Whether it’s to shore up their estates or to compensate for the loss of touring revenue during the pandemic, the last year has seen legacy artists like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, and even The Killers sell off the rights to their lucrative song catalogs. The Beach Boys are the latest act to follow the trend, though they’ve taken it a major step forward by selling a controlling interest in their entire intellectual property.
Longtime music business power player Irving Azoff’s newly launched company Iconic Artists Group struck a deal with the band for an undisclosed sum. Under the terms, Iconic now owns The Beach Boys’ master recordings, a share of their publishing rights, memorabilia, and — perhaps most interestingly — the entire Beach Boys brand, including the members’ likenesses.
The decision to sell was made by band members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine, along with the sons of original member Carl Wilson, Jonah and Justyn, who took over their father’s estate after he died in 1998. Everyone retains an interest in the assets, only now Iconic has control over all the major business decisions under the Beach Boys banner.
It may seem like a drastic move — and it is — but it also resolves a longstanding issue within the band. Ever since Brian, Dennis, and Carl’s father, Murry Wilson, sold the band’s publishing company in 1969 to A&M Records for only $700,000, infighting has dominated Beach Boys’ career. Band members hired individual managers and frequently took each other and their labels to court for co-writing credits and royalties. In recent years, Love has toured under the Beach Boys moniker while Wilson has played solo.
By handing over their rights to Iconic, the hope is The Beach Boys brand can be made more successful than ever. “They can make the final decision on business decisions, which is what we really need — what we have needed, I should say,” Jardine told Rolling Stone.
In the past, The Beach Boys have attempted to launch things like restaurants and clothing lines, but as Jardine said, they “got totally destroyed.” “I think we’ve been great in music, but maybe not as great as we could be in furthering our brand,” he added.
Iconic intends to rectify that. “In a lot of ways, they were what Jimmy Buffett did with Margaritaville before Margaritaville. It just never got done,” Iconic’s CEO Olivier Chastan told Rolling Stone. “The Beach Boys, in a sense, are not just a band. They’re a lifestyle. They’re a consumer brand. And they’ve never really exploited that.”
The company plans to develop and monetize The Beach Boys brand everywhere, making the most of social media to capitalize on new fans and leveraging the profitability of documentaries, biopics, and soundtrack placement. The band’s members themselves have their sights set on a wide range of possibilities.
“No stone will be left unturned,” said Love. “There can be a musical on Broadway, things that we haven’t done yet. Look at what happened with the Four Seasons and Jersey Boys, a huge success around the world. There’s no reason why the same couldn’t be true of the Beach Boys.”
Jardine said he’d “like to have some fun” with preserving the band’s legacy through outsized branding. “You get to a point where it gets really serious, the business of having a legacy. Maybe we’ll have a little theme park somewhere, or, I don’t know, restaurants. I always wanted to have a Beach Boys restaurant somewhere,” he said.
Iconic’s Chastan is looking even farther into the future. “In five years, I could send you a text and say, ‘At 2 p.m., let’s put our Oculus Rift glasses on, and let’s go see the Beach Boys record ‘Good Vibrations’ at Western Recorders,'” he fancied. “The studio is still there, so we could 3D scan the studio. The Beach Boys’ faces can be digitally replicated pretty easily.” Of course, the ol’ hologram tour is never off the table.
The only hiccup to all of this would be that the ’60s material Murry Wilson sold off is now owned by Universal. But Universal Music Enterprises president/CEO Bruce Resnikoff is aware that “our ability to do the most with this band relies on the ability to work with the band. Iconic will represent the band in a way that will only enhance, I think, the value for everybody.”
The Beach Boys themselves seem more focused on the immediate, that is, their 60th anniversary this year. Perhaps most excitingly, Wilson is open to possibly rejoining his bandmates on the road. “It’d be a great trip, a big thrill,” Wilson said, noting he’d just gotten his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and has been exercising his body and voice daily. “When we went on tour for the 50th anniversary we had so much fun. It’d be such a joy to be singing with the boys again.”
Love agreed, saying he feels “pretty darn good” for a nearly-80-year-old, and “wouldn’t rule anything out” in terms of a reunion. Still, he noted that the new deal wouldn’t impact his ability to continue touring under The Beach Boys name by himself. Of course, any road trips depend on the nature of the pandemic, but Azoff himself is “hopeful for the fourth quarter.”
The sale of the Beach Boys’ intellectual property rights to a company like Iconic is pretty much unheard of for living artists. The hope is that by getting their business affairs in order before their inevitable passing, they’ll avoid much of the legal drama that’s surrounded the deaths of legends like Tom Petty and Prince. At the same time, everyone involved has the opportunity to make the most out of the Beach Boy’s legacy while the band themselves are still around to enjoy it.