The competition to buy publishing and recording rights has been heating up — and now there’s a new player. Pophouse Entertainment, a Stockholm-based company co-founded by ABBA frontman Björn Ulvaeus is entering the business, with a focus on developing the rights it acquires into entertainment experiences, as well as monetizing them in traditional ways. The company announced its first major acquisition March 29: The master recordings and publishing of Swedish House Mafia, with which it will form a joint venture.
Pophouse, co-founded in 2014 by Ulvaeus and Conni Jonsson, the founder and chair of the board of the investment firm EQT, is not yet known for investing in rights, but it has established itself as a serious player in the European branded entertainment business.
It is behind the Stockholm ABBA Museum and an adjoining hotel, and it is the lead investor in ABBA Voyage, the ongoing show that will feature “ABBAtars” and a ten-piece band in a new London arena starting in May; it is also involved in a Stockholm Pippi Longstocking musical and what it says is the world’s largest gaming center, which includes the “Avicii Experience,” a multimedia museum dedicated to the late Swedish DJ.
Pophouse has also brought in two new executives to beef up a leadership team that already includes CEO Per Sundin, the highly regarded formerly managing director of Universal Music Sweden and president of UMG Nordic Region, who made the first major label deal with Spotify. Steve Barnett, who formerly led the Capitol Music Group, and before that Columbia Records, will join Pophouse’s Investment Advisory Committee, where he will lead outreach to U.S. and U.K. rightsholders who could sell to or work with the company. Johan Lagerlöf, formerly Spotify’s global head of catalog, is Pophouse’s head of investments. (Frank Briegmann, UMG Chairman and CEO of Central Europe, who works closely with ABBA, is on the Pophouse board.)
That team, along its experience in generating value from music brands, will make Pophouse a force to be reckoned with, as it competes for acquisitions with the major labels and publishers, as well as BMG and newer companies like Hipgnosis Songs Fund and Primary Wave Music. Ulvaeus, in addition to being half of one of the most successful songwriting teams of his generation, also helped steer the ABBA brand to further success with the Mamma Mia! musical, plus the two Mamma Mia! movies and Mamma Mia! The Party, a Pophouse-backed dinner show that runs in London and Gothenburg, Sweden. ABBA Voyage, which could be a test case for ways in which artists can provide live experiences, and generate revenue, without actually going on the road themselves — a model that could have the potential to fit well with electronic music.
The Swedish House Mafia deal, which also includes the master recordings and publishing of Axwell^Ingrosso, is structured as a joint venture with the group, which is expected to release an album in April after years of relative inactivity.
“Swedish House Mafia is a groundbreaking trio that brought club music to stadiums around the world, and they continue to pave the way in contemporary electronic and dance music,” said Sundin in an announcement about the deal. “We are so excited to be partnering with them to tell that story for generations to come.”
In the same announcement, the group said that “Pophouse will do much more than simply acquire our creative work. Pophouse will invest [in] funds, know-how and resources to bring our music into areas of entertainment where it hasn’t been before and for new audiences to discover our legacy.”
There are presumably more deals to come. Pophouse has not announced its funding, but it should have a fairly easy time raising money.
“We are here to invest further in brand-building activities that amplify artist legacies to new audiences and develop new revenue streams,” Lagerlöf said in the announcement, “as we’ve done so successfully in our other endeavors.”