Why did BTS leave Sony for Universal? And what’s up with Warner Music Group’s $10bn value growth?

You can listen to the latest MBW podcast above, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart etc. via this link.

Welcome to the latest episode of Talking Trends, the weekly podcast from Music Business Worldwide – where we go deep behind the headlines of two major news stories affecting the entertainment industry.

This week, host Louise Porter and MBW founder Tim Ingham discuss the shock news that, following a long and successful partnership, Korean superstars BTS (via HYBE) have ended their relationship with Sony Music / The Orchard / Columbia.

Instead, BTS will release music through Universal Music Group and Interscope in the future.

Porter and Ingham discuss why BTS might have made this decision – or had the decision made for them – and what the motivations might be in the new deal for both Universal and HYBE, each of whom are publicly-traded companies.

Ingham casts his eye back to a partnership announcement between Universal and HYBE early in 2021. That agreement conspicuously didn’t mention BTS – but he suspects an “all-in” agreement might have been shaken on there and then.

“Looking back now, I wonder if Universal essentially said to HYBE, behind-the-scenes: ‘We are completely happy to get into bed with you on these [other] co-controlled projects, but we need a guarantee that BTS will come over to our side,” suggests Ingham.

That belief is only made more of a likelihood, says Ingham, by the fact that “it’s actually hard to see where Sony put a foot wrong” in its multi-year relationship with BTS. That view is especially true, he suggests, when it comes to Columbia Records and the label’s President Ron Perry, who successfully helped BTS cross over in the US from being K-Pop stars into bona fide Stateside pop sensations.

Says Ingham: “This raises the question: why on earth would BTS leave Sony? It strikes me that this must be part of a bigger plan where HYBE and Universal are growing closer and closer to one another.”

You can listen to the MBW Podcast above, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart etc. via this link.

Elsewhere on Talking Trends this week, Porter and Ingham chew over the news that Warner Music Group – the world’s third biggest major music rights company – has seen its valuation explode by over $10 billion in the past year.

What’s driven such a scintillating rise in value? Ingham suggests a number of factors… not least Universal’s own debut on the stock exchange last month.

There’s also mention of Warner’s digital licensing team, led by Oana Ruxandra, and the surprising number of experimental and industry-first deals that WMG has struck over the past year-and-a-half.

This deal-making frequency, suggests Ingham, has “turned on the taps” to an influx of revenue from alternative platforms at Warner.

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Companies mentioned in this week’s episode of Talking Trends include: Columbia Records, Genies, Hipgnosis Song Management, Interscope Records, KKR, Kobalt, Peloton, Roblox, Sony Music Group, Snap, TikTok, The Orchard, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Wave, YouTube

People mentioned in this week’s episode of Talking Trends include: Steve Cooper, Sir Lucian Grainge, John Janick, Ron Perry, Oana Ruxandra, Ed Sheeran.