Belgian independent distributors Bang! Distribution and Distrisound have merged. As of Jan. 1, they will operate as Bang! Distribution. The companies will combine their distributed labels, distributio

BRUSSELS -- Belgian independent distributors Bang! Distribution and Distrisound have merged. As of Jan. 1, they will operate as Bang! Distribution. The companies will combine their distributed labels, distribution centers and back-office functions.

French independent distributor Wagram, which had owned one-third of Distrisound shares, acquired the remainder in December. Wagram will own 49% of the new company, while Bang! Distribution will hold the remaining 51%. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Distrisound, founded in the early 1980s, specializes in the distribution of French indie labels as well as local repertoire, through labels like Soundstation and Anorak Supersport. Wagram chief executive Stephan Bourdoiseau was not available for comment.

"Wagram is France's premier independent [distribution] company, and their association with Bang! is very important," says Bang! managing director Damien Waselle, who continues to hold the same title in the new structure. He adds, "This move combines the strength of Distrisound -- its logistics, sales team and strong presence in department stores and shopping malls -- with Bang!'s forte, artist development. The fusion of both companies will allow us to make our artists more visible in big shopping areas."

Bang! Distribution was founded in 1992 as a label and a distribution company. It quickly established itself as creative unit, discovering local bands like dEUS and, more recently, Girls in Hawaii. It also handles distribution for several labels, including France's Naïve.

"Wagram, with their growing artist roster, were in need of a record company more than just a distribution partner -- they needed promotion and marketing as well," comments Waselle.

Observers consider the merger of the two indies to be a consequence of tough market conditions. "In hard times like today, I don't see many difference between majors and independents," says Marcel Heymans, director of trade body IFPI Belgium. "What happens to Distrisound is an illustration of the fact that some independents suffer from declining CD sales as well."