Universal Music strikes strategic partnership with India-based talent agency REPRESENT

Image courtesy of Universal Music India
Top row: Artist Yashraj. Middle row (left to right): Hanita Bhambri, Saahel, MC Stan, Zaeden, Anuv Jain, Lost Stories. Bottom row (left to right): Kayan, REPRESENT's Aayushman Sinha, UMGI's Devraj Sanyal, Sanujeet Bhujabal.

Universal Music Group’s expansion into the Indian market has marked another milestone, with the announcement of a new partnership with Mumbai-headquartered talent management agency REPRESENT.

Universal Music Group India (UMGI) and REPRESENT announced on Wednesday (November 8) that they have formed a strategic partnership that will combine Universal’s resources and global footprint with REPRESENT’s roster of artists, which includes such names as Anuv Jain, MC Stan, Zaeden, Lost Stories, Yashraj, Hanita Bhambri, Akanksha Bhandari, Kamakshi Khanna, Saahel, Savera, Kayan, OAFF and Jai Dhir.

The two companies plan to work together on artist development, fan engagement and other efforts to “help introduce Indian music culture to a global audience.”

“Our combined efforts will empower their artists and fuel their creativity, help inspire audiences worldwide, and elevate Indian music to new heights,” Devraj Sanyal, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music India & South Asia, said in a statement.

“With REPRESENT’s visionary approach and UMG’s global network and support, we are confident this collaboration will help shine a spotlight on some of India’s most exciting young talent.”

REPRESENT bills itself as a firm that goes beyond traditional talent management to shape “the narrative of future pop culture.”

While it boasts that its artist roster has rolled out more than 300 releases over the past year, the company also stresses the work it does with social media and major brands, bridging the gap between those companies and Indian music culture.

REPRESENT has consulted for Coca-Cola on its efforts to “build out [a] complete music strategy in India.”

It was hired by Snapchat to create content for their Spotlight video platform, a move the talent agency says resulted in the onboarding of more than 2,000 creators and the delivery of more than 10,000 videos. It also partnered with Meta’s Instagram to curate a virtual music festival, “Live In Your Living Room,” during the Covid lockdown, in association with 14 artists.

The talent agency has also expanded into the live music bookings business through its RE:PLAY division, which has handled more than 1,000 shows in India and internationally.

REPRESENT’s Founder and CEO, Aayushman Sinha, noted that his agency has “worked with Universal Music Group across quite a few of our artists’ releases in the past” and the two companies are “fortunate to be aligned in our thoughts to elevate the overall music industry and provide a platform for Indian artists to take their music global.”

He added: “We bring some of our ace independent artists to the table as part of this deal and UMG brings its extensive resources and expertise – together driving the future of music. So excited to start this new chapter and I can’t wait to see where we go from here on.”

UMGI EVP and Head of Content Sanujeet Bhujabal commented: “With REPRESENT’s impressive roster of artists and UMG’s vast expertise, we are poised to create new opportunities for their artists to resonate with millions of music fans worldwide. Together, we will push the boundaries of innovation and help foster a thriving ecosystem for artists in India.”

“With REPRESENT’s visionary approach and UMG’s global network and support, we are confident this collaboration will help shine a spotlight on some of India’s most exciting young talent.”

Devraj Sanyal, Universal Music India & South Asia

UMG, which has been operating in India since 1999, has made significant inroads into the country’s music scene in recent years. In 2018, it launched VYRL, an artist platform specifically designed to challenge Bollywood’s music dominance in India. And in 2022 it expanded its Def Jam hip-hop label to India.

Universal also signed a distribution deal with music company Desi Melodies, marking an expansion into Punjabi music, following that up with the launch of VYRL Punjabi in 2021. In 2022, UMGI took a majority stake in entertainment company TM Ventures, which manages a roster of artists that includes rapper Badshah, with whom UMG signed an exclusive global agreement in 2021.

UMG isn’t the only one of the big three recording companies looking to expand its presence in the Indian music market, which many music industry insiders predict will be among the fastest-growing in the coming years.

In just the past few years, Sony Music Publishing signed a global publishing deal with record label Big Band Music, while Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Pictures Entertainment formed a joint venture, Sony Entertainment Talent Ventures India, focused on creating “ventures for media talent in India”.

Warner Music India struck an exclusive distribution agreement with Punjabi music content consortium and aggregator Sky Digital India in 2021, expanding that relationship earlier this year to include a joint venture to manage a talent roster together. Earlier this fall, Warner Music acquired India-based artist management and live events company E-Positive.Music Business Worldwide

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