Universal Music Group and the Stockholm-based digital music company X5 Music Group have launched a partnership to produce digital compilation albums from the catalogs of Universal’s Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Verve and Blue Note Records labels.
Under the title of U5, the company will create and release more than 50 digital albums per month. The first slate of U5 releases includes the new 50 Greatest series, which has launched with The 50 Greatest Violin Pieces by Joshua Bell, The 50 Greatest Piano Pieces by Lang Lang and The 50 Greatest Performances of Classical Music compilation.
Universal has delivered 50,000 tracks of classical music from its Decca and Deutsche Grammophon catalogs and is expected to deliver 50,000 additional jazz, blues and world music tracks by mid-year from Verve and Blue Note.
X5 has already had success in the classical field, charting with titles such as Rise of the Masters: 100 Supreme Classical Masterpieces, which has sold 20,000 copies, according to SoundScan. A recent compilation, The Greatest Video Game Music 2, has sold 19,000 downloads, according to SoundScan.
“The deal they were interested in when we started was classical,” X5 Music Group CEO, North America, Scott Reilly, said of Universal. “Moving into jazz is where we hope to expand internationally. Whether it is at this moment or as success grows us as a company, X5 is very focused on being a jazz and blues catalog company. We’re trying to sell blues to people who don’t know who Little Milton is.”
Deutsche Grammophon specializes in classical, Verve and Blue Note were jazz specialists in the 20th century, and Decca has covered multiple genres. It has relationship with labels such as Alligator, Six Degrees, Welk Music Group and Sun Records.
From Reilly’s perspective, the goal is to reach consumers willing to experiment with a purchase.
“We are always trying to find an entry point,” Reilly, who previously led Amazon’s online music effort, told Billboard. “We sold a lot of classical music to people who would not ID themselves as classical fans. We customize releases to bring a different viewpoint (to a style of music). Various artists compilations seem to be the opportunity to generate the most total revenue.”
No details on the financial structure of the deal were disclosed.
“A level of trust has to be established and to a lot of people in the business, the compilation album is the one way to go,” he says. “This lets us put together albums in a different way, but the deals all look different.”