First releases hit stores next week.

Universal Music Video & Distribution will today (March 4) officially announce the launch of independent distribution division Fontana, sources say. Fontana began soliciting retailers in mid-February, and its first batch of new releases will hit shelves March 15.

Among the first labels Fontana will service are the punk-focused Vagrant Records, indie rock imprint Absolutely Kosher, industrial label Van Richter, Australian rock label 456 Records and Los Angeles-based hip-hop label Avatar Records. As of today Fontana has accumulated a roster of 15 labels, sources say.

In January, Fontana absorbed about 400 catalog titles from Universal labels, including indie-focused acts such as Material Issue and the Ramones. Like with other major-owned independent distributors, the parent company will handle such back-room functions as shipping and manufacturing. Fontana labels will have access to UMVD sales statisticians, as well as its corporate partnership department and digital distribution capabilities.

Fontana will steer clear of the trend of upstreaming, in which independent labels partner with a major to bring successful acts into the parent company. However, Universal labels will have the option to downstream artists to Fontana. Additionally, Fontana labels will not participate in UMVD's reduced-pricing initiative JumpStart, which eliminates co-op spending and requires participating retailers to dedicate a certain percentage of floor space to UMVD titles.

As previously reported, Steve Pritchitt will head Fontana, reporting to UMVD president Jim Urie.

The long-waited launch of Fontana gives each major label a foothold in the independent market. Fontana will compete against EMI's Caroline, Warner's Alternative Distribution Alliance and Sony BMG's RED, as well as pure independents such as Koch Entertainment Distribution and Navarre Entertainment Media.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print