Concord and Bicycle Merge to Form Concord Bicycle Music, Acquires Vanguard and Sugar Hill Records

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails performs on stage 

The joint company will be worth an estimated $125 million annually.

In a burst of activity, the Concord Music Group and its sister publishing company, the Bicycle Music Company, have merged to form Concord Bicycle Music. The combined company immediately turned around and acquired Vanguard Records and Sugar Hill Records from the Welk Music Group, in a deal that closed today.

The company also announced it has raised $100 million for acquisitions and to implement further growth strategies. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

The merger and subsequent acquisitions create a new indie powerhouse that will have an estimated $125 million in annual revenue, with a master recording portfolio of about 10,000 albums, and a music publishing catalog of about 60,000 songs. Albums now under the combined company include work from such artists as George Benson, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Creed, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Miles Davis, Evanescence,  Isaac Hayes, Kenny G, Carole King, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Steve Martin, Paul McCartney and Wings, Nine Inch Nails, the Offspring, Robert Plant, Otis Redding, Seether, Paul Simon, Social Distortion, the Staple Singers, James Taylor, George Thorogood, Tone Loc, and Esperanza Spalding. The Bicycle Music publishing catalog includes such songs as "Always On My Mind," "Eye Of The Tiger," "Guantanamera," "Lady Sings The Blues," "Let Your Love Flow," "Man In The Mirror," "Slow Ride," "Stand By Your Man," "Time After Time," and the songs from A Chorus Line.

The Vanguard and Sugar Hill acquisition adds albums from such artists as Merle Haggard, O.A.R., John Fogerty, Levon Helm, The Indigo Girls, Jerry Lee Lewis, Joseph Arthur, Lee Ann Womack, Marc Broussard, Bruce Hornsby, Chris Isaak, and Bare Naked Ladies; and a catalog of albums from Buddy Guy, Mississippi John Hurt, John Hammond, the Weavers, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald, James Cotton and Ramblin' Jack Elliott.

Related

"Concord is strengthened today by the addition of Vanguard and Sugar Hill's acclaimed artist roster, renowned catalog and gifted executives," Concord Music Group CEO Glen Barros said in a statement.  "We look forward to building upon their great legacies."

As part of the deal, Welk Music Group president Kevin Welk has a multi-year deal to stay on as chief creative for Sugar Hill and Vanguard. Sugar Hill will merge with Concord's Rounder Label Group in Nashville, with Rounder's John Virant serving as group president and Sugar Hill's general manager Cliff O'Sullivan now becoming chief operating officer of the merged Nashville operations. Meanwhile, Vanguard's operation and team will be merged under Concord's Fantasy Label group, with Vanguard chief operating officer Dan Sell reporting to Fantasy president Margi Cheske.

"Strategically, we couldn¹t find a better home for Vanguard and Sugar Hill," Welk said in a statement. "Not only will they care for our historic catalog and distinguished artists, their desire to grow the new artist business was paramount in the decision. Combining the executive talent of both companies will strengthen Concord¹s ability to nurture new talent and be a force in this business."

In addition, the Welk Music Group has licensed its Ranwood catalog,which includes Lawrence Welk albums among other titles, to Concord Music Group in a 10-year deal. Besides retaining ownership of the Ranwood catalog, Welk Music Group kept two other music assets: its music publishing operation, its indie rock Easy Sound Recording label, Welk reported.

The deal to acquire the Welk Music assets was funded entirely with equity, reports Concord Bicycle Music chairman Steve Smith. The merger and the acquisition gives the Concord Bicycle Music management team more flexibility, Smith explains. "Money that was invested in us a couple of years ago was coming up on its natural exit date, but by virtue of this deal, those investors are keeping their stake here, so now we are playing the long game," he says.

Moreover, Concord Bicycle Music CEO Scott Pascucci points out that members of the management team are now participants in the ownership structure. "We have investment from two dozen members of our management teams, who all wrote checks to be investors," Pascucci says. "That has to be unique to the business."

The remainder of Concord Bicycle Music's senior executive team includes: Steve Salm, Chief Corporate Development Officer; Bob Valentine, Chief Financial and Operations Officer; Larry Blake, Chief Legal Officer & General Counsel; and Sig Sigworth, senior vice president of catalog development.

Prior to the merger of Concord Music Group and Bicycle Music, the two companies shared dozens of investors across both operations, including Wood Creek Capital Management and some of its institutional clients, and Sound Investors, a privately held investment entity. The new ownership includes those investors and others, as well as the management team of the merged company.

One of these investors is Tom Whalley, who joined the Concord family when the label formed a strategic partnership in 2014, including buying Republic/Universal Music Group's stake in his Loma Vista Recordings, which has issued albums from artists including Marilyn Manson, St. Vincent and Spoon. Now, Whalley has a stake in the Concord Bicycle Music as well.

In related news, the company says that former Bicycle Music CEO Roger Miller will remain a substantial investor in the company and will assist in the transition through the summer. It has also hired Jim Urie as a consultant to provide strategic advice and digital media insight.

Going forward, Barros says Concord will issue about 90 new album titles a year, as well as another 90 titles from the company's very active catalog department, which will be repackaging titles as well as making more titles available on vinyl.

Another companies of the company's growth catalog is the merging of the master recording and music publishing synch licensing efforts under Jake Wisely, who was recently named CEO of the Bicycle Music publishing operation. "Our synch adds value through creative exploitation," Wisely says, and now it will add the Vanguard and Sugar Hill master recordings catalog to its portfolio.