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Downtown Records, Interscope and Universal Sign a Deal for Distribution, Label Services

Jesse Hughes
Gary Miller/Getty Images

Jesse Hughes performs in concert with Eagles of Death Metal at Stubb's Bar-B-Q on May 21, 2016 in Austin, Texas. 

Downtown Records has signed an exclusive distribution and label services deal with Interscope Records and Universal Music Group today (July 20). The two-part agreement effectively moves its catalog from Sony-owned RED distribution to UMG's Universal Music Enterprises, and gives Downtown the flexibility to tap into Interscope's array of label services, including marketing, publicity, sales, production and more.

"This agreement allows us to offer the bespoke experience and personal connection of an independent label with the reach, resources and relationships of the most entrepreneurial company in the business,” said Josh Deutsch, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Downtown Records, in a statement. "Depending on the needs of the artist, we have the freedom to integrate our operations with Interscope and UMe completely, not at all, or on an à la carte basis to create a more robust level of service for our artist partners."

For Downtown, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, it's less a departure from being a strong independent label and more about bolstering what it can do for its artists.

"I've done a lot of deals over the years, but I've never done one that affords me and the artists signed to the label this much flexibility," Deutsch told Billboard in a phone interview this week. "When we started the company 10 years ago, our ambition wasn't to be indie or major, it was to sign the most compelling artists and to provide the best possible services for them. I felt like this transition allowed me to provide a broader suite of services, and that's been my ambition whether I've been at major labels or running my own shop."

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Downtown is home to the Cold War Kids, Santigold, Marilyn Manson, White Denim, Miike Snow, Chet Faker, Eagles of Death Metal and Cyndi Lauper, among others. Deutsch co-founded the label in 2006 with Terence Lam, and the two purchased the company back in 2013. The deal today was announced by Interscope/Geffen/A&M chairman/CEO John Janick and UMG EVP Michele Anthony.

"John Janick's worldview and mine are very aligned in particular, both coming from indie backgrounds and having indie experience inside major label systems," Deutsch told Billboard, referencing Janick's history as founder of indie label Fueled By Ramen, which has since become a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. "We have a very similar philosophy and work ethic, and I think that was one of the reasons why the fit was so good. And I think he's done an amazing job of getting everyone at the company on board with that philosophy."

"Over the past 10 years, Josh and Terence have continued to demonstrate that they have incredible insight with regard to signing and breaking talented artists that exist a little outside the mainstream... which makes what they’ve accomplished all the more impressive," Janick said in a statement. "It’s exciting to welcome Downtown to the family."

In terms of the back catalog, UMe boss Bruce Resnikoff will work with Downtown's existing licensing team on sync placement, while Interscope will collaborate with Downtown on the frontline side; otherwise, little will change. Whether and which label services are required will be determined on an artist-by-artist, project-by-project basis.

"UMG continues to build on its leadership in providing artists and labels with the highest quality services from marketing and distribution, to merchandising, brand partnerships and live events," Anthony said in a statement. "I’m thrilled to work closely with Josh and Terence on developing innovative creative and commercial opportunities for Downtown’s artists."

As for the future, now that this deal is done and dusted, Deutsch and his team can finally look forward to a celebration -- Downtown's 10th anniversary, arriving at the end of the year. While planning is still in the early stages, Deutsch says the company is hoping to host an event and put out a special release in conjunction with the milestone. "It's a pretty charmed life to be able to do this in the first place," he says, "And to have this kind of run and to be able to re-engineer what the next chapter looks like is pretty exciting for us."

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