Madonna Rumored to Join Live Nation

Madonna is reportedly leaving Warner Records to sign an unprecedented agreement with concert promoters Live Nation. The move signals a shift in the music industry toward deals that bring albums, live concerts and merchandising under one roof.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Madonna is reportedly leaving Warner Records to sign an unprecedented agreement with the concert promoters Live Nation. That move signals a shift in the industry toward deals that bring albums, and live concerts, and merchandising all under in one roof.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports.

(Soundbite of song, "Material Girl")

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Rumors about Madonna's move have been floating about for weeks now. The 49-year-old is widely acknowledged to be the world's highest-selling female singer. Forbes magazine estimate her worth at $325 million, which, financially speaking, puts her in company with media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and domestic diva Martha Stewart.

The reported Live Nation agreement might move Madonna further up in the Forbes ranks by this time next year. Since the Wall Street Journal says the 10-year deal will pay her $120 million in cash and stocks.

(Soundbite of song, "Material Girl")

MADONNA (Singer): (Singing) 'Cause we are living in a material world. And I am a material girl. You know, that we are living in a material world. And I am a material girl.

BATES: In return, the Material Girl allowed live music to sell not only her concert but three studio albums. And it's estimated she'll be paid 50 to 60 million dollars for each of those in advance and will be paid another general advance of 17.5 million.

Bob Lefsetz is a music industry analyst whose Lefsetz Letter is closely watched inside the industry. He says fierce competition drove Live Nation to pay so much for Madonna.

Mr. BOB LEFSETZ (Music Industry Analyst; Author, Lefsetz Letter): Now, there are really just a couple of major touring companies. They're fighting over arena-level acts. That's why the number is so big.

BATES: Live Nation's tickets can be expensive, but Lefsetz says, its CEO, Michael Rapino, is betting that this won't be a barrier for his clients.

Mr. LEFSETZ: His people who go to the concerts - and Live Nation is by far the largest shareholder in this sphere - go barely over one time a year. So they'll save their money to pay 150 to 250 bucks to see Madonna.

BATES: And they'll often bring the kids who these days can be anywhere between 10 to 30.

Given the interest in seeing her ever-changing onstage persona, Madonna could turn into a senior rock staple like another group who's done well with Live Nation.

(Soundbite of song, "You Can't Always Get What You Want")

Mr. MICK JAGGER (Lead Singer, Rolling Stones): (Singing) You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you might find. You get what you need.

BATES: Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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