Rodgers and Hammerstein For Sale

OK, well I guess it’s not actually Rodgers & Hammerstein that are for sale – it’s their archive … As Reuters reports, the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization is trying to sell its catalogue of more than 3,000 songs, the majority of which are by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Apparently the archive is worth more than $250m

What does this mean for the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization?
Some people might wonder what the organization will actually do if it doesn’t own the songs any more… from what I can tell (and the news reports haven’t been especially clear), it looks like they are only looking to sell the Music Publishing arm, Williamson Music.

That would mean they’d be left with the other 2 divisions – R&H Theatricals and R&H Concert Library – that actually license the songs and musicals for use on stage (competing with people like Music Theatre International and Josef Weinberger).

So really, it’s unlikely to make a major difference to anyone putting on a show, unless of course the new owners of the catalogue decide to charge more for a licence or limit the rights… both of which are probably somewhat unlikely.


Who’s going to buy it?
The decision is not an especially surprising one – some record labels have been pursuing similar strategies for number of years now, as they look to sell our catalogues to firms that are keen to get their hands on the stable cash flows.

Private Equity investors are almost certainly looking at the business (as they have with similar assets like Boosey & Hawkes which was originally purchased by Hg Capital). I guess that could make life slightly more uncomfortable for staff who might not be used to the level of efficiency that a new owner might demand…


How have the press covered this news?
Journalists must be delighted – a story that might even get theatre fans (like yourself?) reading a story that ostensibly sits within the business section. Even better, it offers a a perfect opportunity for puns (!), as is evident from the first 2 newspaper headlines from this morning’s papers:

I’m sure we’ll see more ‘fantastic’ headlines like these over the next day or two, so keep your eyes peeled.


What won’t you see in the press?
I doubt you’ll see many mentions of the fact that the catalogues actually contains songs from hundreds of writers apart from R&H, including some of America’s best young talent – John Bucchino, Georgia Stitt, Ricky Gordon, Adam Guettel, Ray Jessel and Jeff Marx

Probably not surprising as most people who read the business pages won’t have heard of them…

Personally I think the idea of licensing Jeff Marx’s songs from Avenue Q to use in adverts would be fantastic… how about ‘The Internet if For Porn’ for AOL, ‘Fantasies Come True’ for Playboy and ‘The Money Song’ for HSBC? Or maybe there’s all just a little too obvious.


2 Responses to “Rodgers and Hammerstein For Sale”

  1. 1 Rogue Zentradi September 5, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Am I a horrible person for thinking that R&H’s catalogue should be public domain given how long it’s been since both of them died, let alone turned out something new? Death + 75 years (length of copyright in the US) is just too darn long, and the world of AmDram would be better served by having such a brilliant canon to pull from without having to pay royalties.

  2. 2 Ryan A. Scott October 13, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    No, you’re not a horrible person. Certainly there are arguments to be made about changing copyright laws for the greater good. It’s just a question of how should it be done.

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