The renewal was announced following “fierce” competition for the music icon’s catalogue, during the current boom in the market for copyrights of evergreen songs.
The agreement will see the global publisher continue to curate and nurture the legacy of one of the world’s most successful songwriters. The deal – which continues a partnership stretching back over four decades – covers both George Michael’s solo work, and the songs he wrote whilst a member of Wham!
The announcement comes as fans are hoping to see Wham!’s Last Christmas make No.1 again, five years on from George Michael’s death on Christmas Day in 2016. It reached the summit at the end of 2020 - the first time it had achieved that peak since its release in 1984. His former bandmate Andrew Ridgley said it was “a testament to its timeless appeal and charm” and a “fitting tribute to George’s songwriting genius”.
George Michael has established a streaming audience, including 21 million monthly Spotify listeners, as his label Sony Music continues to reach new and existing fans with classic catalogue. The Twenty Five collection has 85,403 sales so far this year (largely from streaming consumption), according to the Official Charts Company.
Over the course of his career, George Michael sold more than 125 million records worldwide. He topped the charts in the US eight times and had seven No.1 songs in the UK. He won six Ivor Novello Awards for his songwriting and also received three BRIT Awards and two Grammy Awards.
George was a very loyal man who valued and nurtured long-term business relationships
The deal renewal comes as Warner Chappell Music has been striking agreements with new partners, from Roblox to Peloton, to enable its songwriters to benefit from uses of music on these platforms. It’s also been expanding its global footprint, recently opening offices in cities such as Hanoi and Shanghai, to tap into the fast-expanding Asia market.
“Such a strategic approach offers opportunities to introduce George Michael’s timeless classics to even more music fans,” said the announcement.
Chris Organ, George Michael’s lawyer and co-executor of the George Michael Estate, said: “We are genuinely delighted that, after many months of detailed discussions and negotiations, we have renewed our longstanding association with WCM which started in the early ‘80s. We live in an age of sale and acquisition, and interest in, and competition for, this catalogue was fierce.
“George was a very loyal man who valued and nurtured long-term business relationships; but ultimately wanted to be remembered as a great songwriter. We strongly believe that his legacy as a songwriter, and the protection and enhancement of this stellar catalogue of songs, is best served by a traditional, hands-on day-to-day relationship with an established music publisher.
“Warner Chappell Music’s current structure and management is ideally suited to achieve those goals. We look forward to continuing our extremely successful relationship and, most importantly, to maintaining the status and integrity of George’s work for many generations to come.”
Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall, co-chairs of Warner Chappell Music, added: “George Michael is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. We all still miss his engaging personality, but he’s left the most incredible legacy in the form of his songs and performances. We take our responsibility to curate and promote his catalogue incredibly seriously, because even the greatest songs still need energetic champions.”