To get a sense of the value of historical musical performances, consider what Andrew Solt has made of the archive of “The Ed Sullivan Show.” As a director and producer of rock documentaries, Mr. Solt kept returning to the Sullivan archives to license footage from Mr. Sullivan’s family, which owned the rights to the program under the terms of Mr. Sullivan’s deal with CBS.
Mr. Solt’s licensing costs became so expensive that he inquired about buying the rights to the show, which he did in 1990, for a price said to be below $10 million. “I paid every penny I had to lawyers and borrowed all the money from a bank,” he said. “I would wake up at night and say, ‘What did I do?’ ”
But it seems that Mr. Solt got a very good deal. He has used the material in the archives to produce television specials and DVDs, but he said that the most valuable material is the musical performances, including historical appearances by Elvis Presley and the Beatles.
He has released a DVD featuring the Beatles’ performances on the show, which he said has sold 200,000 copies; last fall, he released a similar Elvis package that he said has already sold 100,000 copies; and he licensed the material for “Ed Sullivan’s Rock ’n’ Roll Classics,” a box set distributed by Rhino, a subsidiary of Warner Music.