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As Mötley Crüe Hits the Road, BMG Aims to Kickstart the Band’s Newly Purchased Catalog

Don't expect the same ol' situation for upcoming Crüe reissues. "In the next few years we want to be celebrating every single one of [the band's] albums in a spectacular fashion," says a BMG exec.

There was clearly gold to be mined from The Dirt after Mötley Crüe‘s band biography was adapted into a hit Netflix film back in March of 2019. Now, more glitter is on the way as BMG — which bought the group’s catalog last November — is unveiling plans to elevate the metal legends even further in the coming years.

The deal covers Mötley Crüe’s nine studio releases between 1981-2008 and a catalog that’s sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, with nine platinum or better albums (including compilations) and 15 Top 20 Mainstream Rock Songs hits. It’s the largest single recorded catalog acquisition in BMG’s history, though reports of a $150 million price tag are “overstated” according to company officials (sources indicate it was closer to $90 million). By any measure, however, it is a formidable collection, and it has even more rocket fuel behind it now that the Crüe is back in active duty.

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Recanting a Farewell Tour that ended Dec. 31, 2015, the band kicks off its COVID-delayed The Stadium Tour on Thursday (June 16) in Atlanta with Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. In its wake, BMG is planning an extensive and multi-pronged campaign that will refresh the Crüe catalog for longtime fans and provide fresh entry points for the new audience engaged by The Dirt film as well as the subsequent Pam & Tommy Hulu miniseries about the relationship between drummer Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson.

“Our goal is to make this catalog incredibly collectable and high demand,” Michael Kachko, BMG’s U.S. senior vp of catalog recordings, tells Billboard. “We’re looking to position Mötley Crüe in the same conversation as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Metallica. We want them to be in the same family — deservedly so. They’ve had the same kind of success.”

Mötley Crüe bassist and bandleader Nikki Sixx adds via email from tour rehearsals that, “To be considered a marquee catalog is a great honor. And while we were obviously looking for the best deal, we couldn’t have found a better home for our catalog than BMG, who are a true music company that understands catalog marketing better than anyone in the business, We made a very conscious decision to partner with somebody who has a genuine love and passion for Mötley Crüe’s 40-year body of work and who will nurture the catalog in a way that will keep its creative integrity intact for years to come, and for many future generations to discover the band.”

Discussions between BMG and Mötley Crüe began during the spring of 2021, according to the principals. The group, which released its debut album Too Fast For Love in 1981, owned its master recordings after a 1997 contract renegotiation with Elektra Records; since 2000 the group has been releasing albums via its Mötley Crüe imprint, part of the Eleven Seven Label Group established by longtime manager Allen Kovac (now known as Better Noise Music). That, in turn, facilitated an easy sale to BMG once the agreement was reached.

“Whether it was the Crüe Fest (tour) or The Dirt book or The Dirt movie, we’ve constantly kept the brand out there and have been extending the band,” Kovac explains. “We’re very proud of the band for allowing us to do a lot of things that help them keep their success.”

BMG was Mötley Crüe’s choice, meanwhile, because of the company’s emphasis on rock, including the catalogs of fellow heavyweights such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Motörhead and Dio, along with other acts like the Kinks and Keith Richards. The company has a reputation for deluxe treatment of both catalog titles and new releases, creating immersive, lavishly packaged sets that hearken back to the music-buying experience of the Crüe’s heyday in the 80s.

“BMG is great with these types of catalogs, and their team was really passionate about (Mötley Crüe’s),” says Chris Nilsson, president of 10th St. Entertainment. “People don’t want just the vinyl anymore that’s been available for years. They want the vinyl and an exclusive T-shirt and a signed lithograph collector’s item. I think there are a lot of opportunities for this band to participate in that marketplace, and BMG comes along with lot of expertise and ability to do things that were really attractive to (the band).”

Mötley Crüe
Mötley Crüe Andre Csillag/REX/Shutterstock

BMG’s Crüe campaign began quietly during February, when the band’s catalog was released digitally via the company’s distribution channels. Physical releases are planned for July, with a particular focus on what Kachko calls “the crucial Crüe,” the first five albums from Too Fast For Love through Dr. Feelgood in 1989, after which lead singer Vince Neil left the band for one album (1994’s Mötley Crüe). A Crucial Crüe box set packaging those titles is planned for the holiday season as well.

Along with that is a special fourth-quarter piece to salute the 35th anniversary of Girls, Girls, Girls, which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and was the Crüe’s third consecutive quadruple platinum release. Details on that will be announced later this summer or during early fall.

Things will really kickstart during 2023, which BMG plans to declare Year of the Devil in commemorating the 40th anniversary of Mötley Crüe’s sophomore album, Shout at the Devil. “We’ll celebrate the album the entire year and really showcase that album,” Kachko says. The festivities will include a boxed set and other special releases, along with a new video for the title track. The campaign will be promoted at The Stadium Tour dates. “So many people discovered the band through Shout at the Devil back in the day — those videos, the tour with Ozzy (Osbourne),” Kachko notes. And that could well become a prototype for archival releases to follow.

“We’re lucky; they have an anniversary almost every year,” Kachko says, “so in the next few years we want to be celebrating every single one of those albums in a spectacular fashion.” BMG, he adds, is exploring the vaults for unreleased material, while Sixx and his Crüe mates are contributing their two cents, and more, to the process.

“BMG are really collaborative,” Sixx says. “It gives us comfort to help them guide the story. At the end of the day, BMG’s goal is the same as ours which is to give the fans the most incredible experience possible and the most value for their hard-earned money.”

Motley Crue, 2014
Jay Bernard

Since the catalog deal also includes Mötley Crüe’s video vault, Kachko says BMG plans to deploy those in a variety of ways — particularly online in spaces such as TikTok, Instagram and other social media platforms, creating playlists and editorial pieces that will explore the band’s history and impact.

“All the places the band isn’t is where we’re going to be,” Kachko explains. “One thing about this band that’s very important to point out is that every album had a different look and feel. Think of Shout at the Devil. Think of Girls, Girls, Girls. Think of Dr. Feelgood. The band looked different. The covers were different. Each one had a completely different vibe. So we have the ability to create visualizers and visual content unique to each album, so we want to celebrate each album in a very unique way, whether it’s digitally or physically, in the coming year.”

Kachko says BMG also plans to eventually remaster the Crüe catalog in Dolby Atmos, and the company is hoping to bolster sync rights sales for the material. “‘Kickstart My Heart’ is their No. 1 sync song. We get requests for it every other day,” Kachko says of the classic track, heard in the Battlefield 2042 game trailer and on Hockey Night in Canada. “Our goal is to dig a little deeper and have our team engage with our key contacts to work the catalog beyond their most syncable songs. That’s where the great victories will be.” Songs are also being remixed to make them more movie trailer-friendly in the future.

An active Crüe will no doubt help BMG’s cause. The band has not indicated whether it will remain together, to tour or record, beyond The Stadium Tour, but there are hopes from several quarters, including the label and concert promoters, that the trek will be repeated, domestically and/or overseas. Kachko acknowledges that BMG plans to “take advantage of the tour” and be ready for any demand that comes in its wake, while Sixx promises the band will do its part to stoke interest and drive fans old and new to the catalog.

“It’s going to be everything you’d want from a Mötley Crüe show and more,” he says. “It will be mind-blowing, over the top. There will be a lot of hits and some surprises. The new audience is coming to experience the same good time that their parents came to see us for decades ago and that the band has always been notorious for. There’s nothing in the world that can compare to the real, raw, firsthand experience that is a Mötley Crüe live show…and playing stadiums truly allows you to take the show to a different level, creatively.”