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Radiohead’s Early Catalog Moves From Warner Bros. to XL

The Radiohead catalog pre-dating 2004, sold to the Warner Music Group as part of its acquisition of the Parlophone label, now is credited to XL Recordings on Spotify, iTunes and other digital…

Update 4/5: According to an XL spokesperson, “This is the first step in the transfer of Radiohead’s back catalogue from Parlophone to XL. The main albums are being made available in their original form as a start, before non-LP material is reconfigured.”

Original 4/4 Post: The Radiohead catalog pre-dating 2004, sold to the Warner Music Group as part of its acquisition of the Parlophone label, now is credited to XL Recordings on Spotify, iTunes and other digital services, indicating that the long-expected divestment by WMG of certain assets to Impala labels has begun.

That catalog includes some of the group’s biggest-selling albums — Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief — which moved approximately 115,000 units for WMG in 2015. The bonus material on the deluxe editions of these albums, including several dozen B-sides, live tracks and other rarities, have disappeared from the streaming services. The editions were issued by EMI in the mid-2000s, to the band’s displeasure. 

Spotify issued the following statement: “As a result of a change in rights ownership of  Radiohead’s catalog, the band’s catalog on Spotify has been streamlined, meaning that a small number of products are no longer available.However, the band’s core album catalog remains available to their millions of fans on Spotify as before.”

It was unclear at press time in what capacity XL, the British independent powerhouse that is home to Adele, the XX, the Prodigy and many other acts, has gained control of the catalog: WMG said it would either sell Parlophone artist catalogs, license them, or sign distribution deals, but a rep declined to discuss Radiohead, and other sources declined to comment. Not all websites have updated the label affiliation: Nielsen Music still lists Warner Bros. for the Radiohead albums in question, while Amazon still lists Capitol (which has not distributed the catalog for several years).

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Before WMG struck a deal to pay 487 million pounds (then about $765 million) for Parlophone in February 2013, it had already reached an agreement with the two European-based indie-trade groups — Impala and Merlin — that it would sell, license or reach distribution agreements with independent labels for WMG assets with revenue equivalent to about 25 to 33 percent of Parlophone’s total sales, among other conditions, sources tell Billboard. It appears the divestment process begun two years ago is finally reaching the deal stage.

In March 2014, WMG privately communicated to the independent label community that it was beginning the process to honor its divestment commitment, but the vetting process has been long and laborious, with artist approval required, sources say. While this deal is apparently the first involving a Parlophone artist to reach fruition, a source tells Billboard that the entire Parlophone roster and catalog is up for bidding — and some Warner artists may be as well.

In Europe, XL has been issuing Radiohead’s post-Parlophone catalog and some Thom Yorke solo efforts.

Martin Mills — founder and chairman of the Beggars Group, chairman of Merlin, and an Impala board member — could not be reached for comment at press time.

The Warner Music Group declined to comment beyond the following statement: “We are making good progress with the voluntary divestment process that Impala/Merlin and WMG agreed as part of our acquisition of Parlophone Label Group,” the statement reads. “Numerous independent labels are involved in these negotiations and we are not commenting on individual deals at this stage. We expect to make a joint announcement with Impala/Merlin in due course.”