Why Would Dee Snider Sell His Music Publishing Rights?
By Andrew Magnotta
August 1, 2018
Dee Snider recently revealed that he sold a large portion of his music publishing rights to Universal Music Publishing Group in 2015.
While many famous musicians have publicly fought to retain their control over their respective catalogs in the past, the former Twisted Sister frontman explained in a recent interview with Eddie Trunk how he came to his decision to give up shares of 69 of his songs, including his biggest hit, "We're Not Gonna Take It."
Essentially, Snider — who has profited from a number of ventures in his career beyond music — says the agreement allowed him to pay less in taxes on that residual income. He said he negotiated a deal with Universal in which they paid him up front for what would be several years of earnings from his publishing. So Snider got a big check and Universal got rights to his songs forever.
"...[You're] in your 40-, 50-percent tax bracket," Snider explained. "That money that you get [from your publishing] goes in there. When you sell it, you sell it as a capital gain. So you're only paying 20 percent instead of 50 percent. So you get a multiple of 10, 12 years, then you're only gonna pay 20-percent tax on the money instead of paying nearly half of it."
Snider maintains that he sold his rights for "a lot of money...a lot." And he clarified that retains some interest in them. Universal just gets the largest piece of the pie.
He says, just like any retirement plan, he had to consider his life expectancy and how long he would be earning money on certain investments. The difference was, in this case the investments in question were songs.
"You can say [about] a song, 'Oh, I expect it to do good forever,'" Snider continued. "But, you know, it may; it may not. You have up years, you have down years. If you take the money [from selling], you can invest it. And so now you've got an actual almost set income stream coming from your investment, and you're paying much less in taxes. So there's a reason to do it at a certain point in your career."
He added that a similar decision wouldn't be right for a younger musician.
Snider's own ups and downs in his life and career prepared him to sell his publishing when the time was right. He's been open over the years about how he struggled financially after Twisted Sister broke up in 1988.
But said that during those hard times, he wouldn't have followed his own advice; he would have given up his life's work just to get his proverbial head above water. But it's funny how things work out.
"I bottomed out in the '90s; I was dead broke," he said. "If I had been made an offer for anything, for nothing, I would have sold. There was zero interest. Zero. [Hair metal was] buried and over. No one saw it coming back. Metal was a dirty word. You couldn't touch my catalog with a 10-foot pole — thankfully, because I would have [done it for] pennies because I was broke."
Twisted Sister's style of music eventually came back in the early-'00s and Snider started profiting from his publishing. He parlayed his return to relevance into a fruitful solo career, reunion with Twisted Sister and even appearances on Broadway.
Snider told Q104.3 New York's Jim Kerr in an interview this past spring that Twisted Sister's biggest hit, "We're Not Gonna Take It," is so ubiquitous that it's "basically a folk song nowadays."
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