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Sony Music to acquire merch company Probity

The Thread Shop, Sony Music’s merchandise division, is to acquire Probity Europe, a leading independent music merchandising company offering worldwide tour, retail, ecommerce and licensing services.

Probity’s roster of artists includes Metallica, Noel Gallagher, Oasis, Paloma Faith, Rage Against the Machine, Robert Plant and Van Morrison.

Following the acquisition, London-based Probity will become a new division of The Thread Shop, with the existing Probity team serving under company founder Mark Stredwick. Stredwick will report to Thread Shop head Howard Lau.

The takeover of Probity is the third merch-related acquisition by Sony Music since last summer, following similar deals with the US-based Araca Group and the UK’s Kontraband last year. The label’s in-house merchandising business is now home to the likes of the Beatles, Camila Cabello, Jimi Hendrix, Maluma, Led Zeppelin, Lil Nas X, Pink and Rosalia.

“Probity is an established independent leader in the European merch market”

“We are delighted to fully cement the organic relationship we had already developed with Howard and Sony Thread Shop,” comments Stredwick.

“The deal with Sony allows our growing roster to tap into more opportunities globally and benefit from innovative and creatively driven merchandising programs that The Thread Shop deliver with such passion.”

Adds Lau: “We are very pleased to be further enhancing the reach and competitive capabilities of The Thread Shop around the world with the welcome additions of Mark Stredwick and the Probity team.

“Probity is an established independent leader in the European merch market, representing some of the world’s most iconic music artists. Together we can offer our artist clients and the music community an even more robust set of merchandising opportunities to complement their music revenues, branding and marketing.”

 


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FR launches International Women’s Day event

Festival Republic has announced ReBalance Celebrates International Women’s Day, a networking event for women across the live music industry, as part of the promoter’s gender equality programme, ReBalance.

The event is taking place at the 900-capacity Union Chapel in Islington, London, on Sunday 8 March, the day dedicated to recognising the movement for women’s rights worldwide.

Last year’s International Women’s Day saw pop star Dua Lipa speak at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) in London, who illustrated the struggle faced by young female artists trying to break into the industry.

Festival Republic is looking to combat this, with a daytime programme aimed at introducing those who want a career in the industry to women working within it. Professionals from Festival Republic, Live Nation, PRS Foundation, Academy Music Group, Sony Music, MAMA, Melody VR, Metropolis Music, the BBC, National Merchandise and Safe Gigs for Women will be in present to offer advice and deliver educational talks.

An evening performance from singer Nilüfer Yanya will follow the networking event, as well as appearances from Martha Hill and Tamzene, two artists to have come through Festival Republic’s ReBalance programme.

“We are incredibly proud of what ReBalance has achieved, so it only made sense to take the scheme further”

Launched in 2017, ReBalance is a six-year programme combatting the gender imbalance within the music industry. It offers five day’s studio time to one core female-identified band and artist each month, as well as a slot of a Festival Republic or Live Nation festival.

So far, 300 nominations have been made across six rounds, with 19 finalists performing live at The Great Escape, Wireless, Latitude and Reading and Leeds Festivals.

“We are incredibly proud of what ReBalance has achieved, so it only made sense to take the scheme further by hosting an event on International Women’s Day for those who want to meet women in the industry,” says the ReBalance team.

“Aimed at newcomers or if you’re just curious, this event is the chance to learn from the brightest stars and pick up some tips. Lack of female representation in music is an industry-wide issue, and we want to level it.”

Day tickets for ReBalance Celebrates International Women’s Day can be purchased for a £2 charity donation to Safe Gigs for Women, with evening tickets priced at £17.50. All tickets are available here.

Photo: Paul Hudson/Flickr (cropped) (CC BY 2.0)

 


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Sony expands merch presence with Kontraband deal

Sony Music UK has acquired London-based, full service merchandise company Kontraband, as the company continues to strengthen its foothold in the music merch world.

Kontraband has operated in the merchandising industry for almost twenty years, under the leadership of Paul Entwistle and Justin Smith.

The company works with clients including Iggy Pop, Kylie Minogue, Bombay Bicycle Club, Maximo Park, the Streets, Enter Shikari and Broadwick Live-promoted festival Field Day.

“We’re hugely excited about joining the Sony Music family,” says Entwistle. “From the very start of our conversations, there was a very clear vision about the role merchandise would play alongside their other services, so it’s a massive opportunity for us to be able to integrate as part of this.

“Kontraband’s reputation was made by approaching merchandise in an innovative and creative manner and we’re looking forward to continuing to deliver this for artists on the Sony Music roster,” adds the Kontraband director.

“Kontraband’s reputation was made by approaching merchandise in an innovative and creative manner and we’re looking forward to deliver[ing] this for artists on the Sony Music roster”

“We are continuously looking for ways to diversify our business and the acquisition of Kontraband allows us to help our artists enhance their brand and deliver new and exciting commercial opportunities,” comments Sony Music UK and Ireland chief operating officer Nicola Tuer.

The move is Sony’s second in as many months in the merchandise sector, following the acquisition of the music division of US entertainment merchandising company the Araca Group.

The music merchandising sector has boomed in recent years, with sales totalling almost US$3.5 billion in 2018. Sony’s major-label rivals Warner and Universal have also their staked their claim in the merchandise space, in the form of EMP Merchandising and Bravado/ Epic Rights respectively.

Kontraband will relocate from its office in Finsbury Park, north London, to the Sony Music headquarters in Kensington.

 


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Represent acquires concert merch platform Sidestep

Celebrity merch marketplace Represent has acquired Sidestep, a digital platform dedicated to selling concert merchandise.

Sidestep allows artists to sell products to fans across its website and mobile app, expanding the sales window for sellers and eliminating queuing for buyers.

Artists including Adele, Guns N’ Roses, Selena Gomez and Fall Out Boy have used Sidestep to sell concert merch in the past. Beyoncé is also a fan of the company, investing US$150,000 in Sidestep in 2016.

The integration with Represent, which is owned by personalised apparel company CustomInk, will enable artists to design, market and distribute custom-made merchandise through the platform.

Both Sidestep and Represent, each founded in 2014, have been involved in fan merchandise since their inception. CustomInk acquired Represent in early 2016, in a deal believed to be in excess of $100 million. The apparel company hopes to boost sales further through the Sidestep addition.

“Using Sidestep, artists can ensure higher sales and happier fans by offering easy advance and on-site orders for their fans”

“When you’re at a concert, the last thing you want to be is stuck in line and missing the music,” says Represent’s chief operating officer, Daniel Rosenberg. “Using Sidestep, artists can ensure higher sales and happier fans by offering easy advance and on-site orders for their fans.”

Through the integration with Represent, “artists get access to a full-service solution that helps fans buy new merchandise throughout the year, from viral social media-driven campaigns to tour pre-orders and evergreen fan gear.” adds Rosenberg.

“When we first launched Sidestep, our goal was to super-serve artists in the music industry by bridging the gap between technology and merchandising,” says Sidestep founder and chief executive Eric Jones, who takes on the role of head of music at Represent following the acquisition.

“Our ultimate vision was to extend each concert experience to fans around the world. With this new partnership, we’re in [the] position to fulfill that original goal and vision.”

The music merchandising sector has been booming in recent years, with merch sales totalling nearly $3.5 billion in 2018. Sony Music recently expanded its own merchandise offering, acquiring the music merch branch of US theatre and entertainment merchandising company the Araca Group.

 


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Sony’s Thread Shop to acquire Araca merch division

The Thread Shop, Sony Music’s merchandise unit, is to acquire the music merch division of the Araca Group, a US theatrical production and entertainment merchandising company.

Araca’s music merch roster includes artists such as Led Zeppelin, Pink, Shania Twain, Dua Lipa, Sugarland and Zayn Malik. The purchase of Araca, headquartered in LA and with offices in New York, Las Vegas, London and Sydney, significantly grows Sony Music’s in-house merchandising business, and several Araca team members have joined Thread Shop to work on the companies’ new integrated roster.

Richard Story, president of Sony Music Entertainment’s commercial music group, comments: “As artists continue to seek out merchandising opportunities to complement their music revenues, branding and marketing, Sony Music is significantly expanding its presence in this growing area of the business under the leadership of [Thread Shop SVP, strategy] Howard Lau.

“The acquisition of the Araca Group’s music merchandise division will further strengthen the Thread Shop’s artist roster and infrastructure and the competitive capabilities we offer to the music community.”

“Artists continue to seek out merchandising opportunities to complement their music revenues, branding and marketing”

Sony’s major-label rivals Universal and Warner also have their own merchandise divisions, in the form of Bravado/Epic Rights and EMP Merchandising, respectively.

“We are thrilled at the opportunity this acquisition provides for our music merchandise division,” says Michael Rego, CEO of the Araca Group, commenting on the Sony deal. “The team at the Thread Shop is artist-focused, passionate and well positioned to build upon the merchandising programs [sic] that Araca has created for our music clients.”

Sales of music merchandise were were worth nearly US$3.5 billion in 2018, IQ revealed last month, with more artists seeking to grow their merchandise offerings to offset limited revenues from music streaming.

The agreement with Araca comes as Sony seeks to also increase its presence in live, announcing on the same day the acquisition of a majority stake in UK promoter Senbla.

 


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Sony Music expands live offering with Senbla stake

Sony Music Masterworks, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, has acquired a majority stake in UK concert promotion and production company, Senbla.

Senbla founder and chief executive Ollie Rosenblatt will continue to run the company, working alongside Sony Masterworks’ chief operating officer Mark Cavell and UK label head Sarah Thwaites.

“The combination of Senbla with Sony Music Masterworks gives us a broader platform to grow opportunities in live performance,” comments the Senbla boss, who says he is “delighted” with the new partnership.

Cavell says the deal is “exactly the right move” for Masterworks, as the Sony Music division continues to build on a “very successful live business”.

“The combination of Senbla with Sony Music Masterworks gives us a broader platform to grow opportunities in live performance”

Sony Music took full control of UK-based show producer Raymond Gubbay Live (RBL) last year, in a deal with Germany’s Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG).

According to Cavell, the acquisitions “provide the perfect platform to grow the business in the UK and overseas.”

Founded in 2011, Senbla puts on more than 200 concerts and shows annually across the UK. The promoter has worked with artists such as Joss Stone, Burt Bacharach, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Soft Cell and Beverley Knight.

Last year, Senbla teamed up with content creation company Wisebuddah to put on Quincy Jones: A Life in Song at the AEG-owned O2 Arena. Senbla has led productions including Star Wars in Concert, the Apollo Nights Summer Series and Electric Soul Festival.

 


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Sony Live closes as Fullsteam takes over roster

Sony Live, Sony Music Finland’s booking agency division, has closed after a decade in business, with all operations being taken over by Fullsteam Agency.

As of today (15 August), Sony Live – which operated for ten years as a division of the record label, representing dozens of Finnish artists – is no more, and its former live roster now booked by Fullsteam. Artists formerly represented by Sony Live include Janne Ordén, Eini, Mäkki, Sima, Softengine and HesaÄijä.

“Fullsteam Agency is the perfect partner to take care of our artist roster, and I believe that this collaboration will create many benefits for our artists,” says Sony Music Finland managing director Wemppa Koivumäki.

Helsinki-based Fullsteam, which last July acquired hip hop-focused agency Rahina Live, has also announced the appointment of a new booking agent for domestic artists. Maija Kaarna, who has more than 20 years’ experience booking and organising shows, brings artists including Asa, one of Finland’s best-known rap artists, and reggae artist Puppa J (pictured).

“Fullsteam Agency is the perfect partner to take care of our artist roster”

“Fullsteam Family and our domestic artist roster have expanded fast this year, and we’re eagerly awaiting building collaboration with the new artists,” comments Tuomo Tähtinen, managing director of Fullsteam Agency.

Fullsteam is a subsidiary of Germany’s FKP Scorpio, itself majority owned by CTS Eventim.

Read IQ’s feature on the Finnish concert market, where Live Nation, Fullsteam and Warner Music Live battle for live supremacy, in issue 65 of the magazine.

Crossing the Finnish line


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DEAG agrees Sony deal for Classics and Raymond Gubbay

Berlin-based Deutsche Entertainment AG (DEAG) has agreed a deal with Sony Music Entertainment Germany whereby it will acquire 49% of DEAG Classics AG to take full control of the company. As part of the deal, DEAG is selling its shares in UK-based show producer Raymond Gubbay Live (RGL) to Sony Music Entertainment International Limited.

No financial details were disclosed, but DEAG says its ownership stake in London-based live music promoter Kilimanjaro Live will remain unaffected, while Kili itself says it will continue to work closely with RGL as they have done for several years on events such as the Kew the Music concert series and the Kevin and Karen Dance tour – both of which will return in 2019.

Kilimanjaro are currently having their most successful year ever with over 1m fans attending the record breaking Ed Sheeran stadium tour which has just finished. They have also recently seen huge success with their Live at Chelsea concert series which features an annual fireworks prom, which this year was a musical celebration of the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber marking his 70th Birthday. Last year Kilimanjaro promoted two special performances with Hans Zimmer and looking forward to later this year Kilimanjaro will see Andrea Bocelli play two sold out shows at the O2.

The transaction represents a first step for DEAG towards successively reducing minority interests with the aim of increasing the earnings per share for DEAG shareholders.

DEAG will now own 100% of the shares in DEAG Classics AG including the shareholding in The Classical Company AG (Switzerland).

DEAG executive Detlef Kornett says, “DEAG and I am grateful for the integrity, loyalty and the tremendous success we have experienced in partnering with RGL ltd, in particular with its senior management Debra Eagers, Anthony Findlay and Jonathan Marks and their staff. We have seen through a fundamental change to the business of RGL while profitability increased in our time and the transaction allows RGL to prosper and at the same time the DEAG Classics business to continue to thrive, also in the UK.

“We are actively looking now at opportunities overall in the UK market to continue on our tremendous growth path that DEAG has started in partnership with Kilimanjaro and also Flying Music Group.”

The transaction represents a first step for DEAG towards successively reducing minority interests with the aim of increasing the earnings per share for DEAG shareholders. Proceeds of this transaction are intended to further strengthen DEAG’s position in the UK, one of its two core markets, also by investing in and increasing activities of myticket.co.uk.

Kili boss Stuart Galbraith comments, “We will continue to enjoy the full support and the opportunities of collaboration within the DEAG Group, with Flying Music Group but also with RGL in the future. There are numerous opportunities for us to grow our business which we will be able to continue to exploit.”

 


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MVT welcomes financial backing from Sony Music UK

Recorded music business giant Sony Music UK has become the first major industry player to commit to financially supporting Music Venue Trust (MVT) and its mission protect, preserve and improve Britain’s grassroots music venues.

The announcement, which comes after MVT’s recent Venues Day 2017 event in London, attended by more than 500 delegates, will be welcome news for the organisation following the controversial rejection of its request for funding by Arts Council England.

UK industry lambasts Arts Council over venue funding

Jason Iley, chairman and CEO of Sony Music UK, says: “Sony is committed to supporting and developing artists from grassroots to festival headliners. We recognise the vital role that grassroots music venues play in that journey, providing an essential platform for artists to be able to take their first steps and develop their audiences.

“These venues are the heart of our music communities, and we support the work of Music Venue Trust to protect, secure and improve them.”

MVT says it hopes the commitment from Sony – and the involvement of eight of the UK’s top booking agencies in the Sandbox at Venues Day – will encourage further financial support from key players in the British music industry.

“Post-Venues Day, MVT will be focusing on strengthening music industry relationships and working with our network of venues, the Music Venues Alliance, to fundraise to take forward priorities identified at the event,” comments Venues Day producer Bev Whitrick.

 


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Sony Music invests in booking platform Gigmit

Sony Music Entertainment, one of the ‘big three’ record labels, has expanded its presence in the live industry with a six-figure investment in online talent booking platform Gigmit.

The Berlin-based start-up – effectively a digital booking agency with more than 40,000 artists available monthly to venues and promoters – has since its founding in 2012 processed close to €5 million in offers and supplied acts to Melt! Booking and the Sziget and Deichbrand festivals, among others..

Marcus Rüssel, Gigmit’s CEO, says: “I’m really happy as strong a partner as Sony Music by our side. This is our biggest deal to date.

“The Gigmit business model and our expertise in developing new talent sustainably are a perfect match”

“Through the effective use of synergies, Gigmit will be able to refine its content, which in turn will allow us to strengthen our position and increase our influence in the German-speaking market.”

Philip Ginthör, CEO of Sony Music GSA (Germany, Switzerland and Austria), adds: “The Gigmit business model and our expertise in developing new talent sustainably are a perfect match. Through this partnership we will generate both artistic success and economic growth. We are really looking forward to working with Marcus and his team.”

 


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