Germany-headquartered BMG Rights Management has increased its holdings in the music catalog of Nena, the German band behind the iconic hit 99 Luftballoons.
The company announced on Tuesday (December 19) that it has acquired singer Nena’s US recording copyright and ROW artist royalties, in addition to three band members’ artist shares, to add to its existing shares in the catalog.
Founded in West Berlin in 1982 as part of the German New Wave (Neue Deutsche Welle) movement, Nena consisted of singer Nena, drummer Rolf Brendel, guitarist Carlo Karges, bassist Jurgen Dehmel and keyboardist Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen.
The band achieved international fame not long after they formed, with the release of 99 Luftballoons in West Germany in 1983 and the UK in 1984. The single reached No. 1 on the charts in nine countries, and hit No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Nearly 40 years later, the song remains the highest-charting German-language track in US history.
Shortly thereafter, an English-language version of the song, 99 Red Balloons, went to No. 1 in the UK and Canada.
The band broke up in 1987, and Nena has since pursued a career as a solo singer. BMG has released four of her solo albums, Made in Germany (2009), Made in Germany – live (2010), Du Bist Gut (2012) and Oldschool (2015).
99 Luftballoons is generally recognized as an anti-war classic. Its lyrics, written by Carlo Karges, tell the story of a cloud of 99 red balloons that are mistaken for a UFO, triggering a brutal war.
“NENA’s journey with 99 Luftballons has been a remarkable one, and we are thrilled with BMG’s investment in the band’s catalog,” the band said in a joint statement.
“This song has been a symbol of peace across borders, and we look forward to seeing it continue to resonate with audiences around the world. BMG’s commitment to preserving and promoting our musical legacy aligns perfectly with the spirit of 99 Luftballons.”
“This song has been a symbol of peace across borders, and we look forward to seeing it continue to resonate with audiences around the world.”
“We could not pass up the opportunity to increase our stake in one of the most iconic catalogs in German music and a rare German-language international hit. 99 Luftballons really is a genuine classic,” said Maximilian Kolb, BMG’s EVP, Repertoire & Marketing, Continental Europe.
BMG says the Nena deal was its 27th music rights acquisition so far this year. The company spent USD $400 million on rights acquisitions in 2022, and CEO Thomas Coesfeld said in October that he expects the company will have spent a “similar” amount this year.
“We could not pass up the opportunity to increase our stake in one of the most iconic catalogs in German music and a rare German language international hit. 99 Luftballons really is a genuine classic.”
Maximilian Kolb, BMG
Among its acquisitions this year was the recording catalog of British pop-rock band The Hollies and the Australia/New Zealand recorded music rights of two albums by rock band Jet. Also this year, UK electronic music duo The Chemical Brothers consolidated their entire catalog with BMG; some of their albums had previously been represented by Universal Music Publishing Group.
Over the past few years BMG has acquired rights and/or royalties in the work of artists and/or songwriters including Tina Turner, John Legend, Mötley Crüe, ZZ Top, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Frampton, Harry Nilsson, John Lee Hooker, Simple Minds, Primal Scream and Jean-Michel Jarre, among others.Music Business Worldwide