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The Deals: Diplo Strikes Royal Partnership, WMG Plays Games With STYNGR

Also this week: Concord acquires a legendary Stax Records photo catalog and Quality Goods signs a merger and distribution deal with UMG/Virgin.

Star electronic producer Diplo is the latest act to sign on to Royal, an online marketplace that allows artists to sell percentages of their song royalties directly to fans in the form of tokens. Streaming royalty tokens for Diplo’s “Don’t Forget My Love,” a sinewy house track featuring Miguel taken from Diplo’s recently released eponymous LP, went on sale March 29 and sold out in less than an hour. A total of 20% of the song’s royalties were sold in the form of 2,110 tokens for a profit of $398,000, according to data shared by Royal.


The sale marked the first time that rights to Diplo’s music were made available to fans. Royalties were disseminated via LimitedDigital Assets (LDAs), which are tokens with music rights embedded in them. Ranging between $99 and $9,999, some of these tokens also contain access to assets like an exclusive mix by Diplo and entry to future Diplo events, depending on the price tier.

Diplo is the latest high-profile artist to sell tokens via Royal, which has previously hosted the sale of royalties to music by Nas. The company was launched in 2021 by electronic music producer Justin Blau (who makes music as 3LAU) as a way for artists to earn income by selling royalties directly to fans via blockchain technology. – Katie Bain

STYNGR partnered with Warner Music Group to provide game developers with access to pre-licensed tracks from portions of WMG’s music catalog. Under the deal, game developers will be able to integrate WMG recordings into their platforms “for inclusion in customized radio stations and music-based character enhancements” utilizing STYNGR software developer kits (SDKs), according to a press release.

“Our mission is to remove the barriers and let gaming studios – especially the massive middle class of developers – offer music in a way that reduces licensing friction whilst being gamer friendly,” said Alex Tarrand, co-founder of STYNGR. “Gaming is in our DNA and our service caters to how games are leveraging music today as well as the future of audio vanities. We allow developers to get the commercial music their users want without having to handle music licensing, distribution, and payments on their own. We also offer the option to flip the model on its head and monetize popular music within a game.”

Tarrand added that STYNGR “handles all the backend rights management” for developers and will assist them in connecting with the company’s label partners for “in-game artist exclusives.”

“Partnering with STYNGR will allow us to expand the presence of music across the global gaming ecosystem,” added Alex Kamins, WMG senior vp of new business & ventures. “These integrations will enhance the experience of players and provide new, gaming native opportunities for WMG artists to engage their fans and generate incremental income.”

Stax Records owner Concord acquired the Bill Carrier Sr. API Photo Collection of Memphis’ Stax Records. Many of the photos in the collection, which includes over 1,100 negatives, were used on the covers of Stax albums by artists including Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, William Bell, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Eddie Floyd, The Bar-Kays, Johnnie Taylor, The Astors, The Mad Lads, Mable John and Judy Clay.

Carrier, who was hired by Stax Records’ Jim Stewart and Deanie Parker in 1962, took photos of Stax artists, the label’s historic Studio A and jam sessions. The photos “were critical to the Stax promotional strategy and were sent to newspapers and concert promoters worldwide,” according to a press release announcing the deal.

The collection will be available for licensing, including for album packaging, film and tv projects, museum exhibits and more. Those interested in licensing opportunities can contact

“I am pleased that Bill Carrier Jr. has entrusted Concord with his father’s invaluable collection.” said Parker, Stax Records’ longtime director of publicity and artist relations and founding president and CEO of the Soulsville Foundation. “These photos portray the image of Stax at a pivotal moment in our history.”

Bill Carrier Jr. added, “I am delighted that The Stax Collection has found a home with Concord. It was key for me to help provide the best archival value so that the world may continue to appreciate these artists who changed music history worldwide.”

In his own statement, Concord CEO Scott Pascucci said the acquisition “will also allow Concord to work with the Soulsville Foundation to continue upholding and preserving the legacy of Stax Records.”

Electronic label Quality Goods Records struck a strategic merger and distribution deal with Universal Music Group/Virgin Music Artist & Label Services.

According to a press release, the agreement will allow Quality Goods “to further streamline artist development [and] release methodology,” focus on larger projects and continue to diversify the company’s “genre palette” in the electronic sphere.

“UMG will be bringing on resources & experience that will benefit us in an extraordinary way,” said Quality Goods Records COO Mouna Dif in a statement. “Expect bigger exposure internationally, push and visibility, allowing us therefore to focus more on artist development, bigger projects, now more than ever, and diversify the music we will be releasing within the bass genre.”

“We feel like we’ve built a solid, unique auditory experience throughout our 6 years of existence,” added Quality Goods founder and trap artist UZ. “We’re very proud of what Quality Goods has become, and signing to Universal will help us grow our reach to interact with a larger audience without diluting the quality of our services.”

Since launch, Quality Goods says it’s been behind 360 releases from 150 artists across 6 continents, with 65 million Spotify streams to date. The label’s roster has included QUIX, ATLiens, Rome In Silver, Jon Casey, sfam, Oski and SoloSam.

Ingrooves Music Group signed a global distribution deal with Stanley “Citi” Atwater’s Run-It-Up Records.

Established in 2017, Run-It Up Records has released a string of successful tracks — many of which took off on TikTok — including F.L.Y.’s “Swag Surfin’”; T-Wayne’s “Nasty Freestyle”; YungManny’s “Clap For ‘Em” feat. Flo Milli; Hxllywood’s “Sneaky Link 2.0” feat. Kayla Nicole and Soulja Boy; “ShantiiP’s “Throw It Back (Abow)”; and Mohead Mike’s “PTPOM” along with its remix, “PTPOM 2.0” with Moneybagg Yo.

Forthcoming releases from Run-It Up include albums from Hxllywood and DJ Chose.

WME signed NFT project Escapeplan, described in a press release as “the world’s first-ever Bored Ape producer-DJ duo” comprised of “brother apes” ETHan and zeETH.

The agency will work with the NFT avatars, which are part of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT project, on opportunities in bookings, endorsements and IP exploitation. Bored Ape Yacht Club is a collection encompassing 10,000 cartoon ape NFTs living on the Ethereum blockchain. The price for a single Ape has soared to over $600,000 since the project’s launch; A-list Ape owners include Justin Beiber, Steve Aoki, Kygo, Jimmy Fallon, Post Malone, Eminem, Logan Paul, Neymar Jr., Serena Williams, Marshmello, Rich the Kid and The Chainsmokers.

Escapeplan, which will continue to be repped by Big Night Talent, recently debuted the single “Jungle” feat. Rich the Kid.

Symphonic Distribution entered an exclusive global distribution and marketing partnership with Imogen Heap. Under the agreement, Heap will bring back catalog and new releases to Symphonic for distribution and playlist pitching.

The deal launches with Frou Frou’s “« off cuts »,” described in a press release as “a handful of sought-after demos” from the pop duo formed by Heap and Guy Sigsworth. The first single from the collection is “A New Kind of Love (Demo),” which drops April 8 on streaming services across the globe.

“Honored is not a strong enough word for how we feel about collaborating with Imogen Heap,” said Nick Gordon, chief partnership officer at Symphonic. “From Frou Frou to her solo work, we’ve always been fans, her pioneering experiments on blockchain-enabled music distribution and the development of the Creative Passport inspire us.”

“The fans have been requesting the demos to be available in high quality and we are thrilled to have them available for commercial release,” added Heap.

Tanna Leone, the new Los Angeles-based artist from Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free’s pgLang, signed with Def Jam Recordings, which recently released Leone’s debut tracks “With The Villains” and “Lucky.”

“We’re excited to welcome Tanna Leone and pgLang to the Def Jam family as valued partners,” said Tunji Balogun, chairman and CEO of Def Jam Recordings. “I’m lucky to have been able to connect with Kendrick and Dave during the early stages of my career as friends and collaborators, and I’m thrilled to be able to extend that relationship here at Def Jam.”

“As an artist I want to represent disrupting the status quo, push people to focus on their growth as humans, and to be a voice for the voiceless through my artistry,” added Leone.

SPX Capital Group signed a multi-faceted deal with Mathew Knowles and his company Music World Entertainment Group (MWEG).

Under the agreement, MWEG’s film and TV division will be incorporated into a newly created unit, Music World Films & TV (MWFT), within APX Capitol Group that will be managed by Knowles with a €250 million starting budget for film and TV co-productions completed between Italy and the U.S. The structure of the financing will be “streamlined” through APX’s Italian subsidiary MMF Global Italia, according to a press release. Knowles will also join APX’s board.

According to the release, MWFT will develop, finance and produce “a steady stream of diverse, co-owned content” – including feature films, scripted TV series and documentaries – that cover Knowles’ 30-year career in the entertainment industry, including such projects as The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music, Quilts, A Christmas Story, Hoodlum Preacher, Cowboys and Aliens, Civil War and The Mathew Knowles Story. The latter project is described as “the story that traces back to how Knowles had navigated his daughters’ world-famous careers.” To that end, MWFT’s portfolio includes 10,000 hours of footage depicting the Knowles family.

Executive producers across all projects will include Mathew Knowles as well as APX chiefs Noam Baram, Yona Wiesenthal and Augusto Pelliccia.

Singer-songwriter Ashley Cooke signed a co-venture deal with Big Loud Records/Back Blocks Music, with Cooke being repped by Big Loud/Back Blocks for both label and publishing.

In 2021, Cooke released her debut project Already Drank That Beer, which included a feature with Jimmie Allen on “Good Goodbye.” She is currently opening for Cole Swindell’s Down to the Bar tour and recently teased a duet version of “Never Til Now” feat. Brett Young.

“From the second I walked into Big Loud, it felt like home. They met me where I was, recognizing all I had built independently while also showing me how they could pour gasoline on the fire that had already started,” Cooke said via a statement. “Getting to partner with not only Big Loud but also my champion since day 1, Rakiyah Marshall/Back Blocks, is an absolute dream team and I couldn’t be more excited and confident to be joining the roster.” – Jessica Nicholson

Singer-songwriter Julian Lennon signed a new global recording agreement with BMG, with an album slated for release later this year.
Lennon has released a total of six studio albums, including his platinum-selling 1984 debut Valotte and gold-selling 1986 follow-up The Secret Value of Daydreaming. His most recent full-length, Everything Changes, dropped in 2011.

BMG executive vp of global recordings Fred Casimir said in a statement, “Julian is a unique artist working across multiple art forms with a clear humanitarian and ecological perspective, which dates back decades. There is sometimes a long wait between Julian Lennon albums, but having heard this one, I’m convinced it was worth the wait.”

Lennon recently released his debut NFT drop, Lemon Connection, featuring digital art pieces created from his personal and physical memorabilia collection. He also released a cover of Radiohead’s “Karma Police” feat. Nuno Bettencourt, which he and Bettencourt performed on AXS TV as a charity benefit for Crew Nation during the pandemic.

Sub Pop signed two new artists: Greek pop singer-songwriter Σtella, described in a press release as “a strong storyteller, an old-school pop paean to the pangs and raptures of love,” and Portland rock duo Quasi, comprised of Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes.

Hailing from Athens, Greece, Σtella’s first release on Sub Pop, “Charmed,” was produced by Redinho from Swet Shop Boys. She’s slated to release an album on the label later this year.

Σtella’s previous releases include a total of three studio albums: her 2015 self-titled debut, 2017’s Works for You and 2020’s The Break.

Quasi – whose songs are described as “part fearless folk art and part piranha” – have released a total of nine albums, the most recent being Mole City in 2013. They’re currently working on their Sub Pop debut album and embarking on a 28-date North American tour, including shows with Superchunk and Jon Spencer & the Hitmakers.