Thomas Coesfeld’s plan to refocus BMG on music rights continues, as Bertelsmann-owned firm divests live concert companies

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BMG has agreed terms that will see its two live companies, Undercover and Karo, transferred back to their minority shareholders.

The news follows a recent announcement by BMG CEO Thomas Coesfeld that BMG will focus on its two core service areas of music publishing and recordings.

BMG acquired a majority stake in Braunschweig-based Undercover, one of the most successful promoters in Germany, in October 2020.

BMG and Undercover subsequently formed a strategic alliance with Karo, the company behind the successful Taubertal-Festival.

The new deals will see the two companies return to their previous ownership structure.

BMG Chief Content Officer Dominique Casimir said, “Michael Schacke (Undercover) and Volker Hirsch (Karo) are seasoned entrepreneurs who have built enviable reputations in the live music business.

“We are pleased to have agreed terms which allow them to pursue an independent future and we wish them and their teams the best for the future.”

Michael Schacke, founder and owner of Undercover, said, “I have looked for and found the best solution for Undercover and our artists. Undercover will remain strong and independent in the future.

“We wish BMG and its team all the best and every success in focusing on its core business.”

Volker Hirsch, founder and owner of Karo, said, “It has been a pleasure working with Michael Schacke and Dominique Casimir and we are pleased yet again to be pursuing an independent course as we near the 30th year of existence of Taubertal in 2026.”

Thomas Coesfeld announced a “more efficient and more effective” new global strategy at BMG in October.

The CEO’s plan has already seen changes including the closure of BMG’s New York-based theatrical productions initiative; no more active commissioning of new films are now taking place at BMG.

In addition, BMG has consolidated its New York and Canada-based recorded music operations into its Los Angeles office.

And BMG has discontinued its centralized international marketing department for recordings, which to date has been led by the company’s EVP Global Repertoire, Fred Casimir.

In November, Coesfeld communicated to BMG staff further details of a new structure designed to “futureproof the company for the coming years and further develop its ability to deliver for artists and songwriters on a global scale”.

The key elements of this plan:

  • Focusing on BMG’s two key service areas of music publishing and recordings;
  • Doubling down on its presence in the US with a new global catalogue function based in Los Angeles;
  • Recalibrating its presence in Continental Europe, and renewing its frontline recorded business in a new ‘hub-and-spoke’ structure;
  • Further strengthening its services to artists with substantial investments in technology and its myBMG ecosystem;
  • Clarifying roles and structures to make the company more accountable to its artist and songwriter clients.

At the time, Coesfeld said, “Fifteen years after the emergence of streaming, music is going through another tectonic change. It is vital we now reengineer our business to make the most of that opportunity.

“BMG has challenged the conventions of the music industry ever since we began, bringing music publishing and recordings under one roof with a distinctive service-orientated and transparent approach. Now new ways of creating and consuming music and looming changes in streaming economics are challenging us to do even better for our clients.”

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