Universal Music Publishing Disputes Hipgnosis’ Statements About Acquiring Songs by Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie

Christine McVie
Matthew Tucciarone

Universal Music Publishing is disputing wording by Hipgnosis Songs in a statement released Monday announcing Hipgnosis’ acquisition of a song catalog from Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, one of the most commercially successful groups of the past 50 years.

The disagreement stems from Hipgnosis’ unusually worded announcement, which can be seen as implying that Hipgnosis has acquired the entirety of a 115-song catalog from McVie, although that is not the case. While Hipgnosis has acquired 100% of McVie’s ownership in the catalog, including writer’s share and neighboring rights, UMPG is calling foul on the impression created by the wording, which can be interpreted as stating that Hipgnosis had acquired all rights to the catalog.

In a statement to Variety on Thursday, UMPG emphasizes that it owns and administers “the vast majority” of McVie’s catalog, although its statement does not mention the upstart music-rights company, which has spent more than $2 billion acquiring song catalogs in just three years.

“UMPG owns and exclusively administers the global copyrights of the vast majority of Christine McVie’s catalog,” UMPG’s statement reads. “This includes, and is not limited to, McVie’s composition shares on the albums ‘Fleetwood Mac,’ ‘Rumors,’ ‘Tusk,’ ‘Mirage,’ ‘Tango in the Night’ and more” — in other words, the most successful albums by far that include McVie’s compositions.

In response, Merck Mercuriadis, cofounder and CEO of Hipgnosis, commented to Variety, “They own their share and we own ours. They may own their share of some songs and we own our share, plus the writer’s share and the neighboring rights.”

Contacted by Variety, McVie’s attorney, Mario Gonzales, confirmed the accuracy of UMPG’s statement and Mercuriadis’ response.”

Hipgnosis’ Monday announcement speaks of McVie’s vast, 50-plus-year catalog and the success of her songs with Fleetwood Mac, including  “Don’t Stop,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “Over My Head,” “Songbird,” “Say You Love Me” and others, and cites the group’s huge sales: the Grammy-winning 1977 album “Rumours” has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide; second is 1987’s “Tango in the Night,” at 15 million.

Yet the specifics of the deal, cited in a table at the end of the release, are what UMPG disputes: The Hipgnosis announcement states “Key catalogue information: Worldwide copyright, ownership and financial interest, including writer’s share of all compositions and neighboring rights; Copyright acquired: 100%; Number of songs: 115,” and then lists other statistics.

That impression is furthered by Mercuriadis’ statement in the announcement, which references the company’s acquisition of 100% of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham’s song catalog: “Between Christine and Lindsey we now have 48 of 68 songs on the band’s most successful albums,” although the statement did not not specify the songs or albums.

Variety will have more on this situation as it develops.