Universal Australia Adds Gudinksi's Liberation

Universal Music Australia (UMA) has signed a three-year distribution deal with Michael Gudinski's Liberation Music, part of his Mushroom Group of Companies.

The move, effective Oct. 1, essentially gives Universal the largest domestic roster of all the Australian-based majors. UMA also has, through part ownership and distribution deals, major indie acts like Silverchair and Missy Higgins (Eleven: A Music Company), Powderfinger, the Living End and Sarah Blasko (Dew Process) and Wolfmother and Cut Copy (Modular Records).

The deal gives Liberation, which was previously distributed for six years by Warner Music, total control of its A&R, promotion and marketing while UMA provides distribution, back-office services and strategic oversight.

In New Zealand, Liberation is already distributed by Universal Music New Zealand.

Liberation's artist roster includes Jimmy Barnes, the Church, Liam Finn, R&B diva Marcia Hines, U.K.-based indie act Howling Bells, hip hop act TZU, and country singer Kasey Chambers, whose "Rattlin' Bones" set with her singer-songwriter husband Shane Nicholson recently topped the Australian Recording Industry Assn. chart.

In addition, the agreement includes three associated labels: Ivy League, Liberator Music and Illusive Sounds.

Ivy League is a joint venture with Sydney-based Winterman & Goldstein artist management, and is home to the Vines, Josh Pyke and Youth Group.

Liberator Music, set up with former Shock Music executives Nick Dunshea and Vincent Donato as an international repertoire arm, has Kaiser Chiefs, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Armand Van Helden, the BPA (Fatboy Slim), Joan as Police Woman and the Futureheads on its roster for local release.

And urban imprint Illusive Sounds, run by Gudinski's son Matt, includes hip-hop act Bliss N Eso' (whose "Flying Colours" was a crossover hit this year), as well as Downsyde, Lowrider, Paris Wells, X & Hell and the Winnie Coopers.

Gudinski, Melbourne-based CEO of the Mushroom Group, said the deal came from "very exciting discussions in London" with Universal Music Group International CEO Lucian Grainge and executive VP Max Hole.

He added, "I also see this as the beginning of a greater strategic relationship between Universal and other divisions of the Mushroom Group." These include the Frontier Touring Company, the Premier Harbour booking agency, ATM Merchandising, Mushroom Pictures, Mushroom Television and Mushroom Marketing, among others.

Max Hole, also president, Asia-Pacific region, called Gudinski "one of the music industry's most successful international music entrepreneurs... a true hit maker." While George Ash, UMA's Sydney-based managing director, added, "Michael Gudinski's success in Australia -- and beyond -- is the stuff of legend in the music business."

Liberation's first releases under the new deal are by Sydney-based singer/songwriter Josh Pyke Oct. 4, and Britain's Kaiser Chiefs Oct. 11.