Merck Mercuriadis at his home in London. Photography: Sandra Seaton

The Man Who’s Spending $1 Billion to Own Every Pop Song

Music mogul Merck Mercuriadis raised hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the rights to hits by Taylor Swift, Timbaland, and Bruno Mars. Is he insane?

Matt Hendrickson
Published in
14 min readJan 8, 2020

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IInside the office on the second floor of music industry mogul Merck Mercuriadis’ off-white townhouse in the posh London neighborhood of Notting Hill, there is shit everywhere. Hundreds of vinyl records are piled in shelves, while others are stacked 20 deep on the floor. A Michell Engineering turntable worth more than $10,000 is still wrapped in plastic on a card table. There’s a mound of CDs teetering next to two signed copies of English rock singer Ian Hunter’s recent memoir, one of which will go to Morrissey, whom Mecuriadis managed for several years. An original 1969 pressing of the only album by the German group Organisation, a precursor to Kraftwerk, is finally on its way, after Mercuriadis — who also managed Elton John and Axl Rose in a former life — spent almost 40 years tracking it down. “I don’t believe in material things. I always wear black, and I don’t have a car,” he says. “But I’ll gladly pay 400 quid for a record.”

Which is why on this cool, late-fall day in mid-November, Mercuriadis is going record shopping — again. On his way to the seminal London record store Rough Trade, only a few short blocks from his house, with his bare head and stocky frame he could easily be mistaken for a Greek mobster. But today his mode is more tour guide as he spits out questions like quarters from a slot machine: “What’s your favorite band?” “Do you have a holy grail of a record?” Across the street, in the gray townhouse, he tells me, is where Brian Eno lives. There’s the Globe, a Jamaican-inspired dance club that the Clash loved. The Tabernacle, a venue where Pink Floyd — Mercuriadis’ all-time favorite band — used to play.

He walks into Rough Trade and ducks behind the counter. “Merck and Elton are our best customers,” says Sean, the store’s buyer. Now down to business: the records.

“There’s a Fontaines DC 12-inch,” Sean says.

“I need that,” Mercuriadis replies.

“A Madonna remix 12-inch?”

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Matt Hendrickson
Marker
Writer for

Swedish. Proud Minnesotan. Rolling Stone alumnus. Prince acolyte. Read me: Garden & Gun, Fast Company, CBS Watch. Find me: www.bigswedemedia.com