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"Creating a balanced portfolio of publishing and master rights remains central to our vision of creating a new digital-age music company.”
—-Hartwig Masuch, BMG CEO
BMG’S HOLIDAY SHOPPING SPREE
German Media Company Acquires Mute, Virgin Catalogs as part of EC Divestments

BMG’s Hartwig Masuch had quite a holiday wish list this year, stuffing his stocking with several new toys.

 

The German media company acquired the Mute catalog along with the Virgin Music and Famous U.K. Music catalogs as a result of divestments from UMG and Sony/ATV demanded by the European Commission before approving their acquisition of EMI Music assets in recorded music and publishing.


Earlier this week, BMG officially announced it had reached an agreement to acquire the catalog of the historic U.K. Mute label from UMG, which includes recordings by Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Nick Cave and Moby.

The label’s founder Daniel Miller, a member of the fractured European indie commission IMPALA who came out in favor of the UMG-EMI merger, was said to be interested in buying back his old company, which went for $10 million, according to sources. EMI orginally bought Mute in 2002 for £23 million.

 

The acquisition is the first to result from the disposal of assets ordered by the EC following UMG’s acquisition of EMI Records. BMG says it will continue to pursue further acquisition opportunities regarding master rights, and is now in the mix with “about a dozen others” for the big prize in the UMG-EMI divestments, the Parlophone Label Group.

 

Commented BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch: “We are delighted to become the new custodians of the Mute Records catalog, one of the most prized and influential in electronic and alternative music and a testament to the vision and A&R skills of Daniel Miller. BMG looks forward to working with all the artists concerned to give these copyrights the care and attention they deserve.”

 

Mute Records was founded in 1978 by Miller, who was inspired by the DIY approach of punk rock and the European electronic music he loved.

 

After signing Depeche Mode in 1980, Mute gained worldwide recognition as the band became an international success, and supported a range of experimental artists leading to its next big artist hit, Yazoo (Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet), followed over the years by Erasure, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Moby and Goldfrapp.

 

Depeche Mode alone are estimated to have sold over 100 million singles and albums, including 48 hit UK singles and one U.S. and two UK #1 albums. Their last studio album Sounds of the Universe went to #1 in 21 countries.

 

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have recorded 14 albums with Mute, building a worldwide cult following. Dance pioneer Moby has sold over 20 million albums worldwide with Mute, most notably with the 10-million-selling album Play.

 

The Mute Records catalog is BMG’s most significant move yet in moving back into the front-line record business, bringing together what they call “the traditionally separate disciplines of music publishing and masters.”

 

During 2012, BMG has released albums by Bryan Ferry, Dexys and Nena and has signaled its intention to further ramp up activity in master recordings.

 

Said Masuch, “Earlier this year we said we would double our income from master recordings. I am glad to say we have more than exceeded this target. Creating a balanced portfolio of publishing and master rights remains central to our vision of creating a new digital-age music company.”

 

Earlier this month, BMG announced it was acquiring the worldwide rights for several publishing catalogs divested by Sony/ATV to get EC approval for their deal to acquire EMI Music Publishing, including Virgin and Famous U.K. 

 

The 21k-song Virgin Publishing catalog includes Kurt Cobain’s songs for Nirvana; ’80s classics from Tears for Fears, Culture Club, the Human League, OMD and Iggy Pop; recent hits including Duffy’s “Mercy” and Take That’s U.K. smashes, along with Robbie Williams’ interests in the likes of “Angels,” “Rock DJ” and “Let Me Entertain You.” Also part of the deal are copyrights from Mark Ronson and Plan B.

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