Integrity Music Group has extended its worldwide, mainstream distribution/marketing agreement with Epic Records and signed a new deal with Sony BMG-owned Provident Music Group for distribution to the

Integrity Music Group has extended its worldwide, mainstream distribution/marketing agreement with Epic Records and signed a new deal with Sony BMG-owned Provident Music Group for distribution to the Christian retail market.

Integrity Music Group, a division of Mobile, Ala.-based Integrity Media, Inc., was previously distributed to the Christian market via Word Distribution. Under the new agreement, Provident Music Group will rename its distribution arm Provident-Integrity Distribution. Effective January 1, 2005, the company will distribute all Integrity Music-owned and associated music labels, including INO Records, Integrity Music, Vertical Music, Hosanna! Music, Integrity Gospel, Integrity Just For Kids and Hillsong Music Australia. Israel Houghton, Don Moen, Darlene Zschech and Mercy Me are among the artists on Integrity-affiliated labels.

"They have such credibility and are such an important presence in the market, we felt it was a positive for us to add them to the name to tell retail they are going to be playing a bigger role in our overall distribution strategy," Provident Music Group president/CEO Terry Hemmings says.

Integrity is also extending its agreement with Epic to work its product to the mainstream retail market worldwide. In turn, Integrity markets and distributes select Sony Music Label Group titles to Christian retail. "Epic has had tremendous success over the years with Integrity here in the U.S.," Epic Records executive VP/GM Steve Barnett says of the deal that began in 1997. "It's a tremendous asset to us to now have all their releases unified in the new Sony BMG system in all channels around the world. For the first time, we'll be able to execute seamless Christian and mainstream retail campaigns."

According to Jerry Weimer, president of Integrity Music Group and COO/executive VP, Integrity Media, the company had been investigating two distribution options: Provident/Sony BMG and Word/Warner. "At the end of the day, it came down to the relationship we had with Sony," says Weimer. "We have a lot of things going there. We're taking their product into CBA [Christian Booksellers Assn. retailers]. We're working with Sony Wonder and Sony Classical. It's a global deal ... It was hard leaving our friends at Word, but we're excited about Provident and we're certainly excited to be staying with Sony. Steve Barnett has been a champion for us and for Christian music."