Meet the Alum Behind Some of Music’s Biggest Rights Deals

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Steve Salm ’93 is a founding partner at the firm that owns the catalogs of Genesis, KISS, Imagine Dragons, and much more

By Lindsay Lennon

What do rapper Tone Loc’s platinum hit “Wild Thing,” the soulful tune “Time After Time” by ’80s pop queen Cyndi Lauper, and the soundtrack to the musical South Pacific have in common? They’re among the hundreds of thousands of songs whose rights now reside with a company helmed by a Cornellian.

Steve Salm ’93 has spearheaded the massive, headline-grabbing acquisitions of the rights to some of pop culture’s most recognizable hits and collections on behalf of Concord, the firm where he serves as a founding partner and chief business development officer.

Steve Salm wearing a tan jacket and dark jeans sitting on a city rooftop
Salm is based in NYC. (Provided)

In 2022, Concord purchased the entire catalogs of Phil Collins and Genesis for a whopping $300 million. Two years earlier, Salm led the nine-figure acquisition of Imagine Dragons’ back catalog, including smash hits like “Believer.”

As recently as September 2023, Concord added more than 30,000 songs to its portfolio, among them the catalogs of KISS, REO Speedwagon, and Cheap Trick—as well as hits by Duran Duran and Pat Benatar.

“Some people know what commercial buildings are worth, or what a stock is worth,” Salm observes. “My skillset is determining the economic and financial value of songs.”

Additionally, Concord’s theatrical division owns the rights to some of Broadway’s most beloved musicals—notably, the entire Rodgers and Hammerstein collection, including The King and I and The Sound of Music.

As Salm explains: when a seasoned musician like Collins or Lauper sells Concord the rights to their work, the company purchases the artist’s future royalty streams for a lump sum payment.

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And he notes that there are now myriad and constantly evolving opportunities for such royalties, in an era of digital streaming and with the omnipresence of popular music—heard in grocery store aisles, on the soundtracks of viral videos, and innumerable other milieus.

Salm—whose father, Herbert Salm, DVM ’60, is also an alum—recalls the first deal he ever made, when Foghat’s catalog was up for grabs in 2007. The collection included the hit single “Slow Ride”—which, months later, was used in the debut version of the popular video game Guitar Hero.

My skillset is determining the economic and financial value of songs.

“A song from the ’70s gets repurposed for an entire new generation of fans—that’s what you see with ‘evergreen’ music,” says Salm. “These songs get a whole new life.”

As an economics major in Arts & Sciences, Salm fell hard for grunge the first time he heard Pearl Jam’s “Alive” on the radio. But as a “math guy who wanted to be a music guy,” he says, he wasn’t sure how he’d break into the industry.

Years later, while earning an MBA at Emory, he came across an ad seeking students to work as local reporters for For his application, Salm submitted a 1,000-word essay describing each step of his day in diary form, along with what song he was listening to at the time.

Salm was hired, writing concert reviews and covering local artists in the Atlanta area; a few months later, he started doing on-air interviews for an alternative rock radio station.

The experience, he says, has proved invaluable in his current career.

“I spent a year and a half talking to big rock stars about their bands, songwriting, life on the road,” he says. “It gave me a crash course on the psychology of a musician. I got a front-row seat to how rock and pop stars think and live.”

Published September 22, 2023


  1. Dr Phil (Buzz) Cohen

    What a fantastic article. We are very proud of you, Steven. We are sure your success is well earned, and the result of many years of hard work, as well as the intelligence to succeed. We know your parents Herb and Lorraine are very proud of you as well.

    • Brian Hughes, Class of 1981

      Congratulations Steven on a highly interesting and accomplished career! Music, and the music industry have been lifelong interests of mine and i is wonderful that a Cornellian like yourself has made a career out of it!

  2. Leonardo Etcheto, Class of 1994

    Interesting angle on the music biz. Glad you found the way to match your talent and your interests Sam. I find it amusing that so many artists fight for control of their music and other sell the rights – to each their own!

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