Cyndi Lauper, ’80s icon, sells her music to ABBA star, plans immersive theater show

Singer Cyndi Lauper is selling her music catalog, including the 1980s hits ‘True Colors’ and ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,’ to Sweden’s Pophouse Entertainment Group AB as part of a project to create new outlets for the singer’s work.

The Swedish company — founded by ABBA star Bjorn Ulvaeus and EQT AB Chairman Conni Jonsson — said Thursday it acquired the rights to Lauper’s music for an undisclosed sum and is forming a joint venture with the singer to manage the catalog.

“I’ve had other companies approach me, and I really didn’t have any interest in selling my catalog,” Lauper, 70, said in an interview at Pophouse’s headquarters in Stockholm. “But this is different.”

Members of Swedish music band ABBA arrive for the opening performance of the “ABBA Voyage” concert in London, Britain, on May 26, 2022. (Reuters)
Members of Swedish music band ABBA arrive for the opening performance of the “ABBA Voyage” concert in London, Britain, on May 26, 2022.

The singer and the company aim to exploit her music through live shows, television and other projects. Keeping performers in front of the public, as Pophouse has successfully done with the leg-endary group ABBA, can protect and improve on the steady returns that song libraries produce.

Lauper, who has sold more than 50 million records over four dec-ades, declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, beyond saying Pophouse bought “a majority” of the catalog. She was enticed by the company’s ability to combine music and art through technology.

“I thought, ‘OK, they have energy and everyone is highly creative,’” Lauper said. “And it gives me the opportunity to grow my legacy as opposed to watching it on commercials. I have bigger plans.”

One of the creative projects being planned is an immersive thea-ter experience that surrounds and pulls viewers in, following in the footsteps of ABBA Voyage. That show, which premiered in 2022, has sold more than 2.1 million tickets for performances featuring three-dimensional renderings of the four former band members.

Pophouse is the biggest investor in ABBA Voyage, and is plan-ning a similar venture with avatars of the rock band KISS, which retired in December after a 50-year career.

Lauper’s show will be based on the women in her life, set in her grandmother’s garden in the New York district of Queens, with the singer hoping to take the stage, she said.

“It’s about the people that influenced me — my mother, my aunt and my grandmother,” she said. “When I saw ABBA Voyage, I had this idea of bringing them back to life and bringing that whole neighborhood back to life.”

Decades from now, a hologram could replace Lauper onstage, the singer said. The timing for the show is up in the air, pending a decision on a potential global tour separate from the Pophouse collaboration.

Other potential projects include a TV series, a festival and an im-mersive installation. Lauper’s Broadway music, including multiple Tony Award-winner Kinky Boots, isn’t part of the Pophouse deal.

Pophouse, founded in 2014, began its venture into music investments in 2022 by acquiring the catalogs of the DJ Avicii and Swedish House Mafia, two of the country’s biggest music exports. As part of the deals, Pophouse also formed ventures with the sellers.

Other recent transactions in music catalogs include Sony Group Corp.’s reported acquisition of half of pop icon Michael Jackson’s catalog from the trustees of his estate for at least $600 million.

Singer Rod Stewart sold his publishing and recorded music rights to Irving Azoff’s Iconic Artists Group for about $100 million.

“Cyndi is a dream partner for Pophouse,” Chief Executive Officer Per Sundin said in the interview. “She shares our ambition and desire to do the unexpected and push creativity beyond conven-tional limits. We believe in artists with stories to tell, that we can build upon.”

Songs as an asset class can generate relatively steady returns. The market reached a frenzy in 2021 and 2022, but suffered some setbacks with the recent jump in borrowing costs. The high-profile music investor, Hipgnosis Songs Fund Ltd., whose catalog includes songs by Neil Young and Blondie, canceled an interim dividend in October.

“We look for iconic artists that meant something in music history, and we want to enhance or amplify and expose the music to new generations,” Sundin said, adding that doing so tends to boost streaming as well.

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