Northern Songs, Ltd., was a music publishing company founded in 1963 by Brian Epstein and Dick James (in conjunction with the Beatles) in 1963 to publish the musical compositions of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. This was done at the prompting of record producer George Martin, who advised Beatles' manager Brian Epstein to put the growing number of hits into a reputable company since music publishing would yield significant subsidiary rights for Lennon-McCartney songs.
In the United States, these same songs were published by Maclen Music, named after McCartney and Lennon. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were originally signed for Northern Songs, although they both subsequently started their own companies, Harrisongs, Ltd. and Startling Music.
Northern Songs went public in 1965, with Lennon, McCartney, Epstein, Harrison, Starr, and Emmanuel Silver (chairman of Northern Songs) retaining minority percentages of the company, while the bulk of the company's stock traded on the London Stock Exchange. Harrison's "Only a Northern Song" is a reference to Northern Songs, an expression of his disapproval of the way the company was handling his own compositions.
In 1969 (and after the death of Brian Epstein in 1968), Lennon and McCartney lost ownership of their compositions, James and Silver sold their shares of Northern Songs to ATV, or Associated TeleVision in Great Britain. When Apple CEO Allen Klein tried to buy ATV out, the deal was squashed by McCartney's future brother-in-law, John Eastman, who claimed that Klien did not have full legal power to handle the deal on behalf of the Beatles.
Since Lennon and McCartney were under contract to keep writing songs for Northern Songs until 1973, the easiest way out for the two Beatles was to sell out to ATV. They therefore sold their stock in 1969.
In 1981, McCartney declined to purchase the songs from ATV since the pricetag of forty million dollars was deemed too expensive. The songs eventually were acquired by Michael Jackson.
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