1997 and hours… in 1999, the year he became a Commandeur dans L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Bowie’s next project was a further recorded collaboration with Tony Visconti, 2002’s Heathen. The accompanying live dates in Europe and America saw full performances of both Heathen and 1977’s classic Low. A year later, the Reality album was launched with the world’s largest interactive “live by satellite” event, followed by the rapturously received and critically acclaimed “A Reality Tour” of the world.
2006 saw Bowie return to acting, with the Chris Nolan-directed The Prestige (#1 at the box office) adding to such cinematic highlights as Nic Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, Tony Scott’s The Hunger, and Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. In May 2007, Bowie was the inaugural curator of the highly successful 10-day “High Line” arts and music festival in New York. That June, he was honored at the 11th Annual Webby Awards (known as the “Oscars of the Internet”) with the Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for pushing the boundaries between art and technology.
Later in 2007, Bowie starred as himself in an acclaimed episode of Extras, Ricky Gervais’ series on HBO. 2012 saw the erection of a plaque in Heddon Street, London (the scene of the Ziggy Stardust cover shoot) to commemorate the extraordinary influence of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and, of course, David himself.
Further excitement accompanied the 2012 announcement that the David Bowie Archive had given unprecedented access to the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum for an exhibition to be curated solely by the V&A in London. It was the first time a museum had been given access to the David Bowie Archive. The exhibition went on to break records in the U.S., Berlin, and France.
On January 8, 2013, quite without fanfare and out of the blue, David Bowie released a new single entitled “Where Are We Now?” and announced the release of a new album. The Next Day was Bowie’s first new studio album in 10 years. Critically lauded across the world, it features songs that are now widely seen as amongst his best.
In 2014, to celebrate his 50th year in music, the compilation Nothing Has Changed was released, and yet again Bowie surprised everyone by releasing the seven-minute jazz murder ballad “Sue (or In a Season of Crime),” a collaboration with the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Bowie ended 2014 by revealing “Tis A Pity She Was a Whore,” an uncompromising piece that pointed to a possible future of even further experimentation.
Spring 2015 brought the announcement of the off-Broadway theatre production, Lazarus, a collaboration between Bowie and renowned playwright Enda Walsh. Directed by Ivo Van Hove, Lazarus also played in London at the King’s Cross Theatre to rave reviews.
★ (pronounced Blackstar) was Bowie’s 28th studio album, released on his 69th birthday, January 8, 2016. Co-produced by Bowie and Visconti, and featuring backing from local NYC jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin and his quartet, ★ was released to overwhelming acclaim, garnering many of the best critical notices of Bowie’s entire career. ★ was the first David Bowie album to hit No. 1 in the U.S., topped the charts in more than 20 countries, and won five Grammy Awards.
On January 10, 2016, David Bowie died peacefully surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer. His body of work, multi-generational influence, and legacy of fearless innovation and endless reinvention will live on forever.