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French Labels Body SNEP Blames Believe For Holdup Of Market Report

LONDON — A dispute has broken out in the French music industry between labels trade body SNEP and Believe, the Paris-based music distributor and artist services company, over the sharing of sales and revenue data.

Believe is refusing to share domestic market data with SNEP, which is responsible for tracking the size of the French recorded music market. That has led SNEP to choose not to publish first-half figures for the French recorded music market for the first time in more than a decade.

It lays the blame for that decision firmly at the feet of Believe.

“Unlike the other big independents in France, Believe has until now shown no willingness to contribute to the French market data,” SNEP managing director Alexandre Lasch tells Billboard. “It’s a situation we have tried to avoid, and it was definitely not an easy decision to make.”

To compile its half-year and annual market reports, SNEP receives audited sales data from all three major labels, as well as the main independent labels and distributors in France.

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Believe is the biggest distributor of independent music in France, by some margin. But despite repeated requests from SNEP, the distributor hasn’t submitted domestic sales data to the organization since late 2018, and it is the only significant music company not to submit financial figures on a regular basis, SNEP says. (The only other holdouts are companies with a small turnover that can be classed as micro enterprises.)

Believe declined to be interviewed and did not respond to Billboard‘s written questions. In a statement, the company said it was “surprised to learn” that SNEP needed its data for their market report and confirmed that it hasn’t been providing figures to the organization for “the last several years, and it was never an issue.”

Lasch dismisses Believe’s claim that it was surprised. He says the absence of Believe’s sales data from its financial reporting is “particularly problematic” this year as SNEP recently partnered with U.K. sales tracking company The Official Charts Company to compile its market reports. That’s led to methodological changes that require “greater cooperation” from labels and distributors.

Founded in 2005, Believe provides a range of services for artists and indie labels, including distribution to streaming platforms, digital marketing and sync services. Its brands include New-York based platform TuneCore, Paris-based label and publisher Naïve, rock label Nuclear Blast and German distributor Groove Attack.

In June, Believe launched its initial public offering (IPO) on the Euronext Paris stock exchange, raising 300 million euros ($365.4 million) — up to 330 million ($402.9 million) with over-allotment – with an initial market valuation of approximately €1.9 billion ($2.3 billion).

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On Wednesday (Sept. 15), Believe published its first-half financial results for the six months ending June 30, reporting group revenues of €260 million ($306 million), up 33% from the same period the previous year. Although the report breaks down revenues by geographic region — including a reported 21% rise in revenues in France, totaling €43 million ($50 million) in the first half of 2021 – SNEP says Believe’s figures are “aggregated data” for the company’s global business and do not meet its domestic criteria.

“They do not allow us to monitor the evolution of the French market segment by segment,” says Lasch. “If we can’t agree, there is also a risk [that we can’t produce] the annual figures, but we are continuing our efforts simultaneously with the Official Charts Company to avoid such a situation.”

Believe says it is open to discussing the matter with SNEP and “is always ready to participate in the production of market data and artist rankings when produced in an independent, honest and transparent way.”

SNEP says it has not heard from the organization since the dispute went public on Tuesday.