French veteran rocker Johnny Hallyday has left Universal Music France to sign a multi-album deal with Warner Music France. The deal was announced today (Jan. 4) by the company's president/CEO Thierry

French veteran rocker Johnny Hallyday has left Universal Music France to sign a multi-album deal with Warner Music France. The deal was announced today (Jan. 4) by the company's president/CEO Thierry Chassagne.

The agreement includes recording and digital rights, but does not include profit-sharing on concerts or merchandising, says Chassagne. Chassagne declined to disclose additional details.

"Every record label dreams about signing with a music legend," Chassagne tells Billboard.biz. "There is one in France and we are more than happy to work with him."

The 62-year-old artist spent the past 43 years signed to Philips, then PolyGram and now Universal. The artist and his record company embarked in 2004 in a bitter legal case. Hallyday had wanted to break free from Universal and re-claim the masters of the 1,000-plus recordings he made over four decades.

Eventually, an appeals court in Paris in April 2005 held that Universal would be able to continue to exploit the artist's catalog. The court also ruled that Hallyday still owed an album to Universal, and that he will have to promote the album. The court added that if he wished to exploit live recordings of works owned by Universal, he would have to reach terms with the company.

Hallyday albums regularly shift well over a million copies. Chassagne says that his last album "Ma Vérité," released on Nov. 7 (Mercury/Universal), has already shipped 800 000 copies. It was his last album under the current contract with Universal.

Warner plans to release a live album this fall for which the company will have to negotiate a transaction with Universal Music. A blues studio album is also expected early 2007. "Johnny will show that it is possible to record a blues album and make it popular," says Chassagne.

"This certainly is a major move for Warner," comments Jean-Marc Péri, head of music at Paris-based retail chain Virgin Megastore. "Johnny Hallyday is selling more and more records as he now reaches all generations, with a majority above 35. He also sells well in specialized retail such as Virgin Megastore or Fnac, which wasn't the case a few years ago. His last album is currently our best seller."

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