Ultra Music and Sony Music Entertainment announced last week what a press release called “a groundbreaking new global strategic relationship covering A&R, distribution, international repertoire and more.” The deal made Patrick Moxey, President and founder of leading electronic dance music entity Ultra Music (which includes label, publishing, and artist management arms), the President of Sony’s newly formed Electronic Music division, reporting directly to CEO Doug Morris. It also follows other recently unveiled Ultra “strategic alliances,” with Ultra Music Festival, long unaffiliated but same-named; and Wynn Las Vegas, with its four nightlife venues.
Kerri Mason caught up with Moxey at midnight in France, after a long day at MIDEM.
Billboard: How’s your favourite conference?
Patrick Moxey: I do love my MIDEM. Everyone says I’m going to die with a business card in my hand.
How’s the reaction been to news of the deal?
It’s been really good. I think everybody, first of all, is very happy for me, and they see it as a good thing overall for electronic music. They know how much my heart is in it and how much I want to support it. It’s a big endorsement from one of the majors of everything Ultra’s been building.
How long did it take to come to terms?
It basically took about a year of negotiation back and forth.
Why now? Was it just time for the next move?
I think the days of me going from radio station to radio station with dance records and radio telling me dance music would never work, same thing with the video outlets, them telling me dance music doesn’t test, those days were over. We’re starting to have big national hits. The times are changing.
The thought became, how to work with the majors. [Ultra has] a lot of expertise with marketing and promoting records on a local level, and dance music is a global language. Dance and electronic music travels in a way almost like no other music because the instrumental can travel anywhere in the world. So to have Ultra’s artists promoted by a major platform around the world is a big plus for our artists. And it’s a dance and electronic-friendly home for Sony artists to push and market via our mailing lists and expertise in the area; to groom electronic music from Europe on Sony’s behalf.
Also on a more technical level, we switched to RED distribution in the U.S. from ADA Warner, and Sony distribution in Canada from EMI.
So how will it all work?
Ultra’s repertoire outbound could get a push from Sony’s international system, and we could do the same thing for Sony’s artists for the U.S. and Canada. I thought that was a great fit; exchange music and help each other market and promote it.
It sounds similar to your activities at the beginning of Ultra. You’ve always been internationally minded.
You know the Ultra story so well. From the early days of pre-Internet even when I would go to London every three months, hear whatever was hot and bring it home in my suitcase with a license agreement. It is definitely important to have people on the same wavelength in countries to promote dance and electronic music, Sony International now being an extension of that. We now have fantastic global home for electronic artists.
This could obviously attract new Ultra signings, as well as service the old.
Absolutely. For the top tier of electronic talent, having a global resource that is genuinely understanding the music, with the best database, marketing push, promotion especially for dance/electronic music -- ten key territories pushing at the same time on day one of a record; that’s exciting.
I was surprised to see compilations mentioned as a benefit of the deal – Ultra’s ability to access Sony repertoire for comps. Has that market rebounded?
Yes, I think that compilations have turned the corner. We’ve gone from the real erosion of the physical compilations, to compilations going on the Internet, and now people have become so used to Internet consumption of music. Here at MIDEM we’re joking that the CD is the cassette of this year; when people hand you a sampler on CD it’s like, ‘Ooh, what is this?’ It’s like a piece of vinyl at this point.
I think people are now used to the idea that a Spotify playlist is their compilation; they can buy a curated dance album at iTunes so I think it’s really ready for this in a way that it really wasn’t ready a couple of years ago. The basic need is there for curation of dance music and someone to sort stuff out so that you recognize a brand and you recognize it if you’re streaming it or downloading it. That same concept is back in a new way purely through the Internet.
And the deal also opens up opportunities for Ultra producers and songwriters and Sony artists to work together. Wasn’t that already happening?
It was happening to some extent organically – Benny Benassi and Chris Brown, Adrian Lux for RCA, and others – but now it should be even better. Hopefully they’ll make more hits.
What will Ultra Music’s first year at Ultra Music Festival include?
Certainly a number of our artists are playing, which is awesome, and we’re preparing the release of the UMF compilation album, which will be going live on iTunes shortly before the festival takes place. There’s a number of other marketing initiatives. We also have a South American edition of the compilation going live to support the events taking place in South America.
Will you be in Miami for two straight weeks?
I think I’ll take a pit stop at South By Southwest!