Music's Biggest Winners And Losers Of 2022
Here are my picks for the three best—and three worst—music business showings this past year.
The season of year-end rankings is drawing to a close. So, per an annual tradition dating back to my Forbes days, I’m going to squeeze in one more before the ball drops. Who had the best and worst 2022 in the music business? Here are my picks for three of each, in no particular order.
The Puerto Rican superstar transcended boundaries of language and genre in ways once never thought possible, and now he’s cashing in. Singing and rapping in Spanish, his unique blend of Reggaeton and hip-hop buoyed him to a remarkable $435.38 million gross on the road, more than any artist has tallied in a single year of touring. Superstar acts usually pocket about one-third of what they gross, but still, the world’s most-streamed musician should be in line for a nine-figure payday when all is said and done.
Just when you thought Beyoncé had achieved maximal superstardom, she came along and gave us Renaissance. The New York Times’ pick for album of the year earned the songstress nine Grammy nominations—improbably tying her with husband Jay-Z for a record 88 career nods. (Fun fact: the pair married on 4/4/08, Jay-Z’s last solo album was called 4:44 and 44+44=88, so … Illuminati confirmed!) In any case, the runaway success of Renaissance should provide a perfect interlude for Beyoncé’s 2023 tour—her first solo excursion since 2016—which could surpass even Bad Bunny’s lofty tally.
The septuagenarian rockstar sold his publishing rights for a reported $300 million last February—quite possibly at the very peak of the recent catalog boom. Since then, the pace of music megadeals has cooled considerably, thanks largely to the sharp rise in interest rates. And with bond yields increasing, music copyrights don’t seem quite as interesting to many of the Wall Street types who’ve been sniffing around the space over the past few years. It’s always tough to time the market, but Sting appears to have done just that.
Now for the losers.
Anyone Who Was Holding Out For A Higher Catalog Price
Just about any artist waiting for a higher multiple on a catalog sale is likely to be disappointed, at least for now. The flipside of Sting, acts are finding a less rabid appetite from institutional investors, and higher interest rates mean it’s more expensive to finance big sales. That said, there are still deals to be made, but perhaps not at the heady valuations we saw a year or two ago.
The world’s top 100 tours grossed a record $6.2 billion in 2022, a much-needed bonanza for the live music business after a long pandemic hibernation. That should be great news for anyone in the space, but Ticketmaster ended the year in disastrous fashion amid the fallout from the Taylor Swift ticketing fiasco. Now fans are suing for “fraud, price-fixing, and antitrust violations.” Not a great way to ring in 2023.
There are folks who’ve had bad years, and then there’s Kanye West, who should really be in a separate category. His unconscionable outbursts of hate speech caused Adidas to cut ties with the troubled star, vaporizing $1.5 billion of his personal fortune overnight. As someone who’s devoted a considerable amount of time chronicling West’s career, I hope he can get the help he so clearly needs. But at a time when antisemitic hate crimes are rising, there’s no excuse for the dangerous venom he spews. I, for one, am done listening.
On a brighter note, I hope you’ve enjoyed the newsletter this year. Between my fellowship at Columbia and the excitement of being a new dad, I haven’t been able to write quite as much as I’d hoped over the past few months. But I’ll aim to keep up a pace of at least one piece per month to kick off the new year. Here’s hoping it’s a joyous one for you and yours.
Zack O’Malley Greenburg is the author of five books, including the Jay-Z biography Empire State of Mind. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Forbes, where he served as senior editor of media & entertainment for a decade.