Brussels-based label and distributor Play It Again Sam is setting up an Australian and New Zealand base.

It has signed a 50:50 joint-venture deal with Liberator Music, part of Michael Gudinski's Melbourne-based Mushroom Group of companies, to launch the Play It Again Sam Australia label. The new venture will license PIAS direct signings, and records distributed by its European arm, for Australia and New Zealand.

Liberator itself was set up by former Shock Entertainment Group executives Nick Dunshea and Vince Donato last year as a joint venture with Gudinski to license international artists and labels for Australia and New Zealand.

Play It Again Sam (PIAS) was founded in 1982 by Kenny Gates and Michel Lambot, with offices in eight European territories. It distributes 90% of indie labels through Europe, according to Gates, including Beggars Banquet, 4AD, Ninja and Victory.

PIAS has been expanding in recent years to offer acts global releases. Two years ago, it signed a distribution deal with Japan's Hostess Records label. It also recently firmed up a distribution deal with Universal Music's indie distribution arm Fontana Distribution for the United States.

Gates tells "We worked for 15 years with Nick [Dunshea] when he was at Shock Records [as A&R director], and we have a strong and trusting relationship."

Liberator will appoint a label manager to work specifically on PIAS acts. First album releases via the new deal will be by singer-songwriter Iain Archer, U.S. alternative rock act Dinosaur Jr, and rising U.K. rock band Enter Shikari. Other artists include U.S. DJ Felix Da Housecat, U.S.-based Shy Child, French DJ Laurent Garnier, and U.K. funk act Reverend and the Makers.

All the above PIAS Australia acts will tour Down Under to promote their album releases, according to Dunshea.

PIAS first entered the Australian and New Zealand markets in 1991 through the (now terminated) distribution-only deal with Shock, one of the largest independent label and distributor companies in these territories. PIAS acts, such as the U.K.'s Propellerheads and Belgian electronic group Front 242, enjoyed strong college radio support in Australia and New Zealand.

Liberator's Dunshea says that the new joint venture will allow PIAS to plug into the Mushroom Group's divisions. These include its Frontier Touring company, Mushroom Music Publishing and its newly formed computer-games division Mushroom Interactive.

"In time, as the partnership evolves, we envisage we'll get involved with PIAS acts when they are still in the demo stage," he says.