One of Australia's most successful independent labels, Eleven A Music Company, has found a new home -- and a 50% partnership - with Universal Music, with effect from Sept. 1.

Set up by Sydney-based act managers John Watson and Melissa Chenery in 2000, the label has sold 2 million units under its former distributor EMI Music Australia.

These included a series of local chart-toppers including singer-songwriter Missy Higgins' "The Sound of White", which is domestically certified 10-times platinum (700,000 units), her follow up "On A Clear Night" (300,000 units) and Silverchair's "Diorama" (300,000) and "Young Modern" (250,000). Albums by rock bands Little Birdy and Kisschasy, and dance producer Paul Mac, sold between 35,000 units to 70,000 units.

While the EMI deal covered Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, Universal's is global. However, Silverchair is signed for overseas territories to Asylum/ Warner, and Missy Higgins to Warner Bros.

Eleven, which has a staff of seven, will continue to handle all A&R and will now bring its marketing in-house. Universal will provide distribution, sales, licensing and accounting. Significantly, all of Eleven's promotion and publicity will be outsourced to independent contractors.

Watson, Eleven's president, tells Billboard.biz that this structure works better for labels like Eleven in today's economic conditions.

"Gone are the days when you had one group of people to promote a record, and another group to promote a tour," Watson says. "These days, you need to focus all your promotion -- on albums, tours and merchandise -- in one hit to make it effective. A deal like this also gives Eleven the independence and cohesion that allows our artists full artistic control, and also the muscle of a big label."

Eleven's acts are generally also managed by Watson and Chenery at John Watson Management (JWM). Under the new deal, Universal and JWM will also jointly set up a new management company for new Eleven signings. JWM remains independent to Universal.

In a statement, George Ash, managing director at Universal Music Australia, commented: "John Watson, (general manager) Melissa Chenery, the team at Eleven, and their amazing artists are at the forefront of success and creativity, and the Universal Music family is honored to be partnering with them as we work towards an exciting new future. Our bond is based upon a passion for artists and connecting them with their fans in a fast changing music world. Eleven are the leaders, the innovators and the true home for artists. We couldn't be more excited."

Max Hole, executive VP of Universal Music Group International, and president, Asia-Pacific Region, added, "John Watson has an enviable track record for finding and developing great talent. This partnership with Eleven promises a new way of connecting those artists and their music to the widest possible audiences. We can't wait to get started."

According to Watson, the first releases under the new deal will be albums from Little Birdy and Kisschasy in early 2009. A collaboration between Silverchair guitarist Daniel Johns and Luke Steele of Capitol-signed the Sleepy Jackson is also on the cards.

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