Broadway Catalog Sells For More Than A Song

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The musical-theater catalog of Broadway giants Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein is being sold to a Dutch pension fund. The sale is speculated to bring as much as $200 million.

(Soundbite of movie, "The King and I")

(Soundbite of song, "Getting To Know You")

Ms. DEBORAH KERR (Actor): (As Anna Leonowens) (Singing) Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you. Getting to like you…


Music from "The King and I," written by Broadway royalty Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. For 65 years, the two song writers, and now their families, have controlled the rights to their musicals. Now the families are selling the songs for an undisclosed sum to a Dutch pension fund. NPR's Robert Smith explains.

ROBERT SMITH: Mortgages, hedge funds, bonds from Beijing, these used to be investors' favorite things. But now pension funds want a reliable income, the kind they can get from, oh, say, licensing high school productions of…

(Soundbite of song, "Oklahoma!")

Unidentified Group #1: (singing) Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. Oklahoma, where the waving wheat…

SMITH: They want hefty fees from rap stars who sample "South Pacific."

(Soundbite of song, "Dream")

Unidentified Group #2: (singing) …to have a dream, if you don't have a dream.

Mr. DIZZEE RASCAL (Rap Artist): (rapping) How you going to have a dream come true?

SMITH: An investment that spikes whenever a Gap ad declares…

(Soundbite of TV commercial)

(Soundbite of song, "I Enjoy Being a Girl")

Ms. SARA JESSICA PARKER (Actor): (singing) I enjoy being a girl.

SMITH: Those songs and the management rights to thousands of other show stoppers will now belong to the company Imagem, which was created by a Dutch pension fund. Ted Chapin runs the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization for the families. He says they expect the new owners will still use the music tastefully, while expanding its reach.

Mr. TED CHAPIN (Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization): I've always thought "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" would be good for some breakfast product.

SMITH: For Kellogg's? You have no problem with this.

Mr. CHAPIN: You know, Richard Rodgers licensed "I'm Going to Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair" to Clairol for a gray-removing product. So, you know, he kind of set the bar.

SMITH: Luckily, Andre de Raaff of Imagem, says they don't want the songs for a quick buck. They want to send these musicals to Russia, India and beyond.

Mr. ANDRE DE RAAFF (Imagem): For sure, "Sound of Music." I predict that it will be a big smash. I do not know when, but it will be a big smash in China.

SMITH: And if Rodgers and Hammerstein become as popular in the rest of the world as they are here, then that Dutch pension fund is going to be rolling in…

(Soundbite of movie, "The Sound of Music")

(Soundbite of song, "Do-Re-Mi")

Ms. JULIE ANDREWS (Actor): (as Maria) (singing) Doe, a deer, a female deer…

SMITH: Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Sound of Music")

(Soundbite of song, "Do-Re-Mi")

Ms. ANDREWS: (as Maria) (singing) …a drop of golden sun.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne at NPR West.


And I'm Steve Inskeep in Detroit.

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