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Business

'Bowie Bonds': How the music legend made business history

David Bowie will be remembered for his innovation in the worlds of music and art. But the British singer also rocked Wall Street, as the first artist to make a killing off of securitized royalty streams.

David Bowie performing in Germany in 1987

David Bowie performing in Germany in 1987

It was in 1997 that the term "Bowie Bond" was coined at the hand of investment banker David Pullmann. He masterminded the bond issue scheme which allowed famous artists to earn money upfront by securitizing income from their copyrighted works rather than waiting years for payments to come in.

David Bowie, one of the few artists at the time to own all rights to his music, was an ideal candidate and the first to sign up: a move which secured his place in history as both a visionary businessman and musician.

The bonds were considered groundbreaking in that they were tied to all of Bowie's earnings from his pre-1980 albums, which included the smash hits "Space Oddity" and "Let's Dance." His proven track record as one of the best-selling artists of all time meant that investment soon rolled in, and Bowie earned $55 million - adjusted for inflation, that would work out at $81 million (75.5 million euros) today - through the bonds.

In return, investors received a share in his royalties for the next ten years, plus a fixed interest of 7.9 percent. Soon similar bonds were also issued for other performers, including James Brown, Rod Stewart and the heavy metal group Iron Maiden.

Short-lived success

The Bowie Bonds themselves enjoyed short-lived success. In 2004, with the sale of CDs severely dented by the advent of legal and illegal online music services and file sharing sites, Credit Rating Agency Moody's cut the rating of Bowie Bonds to BBB+, just one notch above junk status, making them a risky investment.

Nevertheless the Bowie Bonds are still considered pioneering: they paved the way for the now booming market for esoteric asset-backed securities, including everyday products such as laundry detergent, which was not there before Bowie set his sights on the financial markets.

David Bowie died on Sunday at the age of 69, after an 18-month battle with cancer.

hch/pad (AFP,Reuters)

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