Warner Music Group (WMG) has announced the launch of Warner Music South Africa, following a buyout of Gallo Records’ share of the existing joint venture Warner Music Gallo Africa.

Warner Music Gallo Africa was established in 2006 as a joint venture between Warner Music Group and the 87-year-old domestic label Gallo Africa. The new wholly-owned affiliate, which will remain based in Johannesburg, will oversee the release of international repertoire within South Africa and other territories across the African continent. Although the focus is on international releases, the label is looking to invest in domestic repertoire in future, according to a spokesperson for Warner Music.

It is understood that Sony Music will handle physical distribution for Warner releases in South Africa.

Effective immediately, former Warner Music Gallo Africa general manager Tracy Fraser becomes managing director, Warner Music South Africa, reporting to Eliah Seton, SVP international strategy and operations. The new label will retain all 9 staff from the previous joint venture along with 2 additional staff appointments.  

The launch of Warner Music South Africa is the latest in a series of expansions to Warner Music Group’s global operations following the June acquisition of Russia’s leading independent music company Gala Records. Earlier this year, the music major completed the purchase of the Parlophone Label Group (PLG), comprising the historic Parlophone label, the Chrysalis/Ensign labels in the United Kingdom, EMI Classics and Virgin Classics and the EMI operating companies in Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry’s (IFPI) 2013 “Recording Industry in Numbers” report, South Africa is the world’s 22nd biggest music market with sales totaling $85 million in 2012.

In December last year, iTunes made its long-awaited bow in South Africa – in addition to a number of other African countries, including Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Other digital services active in South Africa include Deezer, Nokia Music, Simfy, Look and Listen, Rara.com, Spinlet and Universal Music’s pan-African mobile music service, The Kleek, which launched March this year in partnership with mobile handset manufacturer Samsung. Despite strong growth in digital services, physical accounted for 91% of music sales in 2012, according to IFPI.

 “We are very excited about the growth potential of the music industry in South Africa,” said Stu Bergen, president, international, Warner Recorded Music, in a statement. “Our commitment to strengthening our geographical reach and global network continues, and we see this investment as another step towards delivering best in class services and driving new opportunities for our extraordinary artists all around the world.”

Eliah Seton added in a statement: “Tracy is an expert in the South African market and with her at the helm we are extremely well positioned to expand our business in this culturally rich, diverse and dynamic market.”

Commenting on the launch of Warner Music South Africa, Fraser said: “Thanks to the recent launch of legitimate online services combined with the increasing availability of technology and mobile handsets we are experiencing an increasing demand for digital music, while our physical market remains significant.”

Among Warner's biggest front-line acts in South Africa are Bruno Mars, Nickleback, James Blunt, Linkin Park, Josh Groban, Trey Songz, Birdy and Michael Bublé, who held the number one position for seven weeks in a row with his latest studio set “To Be Loved.”

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