The Deals: ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus Signs Deal With PPL, U.K. Fan App CountryLine Buys Chris Country Radio

Björn Ulvaeus
Hutton Supancic/Getty Images for SXSW

Björn Ulvaeus speaks onstage at Featured Session: Creator Credits: Providing the Missing Links during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Hilton Austin on March 14, 2019 in Austin, Texas. 

Songwriter, producer and performer Björn Ulvaeus – best known as a member of the Swedish pop group ABBA – has signed with the U.K. collective management organization PPL for the administration of his international neighboring rights collections, it was announced March 9.

PPL holds over 95 agreements with collective management organizations (CMOs) around the world, covering an estimated 95% of the global value of neighboring rights markets for performers and recording rightsholders. In 2019, PPL collected £86.7 million ($100.4 million U.S.) in international revenue, a record for the organization.

Ulvaeus is an advocate for initiatives that help ensure artists are accurately credited and paid for their work. He is a backer of the music technology start-up Session (previously known as Auddly), which allows creators to add “secure, transparent and correct” credits to music recordings to ensure they are accurately remunerated. PPL previously partnered with Session in 2018 to allow its members to benefit from the service.

“The music industry is experiencing a period of significant change as digitisation continues to underpin increased consumption,” said Ulvaeus in a statement announcing the administration deal. “As the use of music grows we must ensure those who invest time and talent in music are fairly paid for their work. Session is one of a number of companies and organisations working towards this goal, and PPL is another. By making it easier to track and credit the contributions of artists in the studio we are helping get music people paid.”

ABBA has suggested new music from the group will be released at a future date, along with a tour featuring "digital replicas" of all four members.



CountryLine, the U.K.-based global fan club app for country music, has acquired U.K. country radio station Chris Country Radio, it was announced March 9. According to a release, the acquisition will position CountryLine “as the go-to brand both for UK country fans and for US country artists looking to grow their UK audience.”

Available on iOS, Android and the web, CountryLine curates country music video and audio in partnership with artists. It features exclusive interviews, sessions, playlists, podcasts, competitions, news and gigs, as well as country boxsets and movies. The app, launched in 2018 by media entrepreneurs Simon Walker and Nathalie Cox and backed by Sir Elton John, is currently available in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland, with plans to roll out worldwide in the next 24 months.

Chris Country was founded in 2013 by radio entrepreneur Chris Stevens, who said in a statement, “Country is growing fast around the world. Joining forces with CountryLine means we can deliver an even better experience for audiences and artists alike.” With the acquisition, Stevens joins CountryLine as head of global audio and will also continue to program and manage the radio station.



Artist, producer and songwriter DJ ASHBA has signed an exclusive recording deal with EDGEOUT Records/Universal Music Group/Ume for his new solo project, it was announced March 10. ASHBA is a former guitarist for Guns N’ Roses and current guitarist for the Nikki Sixx-fronted rock band SIXX:A.M.

“Over the past couple of years I have found myself going through a musical transformation....almost an evolution you could say,” said ASHBA of the project in a statement. “I allowed my creativity to flow freely without trying to restrain it to conform to a particular genre. I found the whole journey very liberating and also very exciting. It allowed me to experiment with new sounds and compositions that cross the boundaries of multiple music genres, to create something so unique and exciting that I cannot wait to share it with the world!"

With the signing, ASHBA has brought together a team that includes manager Larry Rudolph of ReignDeer Entertainment/Maverick; agent Chris Dalston, co-head of music at CAA; and Gavin Maloof, founding partner of Vegas Golden Knights and vice-chairman of Maloof Companies.



Curb Records has signed country music singer-songwriter Hannah Ellis, the company announced Monday (March 16). Ellis previously signed with Curb Publishing in 2015 and has since written songs recorded by artists in multiple genres, including Russell Dickerson, Carly Pearce, Emily Weisband, Cassadee Pope, Sidewalk Prophets and Filmore.

“Years ago when she was my intern, I saw Hannah’s incredible work ethic and passion for her craft,” said Curb Records vp, artist development and A&R Laurel Kittleson in a statement. “It’s been amazing to continually experience her growth as a songwriter and artist over the past few years.”

Ellis has toured with artists including Gavin DeGraw, Dwight Yoakam and Devin Dawson and was part of CMT’s “Next Women of Country” tour in 2019.



Singer-songwriter Joshua Speers will release his debut major label EP, Human Now, on Warner Records/Let Me Know, on May 8, the labels announced.

Hailing from Delaware, Speers moved to Los Angeles in October 2018 and connected with songwriter Tommy English and producer Lars Stalfors, who wrote and produced Human Now with Speers. The EP was mixed by Jon Castelli.

"I spent a day last year going to every vintage guitar store in Nashville with writer/producer Tommy English,” said Speers of “Stray Bullets,” the first track released from Human Now. “I had been playing the same three chord progression with a little hammer-on part on each guitar I tried, comparing how they sounded. The next day we were writing together, and working on an idea I had about how the internet keeps everyone in tight proximity and can make finding emotional distance and space really difficult. Like when you are trying to avoid seeing someone on Instagram, you block them, but then they pop up in someone else's photo. Kind of like getting hit by a stray bullet.”