Sony acquires Essential Music & Marketing, launches Red Essential


Sony has fully acquired Essential Music & Marketing, one of Europe’s best-known independent label and artist services companies.

MBW can reveal that the major is merging the business with its own Sony RED in the UK to create a new venture, Red Essential.

Before Sony Music UK‘s acquisition, Essential was part of the Cooking Vinyl Group.

The historic Cooking Vinyl label will remain 100% independent, but now be serviced by Red Essential as a key partner.

Essential has just sent its label partners an email, obtained by MBW, which explains that Essential boss Mike Chadwick will become Co-MD of Red Essential alongside Ian Dutt (pictured inset).

The email, which you can read in full below, says that the merged business – which will operate out of Essential’s London office – does not plan to make any personnel changes.

The news comes almost exactly a year after Sony confirmed that it had fully acquired digital distributor The Orchard in a $250m deal.

Ian Dutt joined Sony Music UK in 2010 as Marketing Director at Columbia after 15 years at [PIAS]. He was named MD of Sony RED UK in 2013.

Essential Music & Marketing was founded in 2003.

Since that point, it has worked with labels including FatCat, Cherry Red, Lojinx, Nettwerk, Concord Music Group, BMG, Thirty Tigers, Snapper, Fierce Panda and Full Time Hobby – as well as Cooking Vinyl itself.

As such, Essential has released records by artists including The Prodigy, Passenger, Marilyn Manson, JME, Embrace, Seth Lakeman, Ghetts, Royksopp, Skepta and Lucinda Williams.

Essential’s latest FY accounts show that the business posted £12.5m ($18.7m) in sales in 2014.

The label services sector has become increasingly competitive in recent years, with all three major music companies launching their own operations in the UK market: UMG‘s Caroline International, Warner‘s ADA and Sony’s RED.

Other companies offering label services in the territory include [PIAS], Absolute, INgrooves, Believe Digital and Kobalt.

UPDATE: It is understood that Essential’s deal with its physical UK distribution partner, Proper, will remain.

Dear Friends and colleagues,

I hope you are well.

Some of you may have heard rumours on the industry grapevine in recent weeks about key changes happening at Essential and the Cooking Vinyl Group.

Over the last 12 months or so we have been carrying out a thorough audit of the global sales and distribution options available to the independent music sector and have decided that the time is right to add more value to what already exists in the marketplace.

We have always been proud of our international networks and our ability to offer our partner labels, and the artists they represent a great service. We have felt for some time that in order to provide them with a truly competitive, global route to market we needed to add significant strategic firepower to our offering.

With that in mind we are pleased to announce that we have concluded an agreement with RED, the Sony Music UK artist and label services division, that will see our two companies join forces from March 7th.

As part of this ground breaking new deal a new company will be launched, RED Essential, which will be based at The Cooking Vinyl Group’s West London offices.

No other companies in the Cooking Vinyl Group are affected by this new agreement.

Mike Chadwick Essential

“The integration of essential’s extensive international network with the global reach of red will, we hope, offer independent labels the gold standard for worldwide access to market.”

Mike Chadwick, RED ESSENTIAL

The integration of Essential and Cooking Vinyl’s extensive international network with the global reach of RED will, we hope, offer independent labels the gold standard for worldwide access to market. RED Essential will bring together a formidable independent network and the geographic scale of Sony Music’s truly global infrastructure.

RED Essential will see this alliance combine staff, expertise, resources and back office functions to build a ‘future-facing’ global sales and distribution company in the UK market, which will offer labels and artists a global platform alongside music expertise, a strong heritage in distribution and a ground-breaking record of tech innovations.

RED’s Ian Dutt and myself will assume the roles of co-Managing Director at RED Essential and we are not planning to make any personnel changes, which means that your existing points of contact will remain exactly as they are.

As I am sure many of you know Ian Dutt has a lot of experience in the independent sector having worked at [PIAS] for over 15 years and I am excited about working with him and his excellent team to build on our respective successes.

I hope you share our excitement about this new venture and if we haven’t yet had the opportunity to talk to you directly about this news we will do very soon.

In the meantime if you have any questions or need any clarification on anything please do get in touch.


Mike Chadwick

Co-Managing Director – RED EssentialMusic Business Worldwide

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