Everyone from your mom to your niece’s best friend was/is probably a fan
of Bowie. When he died a few weeks ago, my Facebook feed was just a stream of David Bowie songs, remembrances and YouTube links from such a varied group of people that it didn’t take long to realize his reach.
While Bowie pioneered a variety of things within music, what interests me most is Bowie’s financial intelligence. In 1997, at the height of Columbia House CD sales and a few years before Shawn Fanning would launch Napster onto the world, Bowie introduced Bowie Bonds. Bowie Bonds were asset-backed securities with a 10-year life span that paid nearly 8 per cent annually. This was a better rate than the U.S. Treasury bonds at the time.
As security, Bowie gave up 10 years of royalties from record sales, commercial use, and licensing in films from his first 25 albums. In exchange, Bowie got $55 million dollars, which allowed him to diversify his assets, as well as buy back some of the publishing rights from early work that was still partially owned by an ex-partner. Prudential Insurance purchased all the bonds almost immediately, thus leaving out any other investors. Moody’s, an agency that rates the strength or weakness of investments, gave the bonds a high rating, but did drop the rating to just above junk bond in 2004 when album sales were slumping due to online piracy. Even with the rating drop, the bonds held their value, and in 2007, the bonds finally reached maturity.
No one in music had ever gone to Wall Street and brokered such a deal. That it was Bowie who did this first is not a surprise, now, given the other avenues he’s established for artists. Since Bowie Bonds were introduced, other musicians have followed suit, including James Brown, Iron Maiden and Rod Stewart.
To celebrate all things Bowie, we’re putting together a show at the Jarvis Street Saloon on Feb. 6. The participating bands will cover a few Bowie songs of their choosing. Bands include Speed Control, The Pop Choir, Kitten Puppy, Unicorn Horn and more.
Cover is $10, with all proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society. As a bonus, we will have David Bowie prints for sale from Vancouver-based artist Andrea Hooge. Part of the proceeds from these prints will also go to the Canadian Cancer Society. Costumes are welcome.