McVie, who wrote many of the legendary band’s best-known hits including Don’t Stop, Everywhere and Little Lies, sold the rights to her catalogue of self-penned songs to music publishing company Hipgnosis in August 2021.
The deal took place just 15 months before McVie’s death this week, aged 79. No cause of death has yet been given, but the family confirmed she had died following a short illness.
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McVie’s bandmate Stevie Nicks today lamented the loss of her “best friend”, revealing that she had wanted to rush to McVie’s bedside to be with her but had been “told to wait”.
McVie died with an estimated net worth of $US105m ($A155m) – and a large portion of that would’ve been thanks to her hush-hush deal with Hipgnosis for an undisclosed sum.
She was the fourth member of Fleetwood Mac within nine months to make a deal with a music publishing company, with former bandmate Lindsay Buckingham having sold the rights to his back catalogue back in January 2021.
The same month, drummer Mick Fleetwood sold the rights to his back catalogue to BMG, while in late 2020, Stevie Nicks sold hers to the company Primary Wave.
Only Nicks’ deal was made public, with the music legend earning $US100m ($A147m) for the sale. Given she and McVie were the two main singers and songwriters behind most of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits, it’s safe to assume McVie’s back catalogue would’ve changed hands for a comparable amount.
The sale of legacy artists’ back catalogues has been a growing practice in recent years, with companies like Hipgnosis – which Variety reports spent more than $US3 billion ($A4.4 billion) in just three years – snapping up artists’ songs for eye-watering sums.
In August this year, pop-punk pioneers Blondie sold their 197-song catalogue to Hipgnosis, at the same time as crooner Barry Manilow sold them his vast 917-song catalogue.
It’s a mutually beneficial situation: Artists, often aged in their 70s and beyond, get a sudden injection of many millions of dollars of cash for their retirement and to pass on to their loved ones.
For a company like Hipgnosis, buying up these back catalogues is more of a long game, giving them all profits going forward any time the artist’s song is sampled, bought, played or used in advertisements, TV and film.
While the terms of many of these deals remain top secret, perhaps the biggest sale in recent times came when Bob Dylan transferred the rights to his entire back catalogue of more than 600 songs to Universal in 2020.
Experts estimated that the deal would’ve cost Universal more than $US300m ($A4.4m).
Originally published as Fleetwood Mac star’s massive secret business deal before death