Warner makes yet another move in South East Europe; acquires minority stake in Croatian label Dancing Bear

Image courtesy of Warner Music Group

Warner Music Group’s expansion in South East Europe has been fast and aggressive enough almost to be labeled a spree.

Earlier this year, Warner Music South East Europe (WM SEE) launched Balkan Electro, an EDM label focused on artists from the Balkans and Ukraine. A month earlier, it had acquired a minority stake in Slovenia-based indie label NIKA.

That followed WM SEE’s 2022 investment in Serbian label Mascom Records.

(The company has also been active in other parts of Eastern Europe, for instance with its acquisition of a stake in Hungarian label Magneoton, and a stake in Czech hip hop label Mike Roft, both in 2023.)

Now the company has taken another step in establishing a presence in the Balkans with the acquisition of a minority stake in Croatian indie music company Dancing Bear.

Under the deal, Dancing Bear artists will be able to sign to Warner’s global roster, and take advantage of services from ADA Worldwide, Warner’s global distribution arm.

The deal also includes an extension of the licensing deal between Warner and Dancing Bear, which covers Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and North Macedonia.

Dancing Bear has been Warner’s licensee in Croatia since 1996, and its publishing arm, Dancing Bear Publishing, is Warner Chappell Music’s local representative.

Founded in 1990, Dancing Bear is “one of the longest-standing and leading record companies in Croatia,” Warner said in a statement issued on Friday (June 21).

The company also runs a chain of record stores and an online store, where it promotes the sale of physical music formats such as vinyl and CDs.

Dancing Bear has signed some of the most prominent artists in the region, including Dalmatino, Dino Dvornik, Daleka Obala, Darko Rundek, Hladno Pivo, Kojoti, Kawasaki 3P, Zdenka Kovačiček, Goribor, Vlado Kalember & Srebrna Krila, Alen Vitasović, Ibrica Jusić, Majke, Gustafi, The Bambi Molesters, and Baba Yaga.


“Several releases by these artists are deemed to be some of the most significant and iconic records in Croatian and regional music history, and their success has helped shape the growth of the industry there over the last four decades,” Warner said.

Some of these artists, such as The Bambi Molesters and The Strange, along with newcomers Bruno Pietri and Pete Spruce, have built fan bases outside the Balkans, but Dancing Bear’s biggest act is the pop duo Dalmatino, a Split, Croatia-based act that regularly outsells major international artists in its home country, and has amassed more than 250 million streams.

“This investment by Warner Music is a vote of confidence in the future of music from the West Balkans,” said Silvije Varga, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Dancing Bear. “We look forward to working together to take music from our existing roster to the wider world, and to uncover the next generation of local talent.”

“I’m so pleased we’re expanding our agreement with Dancing Bear, which has an incredible reputation in the region as a key industry player. We’re already working on joint releases in the EDM space and plan to expand our collaboration in the months ahead,” added Izabela Ciszek-Podziemska, General Manager of WM SEE.

Compared to Western Europe, the West Balkan music market is small, but offers significant growth opportunities.

Croatia’s GDP grew by 3.9% YoY in the first quarter of 2024, one of the fastest growth rates in the European Union. Household consumption grew by 6% in that time, and the country has seen 14% wage growth over the past year.Music Business Worldwide