|The Man Who Sold the World|
Sadly for many investors, the bonds were not the sure-fire success they had anticipated. The growth of new means of delivering recorded music, and the ease with which digital files could be copied and shared, saw royalty income plunge. By 2004 Moody's had relegated the Bowie Bonds to just above junk status.
What message does this have for IP analytics? A steady stream of copyright royalties can never be guaranteed in the face of changes in public taste and style, but there is a recurring pattern of super-stars retaining a large and loyally-committed following regardless of current trends: Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley, Elvis Presley, Marvin Gaye and Buddy Holly are just a few examples. On this basis, a bond based on the continued goodwill in David Bowie must have looked a safe bet. However, anyone looking at the means of delivering recorded music in the late 1990s might just have spotted that new technologies were looming on the horizon.
It is true that 1997 was still four years ahead of Apple's game-changing iTunes service, launched in 2001, and it is quite possible that the risk that as-yet untried technologies would replace consumers' deeply-ingrained and generations-old habit of collecting discs or tapes was a risk worth taking. Where income based on copyright royalties is contemplated it seems almost counter-intuitive to stop and look at patents and patent applications -- but in this case such an exercise might have been worth the effort.