Warner signs BMG deal for exclusive worldwide distribution of catalogue

Warner Music Group has signed an exclusive global distribution deal with BMG for the fast-growing rights company’s hefty recorded music catalogue, MBW has learned.

The agreement will include recordings from a host of labels acquired by BMG in recent years – including Sanctuary, Mute, Dreyfus, Skint/Loaded, Vagrant, S-Curve and Rise Records.

BMG’s catalogue will be distributed across the world via Warner’s independent label services division, ADA.

ADA will also issue frontline  releases from BMG across the globe, although there will be some exceptions – selected releases will go through Sony Music internationally, in addition to [PIAS] (ex-US), Absolute Label Services (UK), and GoodToGo (Continental Europe).

BMG CFO Max Dressendörfer explained in an internal company note: “The rapid pace of our growth in the past three years has led to our inheriting or acquiring more than 50 digital and physical distribution relationships around the world. This will now gradually fall to a handful as we consolidate with a small number of suppliers.”

He added: “We have been incredibly impressed by the ADA team, their infrastructure and determination to deliver for our artists. We are delighted to be working with them.”


“When BMG set out to identify a global distribution partner, they could have picked anyone. Needless to say, we are very happy that they chose WMG and ADA.”

Steve Cooper, WMG

The switch to ADA – run by WMG’s Eliah Seton out of New York – will not be an overnight move, with the catalogue transition expected to be completed over the coming months.

For Warner’s distribution execs, the deal is being seen as a significant coup: BMG’s catalogue has been built into a substantive force through its string of recent acquisitions, with more expected to be announced later this year.

BMG became a real player in recorded music when it snapped up Sanctuary and Mute in 2013 for a reported combined price of £47m ($70m).

The pair of catalogues contained classic recordings from the likes of Black Sabbath, The Kinks (pictured), Depeche Mode and Goldfrapp.

2014 was a particularly busy year for BMG’s business affairs team, with independent label/catalogue acquisitions including:

  • Infectious, bringing Korda Marshall into BMG, as well as albums from Alt-J, Vance Joy, The Temper Trap;
  • Vagrant, a move which resulted in the label’s founder Jon Cohen joining BMG’s US operation;
  • Union Square Music, the UK catalogue specialist run by Peter Stack which owned or exclusively licensed rights to artists including Madness, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Sandie Shaw, Nazareth, Marmalade and Procol Harum;
  • Skint/Loaded. Another famed UK indie, whose back catalogue contained gems from Fatboy Slim, Lo Fidelity Allstars and Bentley Rhythm Ace.

Last year, amongst other deals, BMG picked up metal and hard rock label Rise Records, home to artists including Of Mice & Men, Memphis May Fire, Crown The Empire and The Devil Wears Prada, as well as New York-based pop label S-Curve.

And so far in 2016, we’ve seen the Bertelsmann-owned business snap up French indie Atmospheriques, while forming a JV with Dutch label 8Ball.

When the Union Square Deal was announced in late 2014, BMG’s recorded music operation exceeded 300,000 copyrights – a figure it will have comfortably surpassed since.

News of the Warner distribution deal was confirmed yesterday in a memo from Warner Music Group CEO Steve Cooper, which has been obtained by MBW.

You can read Cooper’s note to staff in full below.

Dear Colleagues,

I am delighted to share the news that WMG and ADA, our independent artist and label services division, have signed a major agreement with BMG, one of the world’s most prominent music companies. ADA Worldwide – in cooperation with WEA and our affiliates around the world – has entered into an exclusive global distribution deal for BMG’s recorded music catalog.

Further, we will be a global partner for BMG on frontline releases, with some limited exceptions.

BMG’s collection of record labels includes Vagrant, Rise, Infectious, and S-Curve, along with a vast repertoire that includes the Mute and Sanctuary catalogs, and a current roster of artists such as Janet Jackson, Thrice, Jack Savoretti and Bryan Ferry, as well as names such as Iron Maiden and Alt-J who we already work with in parts of the world.

When BMG set out to identify a global distribution partner, they could have picked anyone. Needless to say, we are very happy that they chose WMG and ADA. We will be providing BMG and its labels with access to our full suite of distribution services, as well as marketing, promotion, publicity, sync, account management, data research and analysis.

Just a year into Eliah Seton’s leadership of ADA Worldwide, this is a major accomplishment for the company. Credit for securing this deal goes to a broad group of WMG, ADA and WEA colleagues, who together proved how strong a partner we could be for BMG. Special mention goes to Eliah, Dan Chalmers and Jeremy Sirota for their efforts. In addition, Sire founder Seymour Stein recorded a terrific video for the BMG team, which I encourage you to watch by clicking here.

With BMG’s exciting new albums joining our release schedule, and their impressive catalog creating some fantastic marketing opportunities, this partnership is an important global priority for ADA and WMG. Thank you, all of you, for making WMG the destination of choice for the best labels and artists. And thank you to everyone around the world who I know will be working hard to make this relationship a huge success.


SteveMusic Business Worldwide

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