Primary Wave Music has acquired a major stake in Joey Ramone’s music-publishing assets for around $10 million, according to people close to the transaction. Terms of the deal include non-exclusive rights to license Joey Ramone’s name and likeness, as well as income for songs across the band’s repertoire of music; the news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
While the music-catalog market has been booming for the past several years, with blockbuster deals for catalogs by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen (both for around $600 million), Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, James Brown (all around the low nine figures) and more, this is possibly the first such deal for a punk-era artist, and could open up a new field of opportunity in a rapidly narrowing market.
Formed in 1974 in the New York City borough of Queens, the Ramones initially were lambasted early in their career for the deliberate simplicity of their music — a combination of power chords and pop hooks — but they were indisputably the pioneering punk-rock act and their music has lived far beyond its initial audience, with songs like “Blitzkreig Bop” and its infectious “Hey ho! Let’s go!” chorus being played everywhere from baseball stadiums to children’s movies (although usually minus the “Just shoot ‘em in the back now” following lyric).
The simplicity of their songs — many of which barely passed the two-minute mark — was a deliberate reaction against the bloated solos and progressive-rock pretense of the early 1970s. While the Sex Pistols and other British groups are often considered the leaders of punk, a Ramones concert in London on July 4, 1976 is widely considered to be the “big bang” of British punk, as it was attended by dozens of key players in that scene.
While the group continued to tour and release music until disbanding in 1996, their first five albums — the 1976 eponymous debut, “Leave Home,” “Rocket to Russia,” “Road to Ruin” and “End of the Century” — are all considered classics, including songs like “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” “Rockaway Beach,” “Beat on the Brat,” “I Wanna Be Sedated” and many others.
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and later received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
All four founding members of the Ramones have since passed away, with Joey (real name: Jeffrey Ross Hyman) dying of lymphoma in 2001 at the age of just 49. The block that held CBGB, the New York City club where the Ramones and dozens of punk acts incubated, was co-named Joey Ramone Place two years after his death.
Joey’s brother and sole heir, Mitchel Hyman, says, “I’m happy to welcome Primary Wave as partners in my brother’s interests in Ramones. I’m thoroughly convinced of their eagerness to perpetuate his legacy, and their sincerity about doing it in a way that will never compromise his credibility. I, very much, am looking forward to working with them.”
“Joey Ramone was a total original—his songwriting, style, and voice are all undeniably unique and immediately recognizable still today,” said Lexi Todd, VP, Business Affairs & Legal at Primary Wave Music. She goes on, “A counterculture icon and prime mover of punk rock, Ramones demonstrated first-hand the power of music in influencing culture and built a foundation that has influenced decades of musicians.”
Primary Wave Music’s David Weitzman adds, “In elementary school, when I first heard ‘Beat on the Brat’, it sounded like nothing I had ever heard, and changed my life forever. I had to learn more about this mysterious Ramones… it is an absolute honor & privilege to work with the music of tRamones and Joey’s heir.”