Tributes poured in Monday about David Bowie's influence on the worlds of fashion, music and film, but the pop culture icon also had a lasting impact on the world of high finance with the creation of the "Bowie bond" in 1997.
The musician, who died Sunday at the age of 69, was the first artist to work with American financier David Pullman to take his extensive catalog of music and securitize them into an investment.
In 1997, his took royalties from his catalog of 25 albums and almost 300 songs and sold them in a bond offering to raise $55 million.
The so-called Bowie bonds allowed investors to purchase the rights to all future royalties to be earned from Bowie's music into the future. The bonds paid a 7.9 per cent yield, and were given solid credit ratings by agencies including Moody's and Standard & Poor's.
Designed to last 10 years, the bonds allowed Bowie to monetize his musical creations without having to give up ownership of them.
As it turns out, the bonds proved to be less successful than anticipated for investors, as they came on the cusp of illegal file sharing, which overhauled the economics of the music business forever. "When those earnings began to erode in the early -90s, Bowie said he would have to make himself more accessible to keep his revenue up, which he did, producing new albums and a fashion line," says Porter Bibb, managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners and the first publisher of Rolling Stone Magazine.
'His music royalties never suffered' - Porter Bibb
Moody's ultimately downgraded Bowie bonds to junk status in 2004, saying at the time that "the downgrade was prompted by lower than expected revenues generated by the assets due to weakness in sales for recorded music."
Investors ultimately lost money on the Bowie bonds as the floor fell out from under the industry, but the bonds were cleverly structured to ensure that Bowie himself got 25 per cent of all wholesale royalties and never had to give up his rights after the bond matured. "His music royalties never suffered, keeping him among the top earners for most of his life," Bibb noted.
And Bowie's bonds were used as a funding model for many other artists, including Rod Stewart, The Isley Brothers, James Brown and various Motown songwriters, including Marvin Gaye.