The Deals: UMG Strikes Global Pact With [PIAS], Songtradr Acquires MassiveMusic
A rundown of the latest music industry deals.
Universal Music Group (UMG) announced a strategic global alliance with [PIAS], giving UMG access to the independent music company’s recently-rebranded international distribution and label services division [Integral], which already supports more than 100 indie label partners including ATO, Beggars Group and Secretly Group. In turn, [PIAS] will receive UMG funding and resources to continue growing its global presence.
[PIAS] founders Kenny Gates and Michel Lambot will retain full control of the company, which will remain entirely independent.
“I have known Kenny and Michel for more than 30 years and have deep respect for their passion for music as well their openness and authenticity,” said UMG chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge. “As pioneers of the label services model, they have created enormous opportunities for independent artists and labels and established [PIAS] as a beacon of excellence in the independent community.”
[PIAS] announced the rebranded [Integral] in March, along with a string of new executive appointments. The company is behind three nominees at the upcoming A2IM Libera Awards on June 17, tied to releases from Arlo Parks, Beverly Glenn-Copeland and Bebel Gilberto.
“Almost 40 years since Michel Lambot and I launched [PIAS] we are as eager and driven as we ever were and remain wholly committed to providing independent labels and artists with a platform to reach a global audience,” Gates added. “This new, somewhat unconventional, strategic agreement with UMG will help both companies maximize the many opportunities we know are available, while not compromising our independence whatsoever.” — Tatiana Cirisano
B2B music licensing marketplace Songtradr acquired global creative music agency MassiveMusic, which creates and curates music, strategic sonic branding solutions and music management for brands including Nike, Heineken, Apple and UEFA.
“MassiveMusic has built a standout reputation for bold, brilliant, creative music solutions for brands over the last 20+ years,” said Paul Wiltshire, CEO of Songtradr, in a statement. “The complexities of the B2B music industry have made it challenging to fully adopt and leverage technology, limiting it from experiencing the same growth as the consumer music industry. Bringing our companies and competencies together creates the scale and trust to enable a true transformation of the B2B music industry and unlock significant growth potential.”
MassiveMusic, which saw double-digit revenue growth in 2020 versus 2019, has roughly 85 employees spread across offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo. This year, the company launched MassiveBASS, a data-driven sonic branding tool that “predicts success in recall, distinctiveness and connection to brand personality,” according to a release.
MassiveMusic is just the latest acquisition by Songtradr, which over the past two years has also acquired Big Sync Music, Cuesongs, Song Zu, Pretzel and Tunefind and made an investment in music data company Jaxsta.
Warner Music Group signed a multi-year partnership with music technology company Songclip that will see the latter use WMG’s catalog on its API, allowing for integrations of WMG music across video, dating and gaming apps.
When integrated with other apps, the Songclip API enables users to search for and share 5-30 second meta-tagged music clips in their social media feeds, online dating profiles and more. It concurrently provides analytics on how consumers interact with music as well as the social platforms, apps and virtual marketplaces that utilize the service. The technology measures, monetizes and handles all royalties on behalf of labels and publishers.
“Partnering with Songclip will allow WMG to dramatically expand its social licensing footprint, allowing users of new apps and platforms to express themselves more creatively and authentically through music,” said WMG senior vp, new business ventures Alex Kamins in a statement. “Artists and songwriters will benefit from additional income and new audience touchpoints as we continue to unlock the vast opportunity that is ‘music as a social feature’.”
Added Andy Blacker, CEO and co-founder of Songclip, “Our mission from day one has been to increase the value of music IP across social on behalf of the industry but with proper protection and measurement. Apps want to integrate and innovate with music because it drives average revenue per user (ARPU), but there is no industry wide solution to make this easy, and compliant.”
UMG announced an exclusive partnership with music-based boxing platform Liteboxer. The partnership will see Liteboxer featuring songs from UMG’s artist roster in its home fitness boxing equipment, which uses patented technology to let users punch to the beats of the music of their choice.
“Universal Music Group is excited to be at the forefront of music innovation as one of the first companies to license music to fitness-technology companies,” UMG executive vp of digital business development & strategy Jonathan Dworkin said. “Our partnership with Liteboxer demonstrates our commitment to bringing the motivational power of music to workouts, while also enabling new uses for music that benefit artists and fans.”
This week, Liteboxer also closed a $20 million Series A funding round led by Nimble Ventures. Timbaland also participated in the round.
“We all know working out is good for us, but the drudgery of getting on an exercise bike or heading out the door for a run keeps many of us from building healthy habits,” Liteboxer chief marketing officer Scarlet Batchelor said. “Our partnership with UMG will offer a generation raised on gaming a fitness option that they actually want to do.”
Warner Music China is expanding its hip-hop imprint JUUICE from mainland China to Greater China, a region that includes Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“We are delighted to announce the expansion of JUUICE across Greater China,” said Jonathan Serbin, CEO of Greater China for Warner Music Asia. “Already a force in the mainland, we are now leveraging the resources of our other affiliates, Hong Kong and Taiwan, to fuel JUUICE’s ability to promote its roster across a wider network in Asia. JUUICE artists will benefit from Warner Music’s integrated marketing and promotion efforts across the region, enabling them to accelerate their careers by reaching the widest audience possible.”
“Hip-hop and rap is one of the fastest growing segments in the Asian music markets,” added WMG president, international, recording music Simon Robson. “JUUICE is already a respected and credible label in China, now we want to support the best talent throughout Greater China, as well as Chinese-speaking artists from around the world, and raise their profile globally.”
In tandem with that announcement, the company revealed that JUUICE has signed Chinese hip-hop star and rapper Bohan Phoenix. Born in the Chinese province of Hubei, Phoenix spent much of his youth in the U.S., where he began rapping at age 13. After studying at New York University, he moved back to Chengdu, which has been called the birthplace of Chinese hip-hop, where he helped developed the local music scene and collaborated with prominent artists including Higher Brothers and Vava.
Other artists signed to JUUICE include Ty and Deng Dian Guo.
Atlantic Records A&Rs Tim Braüner and Adam Schulz have signed Los Angeles-based indie-rock duo Surf Curse following the success of the band’s single “Freaks.”
Originally released on their 2013 debut album Buds, the melancholy song re-emerged in May thanks to TikTok, where it has been used in more than 250,000 videos, helping it reach No. 19 on Billboard’s Alternative Streaming Songs and Rock Streaming Songs charts. The band, made up of Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck, promises new music on the horizon.
“I had been monitoring Surf Curse for quite some time because of their cult following in the LA indie-rock scene,” said Schulz in a statement. “When ‘Freaks’ started to gain some early traction in March, it felt like the right time to reach out as I felt the band was on the precipice of a breakout moment. Fortunately, my colleague Tim Brauner had a close relationship with the manager and was able to help connect the dots.”
Indie label and artist development company Better Noise Music has signed rock band Asking Alexandria in the U.K. The group is currently in the studio working on new music expected to release later this year.
“The fact that Asking Alexandria are from the U.K. with a worldwide audience, gives us the opportunity to deepen their strong connections with fans on both a local and international level across Better Noise Music’s global offices,” said Better Noise president Dan Waite in a statement. “As a global touring act they have over one billion cumulative streams and views, and we look forward to building on that success.”
Asking Alexandria’s manager Diony Sepulveda added, “While the band is already part of the hard rock culture in America, they wanted more, especially internationally. At a time where information and analytics play an ever-increasingly crucial role in the record business, the Better Noise team has cracked the code on obtaining key data from their digital partners, analyzing it efficiently, translating it to the artist, and utilizing it to help maximize and grow the band’s digital footprint.”
Formed in 2008 in the U.K., Asking Alexandria have scored three consecutive top 10 debuts on the Billboard 200 with their albums Reckless & Relentless, From Death to Destiny and The Black. They have also racked up two gold-certified singles (“Final Episode (Let’s Change The Channel)” and “Not The American Average”) and several streaming hits, including “Alone In A Room” (40 million Spotify streams) and “Into the Fire” (30 million Spotify streams), according to a release.
Asking Alexandria is comprised of Ben Bruce (guitar, backing vocals), Danny Worsnop (lead vocals), James Cassells (drums), Cameron Liddell (guitar) and Sam Bettley (bass). The band released their sixth album, Like a House on Fire, last year.
“While we’ve concentrated particularly on our North American fanbase in the past, our goal for the future is that our music and live shows become more accessible to audiences on a global scale,” said Bruce. “That is why we jumped at the chance to sign to Better Noise. Working with the team out of the label’s UK branch gives us the opportunity to be more connected as a band to our home country, while simultaneously working with all of their international offices to reach our goals.”
Singer-songwriter Sam Williams – grandson of country legend Hank Williams and son of Hank Williams Jr. – has signed to UMG Nashville.
Williams’ debut album, Glasshouse Children, is slated to drop later this summer. It’s been preceded by the tracks “Shuteye,” “Can’t Fool Your Own Blood,” “The World: Alone” and “10-4.”
“We are so proud and excited that Sam Williams is joining Universal Music Group,” said Cindy Mabe, president of UMG Nashville, in a statement. “Sam’s talent is timeless and boundless. He has such an incredible way of communicating and emotes as if he’s channeling feelings from another place; somewhere deep inside himself. His powerful, soulful vocals combine with his introspective storytelling to fully immerse you into Sam’s own life making you feel everything he feels. He’s such a special talent and I believe Sam’s music will help lead country music into its next evolution.”
Atlantic Records executive vp of A&R Dallas Martin has signed Carson, California rapper Jayson Cash.
“Jayson Cash is going to be one of the biggest artists to come out of the West Coast this year,” said Martin in a statement. “His music is visual; you can see everything happening as you listen. He’s an incredible lyricist and a true hustler. I’m ready for the world to hear his powerful story.”
On the heels of the signing, Atlantic released “All I Know,” the first single off Cash’s upcoming debut project. Produced by Tha Eastie Boyz and Jay Millian, the track was accompanied by a music video that features a “poetic retelling” of a 2017 incident in which Cash was shot three times after passing by a gang initiation gone wrong. “His unwavering faith and relentless drive played a crucial role in his road to recovery, from dropping a freestyle while in his hospital bed to relearning how to walk,” reads a press release on the signing.
“Dallas signing me to Atlantic was a blessing for not only me, but for everybody around me,” added Cash. “My family, my friends, my city, just everybody. I signed my deal on the same block I struggled and cried on, Camba Ave, literally right under the street sign. The odds were against us, but the underdogs are up now. InCrowd Only!”
Deadmau5 has signed electronic artist and producer Lamorn to his mau5trap label. Lamorn’s mau5trap debut, the track “Physical Layer,” was released on June 4. He will also support Deadmau5 at his upcoming live show at Rawhide Western Town & Event Centre in Phoenix, Arizona.
Lamorn came to the attention of Deadmau5 after the young producer submitted a track to “mau5trap Mondays” in Aug. 2020. “His song ‘Physical Layer’ was so strong I had to ask him to send his session files to make sure it was him,” said Deadmau5 in a statement.
That same week, Lamorn was declared the winner of ATTLAS & mau5trap’s remix competition for ATTLAS’ single “Half Light” feat. Alisa Xayalith. Deadmau5 later enlisted Lamorn to remix his single “Bridged By A Lightwave” feat. Kiesza.
Lamorn has also created official remixes for Judah & the Lion’s “Spirit” and SHAED and Two Feet’s “Part Time Psycho.” He has new music coming later this year.
BLKBOK, a neo-classical piano player who hails from Detroit, has signed to icons+giants, the label founded by Billy Mann and Benton James, in partnership with ADA Worldwide/Warner Music Group.
The pianist has toured with Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, John Mayer and other artists while composing scores of unfinished piano segments. When the pandemic hit last year, BLKBOK found time to complete a full album, Black Book, which will be released on Juneteenth. The album includes a featured vocal collaboration with Renée Elise Goldsberry.
Coming up, BLKBOK will be performing live at the Juneteenth Freedom Reception at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. on June 18 and at the Juneteenth Freedom Concert on June 19 with headliners T.I. and Domani.
BLKBOK previously released the mixtape CVRART, which features “a neo-classical, hip hop inspired expression of some of the most recent viral hits,” including covers of Saweetie’s “Best Friend” feat. Doja Cat and Cardi B‘s “Up.”