Believe Breaks Into Publishing By Acquiring UK-Based Sentric Music Group
Deal to buy company from Utopia Music values Sentric at €47 million and is first step in "a global and comprehensive publishing offer," Believe CEO says.
LONDON — French music company Believe is making inroads into the publishing business by acquiring U.K.-based publisher Sentric, which represents more than four million songs and over 400,000 songwriters in more than 200 territories.
Under terms of the deal announced on Thursday (March 30), Believe is acquiring full ownership of Sentric Music Group from Utopia Music, with the transaction valuing Sentric at €47 million ($51 million), Believe says in a press release.
(Utopia Music declined to comment.)
Believe founder and CEO Denis Ladegaillerie says in a statement that the takeover of Sentric is the company’s “first step” in the “roll-out of a global and comprehensive publishing offer.”
It is the second time in just over a year that ownership of Liverpool-based Sentric Music Group — which also has offices in London, Hamburg, New York and Los Angeles — has changed hands.
In February of 2022, Utopia, a Zug, Switzerland-headquartered fintech company, acquired Sentric amid a frenetic buying spree that saw Utopia acquire 15 companies over a two-year period.
Sentric’s existing leadership team, led by CEO Chris Meehan, will continue to lead the business, says Believe. Paris-based Believe, which has 1,650 employees in more than 50 countries, says the combination of its digital music expertise and global network with Sentric’s industry-leading technology will develop “a comprehensive solution for songwriters and publishers at all levels.”
Believe’s move into publishing follows recent investments the company has made in Europe, India and Asia to further expand its global footprint. They include partnerships with French pop label Structure, Indian label Panorama Music and Germany-based Madizin Music.
Last year also saw Believe make strong gains in some key European countries and eat into the major record labels’ share of the recorded music market. In France, Believe says it was the second-largest music company in digital local repertoire in 2022. In Germany, it claims to have been the third-largest recorded music company for local repertoire in the streaming market, and the market’s second-largest company in hip-hop.
In total, Believe, which acquired the TuneCore distribution platform in 2015, worked with 1.3 million artists last year, either directly or through record labels, with annual revenues rising 31.8% year-on-year to 760.8 million euros ($723.5 million), according to the company’s year-end financial results, published earlier this month.
The company says its acquisition of Sentric will help drive future growth by enabling it to capture a slice of the growing music publishing market. In 2021, global publishing royalties to songwriters and composers grew by 7.2% to €8.5 billion ($9.2 billion), according to the International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies’ (CISAC).
The Sentric deal also strengthens Believe’s TuneCore business offering, which provides worldwide digital distribution to independent and self-releasing artists. Believe says 23% of TuneCore’s subscribers already use Sentric’s publishing service. Moving forward, says Believe, Sentric will offer publishing services to all clients within the Believe Group.
“The growth and digital transformation of the songwriters’ market is opening-up many opportunities,” says Ladegaillerie.
For Utopia Music, the future appears cloudier with its sale of Sentric following a period of intense change at the fintech company.
In November, Utopia cut its workforce by about 20%, or about 230 jobs, followed two months later by CEO Markku Mäkeläinen exiting the company and founder and executive chairman Mattias Hjelmstedt taking over as interim chief executive. In February, Utopia said it had sold U.S.-based music database platform ROSTR — which has a directory of artists, managers, booking agents and record labels — back to ROSTR’s founders for an undisclosed sum.
At the time, Hjelmstedt told Billboard that the sale of ROSTR was part of a company-wide refocus on its core financial services business and that the company had recently completed a fresh investment round. (He declined to discuss the size of investment or investors).
However, on Wednesday, Scandinavian news outlet Breakit reported that some Utopia employees have recently gone unpaid and the company’s Swedish arm, Utopia R&D Tech, owes 8 million SEK ($770,000) to the Swedish tax authorities. (Music Business Worldwide was the first to report Breakit‘s story).
In response, a spokesperson for Utopia told Billboard that the company’s “strategic transition” was in response to “current changes in the market landscape,” adding that it is focusing on profitability and growth.
“It has not been an easy journey, but we are very positive about Utopia’s future and look forward to continuing what we are here to do — support the music industry with digital solutions for managing, monitoring, and processing royalties, and distributing the music we all love to listen to,” the Utopia rep said.