The estate of David Bowie and Warner Music Group have announced a global partnership that will bring the late artist’s vast recorded-music catalog from 1968 through 2016 under the Warner umbrella.
The new deal sees Bowie’s albums from 2000 through 2016, which were originally released via Sony Music, joining his 1968-1999 catalog at Warner. The “Heathen,” “Reality,” “The Next Day” and “Blackstar” albums, the latter of which was released just two days before the singer’s death from cancer in January 2016, are among the works that will move to Warner in 2023.
Only Bowie’s earliest recordings — a series of singles and an eponymous album released via different British labels between 1964 and 1967, none of which were hits — and a handful of stray tracks will not be with Warner. The fifth installment in the series of Bowie “Era” boxed sets, “Brilliant Adventure (1992 – 2001),” is slated for release this fall, with details to come.
Much of Bowie’s catalog became part of the Warner orbit in 2013, when WMG acquired the London-based Parlophone Label Group (in a deal stemming from the 2012 transaction that saw Universal Music Group acquiring EMI and being required to divest certain properties). Since then, the company has embarked on a near-definitive series of reissues “guided by Bowie’s vision for his catalog,” with the expertly curated “Era” boxed sets, along with multiple releases of rare concerts and other recordings arriving every year.
Variety‘s overview of the series published earlier this year states, “It’s one of the most thorough, thoughtful and well-executed archival campaigns in an era full of them, varying presentation and approach — late ‘60s acoustic demos here, some ‘90s concerts there — to unveil a huge amount of material in an unpredictable and non-overloading way, sometimes observing an anniversary, sometimes not.” According to the announcement, Warner SVP Nigel Reeve has worked in close partnership with the estate to “curate and present a landmark release campaign celebrating Bowie’s unparalleled legacy, with many more exciting releases on tap.”
Bowie first saw major success with his 1969 single “Space Oddity” and signed with RCA Records for his vastly influential 1970s work. Upon the conclusion of his RCA deal in 1981, he retained the rights to his recorded music and entered into a series of licensing deals with various labels for his new releases as well as his RCA material, the ownership of which was gained by him in the late 1980s.
Bowie held back much of his rare material for many years, but it has been rolling out in gradual, fan-satisfying fashion since the Parlophone reissue series began in 2015.
Max Lousada, CEO, Recorded Music, Warner Music Group said: “It’s an incredible honor to have been chosen as the stewards of one of the most important and dynamic bodies of creative work in modern culture. The impact of Bowie’s repeated reinvention and endless experimentation continues to resonate around the world – through the genres he transformed, the timeless songs and sounds he invented, and the immeasurable influence he’s had on music, art, and fashion. We’re excited that our expanded partnership with the Bowie estate will help us deliver innovative, career-spanning projects and attract new generations to his extraordinary musical universe.”
Kevin Gore, President, Global Catalog, Warner Recorded Music added: “To be entrusted with this phenomenal body of work is truly gratifying. For the past eight years, we’ve enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the Bowie estate, collaborating on a fantastic series of releases. Nigel and our entire catalog team have taken great care to be thoughtful and steadfast in our promise to stay true to his artistic vision, while revealing previously unheard music and framing his genius in fresh contexts. With the addition of his immensely powerful later work to the Warner Music portfolio, we’re looking forward to bringing Bowie’s music to fans across the globe for many years to come.”