The Deals: Stormzy Signs With CAA; Universal Music Africa Launches Distribution Plan

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Creative Artists Agency has signed Stormzy in a worldwide deal — which includes the talent management company representing his company #Merky.

On top of the UK rapper’s long list of musical achievements — which include collaborations with names like Ed Sheeran, record-setting albums such as his 2017 debut Gang Signs & Prayer and headlining major festivals — Stormzy adds charitable and entrepreneurial feats. His imprint within Penguin Random House UK, #MerkyBooks, is dedicated to publishing new fiction, non-fiction and poetry books and awards an annual studentship to two Black British students planning to attend the University of Cambridge. He has also pledged 10 million pounds over 10 years to organizations, charities, and movements committed to fighting racial inequality.

The all-territories deal with CAA covers such #Merky operations, meanwhile Stormzy will continue to be managed by Tobe Onwuka.

Universal Music Africa (UMA), a division of Universal Music Group (UMG) has announced an exclusive strategic pan-African distribution partnership with French rapper Booba and his Tallac Records label. The deal spans Booba’s full, 10-album catalog and includes his future releases.

The deal also heralds a new division of Booba’s 92 i brand: 92i Africa. The launch of 92i Africa comes in partnership with UMA and Universal Music France, his long-term distributor and partner for his Tallac Records and 92i brands. “The label will focus on signing and developing the best in African rap and hip-hop talent,” the press release reads. These initiatives begin with the signings of DopeBoy DMG and Didi B, with 92i Africa providing “a suite of services for its artists including brand and marketing partnerships, live music production and touring services.”

“Booba has been one of the most important and influential rap artists, inspiring new generations of French and African hip-hop talent for decades,” said Franck Kacou, Universal Music Africa managing director. “He is an artist and entrepreneur that Africa is so proud of, so it is an honor to help make his deep catalog of groundbreaking music available across the continent for the first time.”

Rising country star Dylan Schneider has signed with BBR Music Group with plans to drop new song “Lost in a Small Town” Friday, July 30 — his first new release in more than two years. BBR Music Group joins Schneider’s team of managers Joey Russ and Martha Earls at 1021 Entertainment and booker Braeden Rountree at WME.

Schneider, an Indiana native, started writing and performing after his encounter with Brett Eldredge. After singing with him on-stage during a concert, he began posting YouTube videos covering country songs and has since toured with Florida Georgia Line, Granger Smith and Chris Lane.

Written by Schneider, Gabe Foust, James McNair and Mark Holman, his new song — out July 30 — “combines impassioned lyrics infused with surging instrumentals and compelling vocals, stressing the bewilderment one endures post-breakup,” according to the press release. Baby, how am I lost in a small town,” he sings. “You can say it’s all these memories, of what we used to be, keeping me from moving on.”​​

LyricFind is launching a new lyric-generating service in partnership with eOne Music. Artists on its Death Row Records roster — The Game, Snoop Dogg, Pop Evil, Dr. Dre and Bryant Myers — are the first to have their songs transformed into lyric videos by the platform.

The new service has no up-front costs for artists or labels and automatically creates a branded video with custom backgrounds, fonts and visualizers to animate a song’s lyrics. The entire process works in seconds, according to the press release, and includes vetted translations in seven languages.

“Lyric videos are a key way for fans to interact with their favorite artists’ tracks,” said LyricFind CEO Darryl Ballantyne. “They enable music lovers to connect more powerfully with the music. This new lyric video service is part of our mission to create innovative ways for labels and rightsholders to use lyrics to benefit their business and for artists to raise their profile and connect with fans — and generate revenue.”

LyricFind also has partners in Amazon, Google, YouTube, Deezer, Xperi, Soundhound, iHeartRadio who utilize their catalog of legally-sourced music. The company operates using a “reporting infrastructure” to properly track and pay royalties to songwriters and rights holders on a song-by-song and territory-by-territory basis. “We have an extensive catalog of amazing recordings, and this tool has allowed us to unlock the revenue potential of these tracks, which would have been extremely costly and time consuming without LyricFind’s system,” said Bill Wilson, senior vp of Operations & Innovation, eOne. “Already the results have blown away our expectations.”

Warner Music Group’s ADA Asia and Warner Music Vietnam announced their new distribution deal Vietnamese entertainment company Yin Yang Media, a partnership that “will further expand Warner Music’s reach in the fast-growing Vietnamese market,” according to the press release.

Yin Yang Media brings to the partnership a catalog of more than 60,000 tracks, specializing in pop music. Going forward, Warner will work with Vietnamese stars like Bích Phương, Dalab, Hà Anh Tuấn, Noo Phước Thịnh, Hoàng Dũng, and Phan Mạnh Quỳnh. “The explosive growth of the market in Vietnam over the past few years is just the beginning and we’re all agog with the potential it has to offer,” said ADA Asia managing director Chee Meng Tan. “This partnership with Yin Yang Media is a game-changer — as it allows us to put foundational pieces in place for long-term growth, and more importantly, connects the incredible artists from Vietnam, as well as some of the country’s most loved songs, with audiences all around the world.”

Both branches of Warner are relatively new, with Warner Music Vietnam opening in April 2020 and ADA Asia launching in September 2020, and both were started to expand their reach across Asia. “We’re delighted to work with ADA Asia and Warner Music Vietnam,” said Jang Hyungsik, legal representative at Yin Yang. “We look forward to tapping into Warner Music’s global network to help further propel our amazing artists to an international market. Our company was built on an artist first ethos and I’m happy that through this collaboration, we have found partners that share the same philosophy.”

The City of Savannah and Oak View Group Facilities have named their new, 9,500-seat arena “Enmarket Arena” in support of their new multi-year naming rights partnership with Enmarket, a chain of convenience stores based in Savannah. The arena will soon be the setting of live music, comedy and entertainment shows.

“The Enmarket Arena will be a premier destination for top-quality live entertainment featuring many of the world’s top performers, athletes, and attractions,” said Peter Luukko, chairman, Oak View Group Facilities. “We are grateful to this new partnership with Enmarket, who will help us extend the reach of the arena throughout the southeast. And, every time there is an event here at Enmarket Arena it will reinforce their long-standing support and commitment to the community.”

The deal was brokered by the sales and marketing arm of Oak View Group, which will manage and operate the Enmarket Arena. The arena is the latest in a series of five other new arena construction projects, including the Climate Pledge Arena, home to the National Hockey League’s newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken, the UBS Arena in Belmont Park, the new home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, Co-Op Live in Manchester, England, and the Coachella Valley Arena in Coachella Valley, CA, the home of the newest AHL franchise.

Music marketing platform Breakr has raised $4.2 million in seed funding needed “to meet the rapidly growing demand for creator monetization tools and digital music promotion solutions,” the press release leads. The round was led by Slow Ventures.

The new funding will be used to staff its product, engineering and business development teams in the face of the company’s increasing demand. “Creators are increasingly at the forefront of brand and content discovery for consumers,” said Will Quist of Slow Ventures. “Building tools to help creators manage and monetize is one of the most exciting opportunities in media today. We jumped at the chance to lead the round and are very excited about the role Breakr can play in the music industry and beyond,” said Will Quist, Slow Ventures.”

Since its beginnings in 2020, Breakr’s platform has generated 150 million views for emerging artists. It was founded with the goal of helping artists and influencers trying to promote a song with outreach, and their “alpha product” helps facilitate paid and unpaid collaborations with search and discovery, payment and escrow-based verification. “Independent artists have more opportunities than ever to break through, but those opportunities have required busywork that should’ve been solved already,” said Tony Brown, Breakr co-founder and CEO. “Problem 1? Spending all day messaging to try and get your song heard. TikTok influencers have been pushing songs to the top of the charts, and with the shift to Twitch and Instagram Live DJ sets during the pandemic, we knew the world needed a solution.”

L.A. pop artist Lexi Jayde has signed with Artist Partner Group, a sister platform to Artist Publishing Group, with Jayde kicking off her national support tour with Adam Melchor on October 7th. The news follows the release of her debut EP A Teenage Diary.

Jayde brings to the partnership more than 6 million global streams and credits with Ilsey Juber, King Henry, Jenna Andrews, Tommy English, Captain Cuts, M-Phazes, Jon Bellion and Sam Dejong. Her new EP, which features singles “newbury park,” “running in place,” and “cheap flowers,” chronicles the 18-year-old’s teenage experience. “There are so many stories and emotions portrayed in this EP and I know that every age group will be able to relate to at least one of the songs,” she said. “That’s exactly why I write music, to help and inspire people and we all go through the same stuff.”

Management company The Core Entertainment has partnered with Universal Music Canada (UMC) in a joint venture “designed to offer Canadian artists a collaborative and integrated approach to releasing music worldwide,” according to the press release. Going forward, The Core will offer management services, creative direction and A&R development to artists and spotlight acts for record deal consideration at Universal Music Canada.

The venture kicks off with the signing of Grammy-nominated country artist Steven Lee Olsen. He is the first of the program’s artists to benefit from UMC’s globally focused strategic insight and project leadership, according to the release.
UMC Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Remedios and executive vp/general manager Kristen Burke lead the new operation alongside The Core founders Kevin “Chief” Zaruk and Simon Tikhman, and The Core Canada President Tracy Martin.

These executives will hand-select the partnership’s roster and work to develop artists. “The Core Entertainment’s vision and drive in championing artists is inspiring,” Remedios said in a statement. “This partnership is an opportunity to work with people we admire to do what we love — supporting a wide-range of artists in lockstep with a formidable management team.”

One Media iP Group Plc (AIM: OMIP) has acquired the majority catalog of Don Williams in a deal that covers the late country star’s 1970s and ‘80s songs — seventeen of which are certified as No. 1 hits. The deal rounds out a series of acquisitions made by the digital music rights company — in January, they closed on the producer royalty share of Take That’s early hits and took on the 250-song catalog of ‘80s pop star Kid Creole and the Coconuts in May. In June, producers Steve Levine and Barry Blue partnered with One Media to help monitor and protect their works using the company’s TCAT technology.

The Don Williams deal was completed through One Media’s Harmony iP scheme, which will also make use of the TCAT technology. TCAT, or ‘Technical Copyright Analysis Tool’ utilizes A.I software to monitor streams across digital music platforms like Spotify, Amazon and iTunes and identifies unauthorised use of copyrights. Under the new deal, this software will be used to protect Williams’ legacy, according to the press release.

“There has been a steady rise in the popularity of country music in the UK and Europe, with events such as the Country 2 Country festival, which have drawn in huge crowds in recent years,” said One Media iP Group CEO Michael Infante. “Don Williams – like Johnny Cash – is revered by younger artists, which has in turn fed through to a new generation of fans. In life he was known as the Gentle Giant… and in his musical legacy we believe we have a Sleeping Giant, as fans of all generations are drawn to his timeless music.”

Italian music company Artist First has partnered with ANote Music to list the rights catalog of Italian rock/pop group Le Vibrazioni, marking the first public offering of an image rights catalog. Through the listing, ANote’s investors can invest in a share of the catalog and receive a percentage of the band’s compensation for their live appearances over the next five years.
The deal includes the performances scheduled for Le Vibrazioni’s Italy tour, which begins later this year as the country’s live show industry begins to open back up after the coronavirus pandemic-forced shutdown. “Le Vibrazioni’s pipeline of events and concerts is strong, and we’re pleased to give their fans the opportunity to share in supporting their return to concert,” said Claudio Ferrante, CEO and managing partner at Artist First.

According to the press release, the listing has a maturity of 5 years, after which the royalty streams will return to the transferor. Since 2018, ANote Music strived to help entrepreneurial music rights holders retain independence through listing a portion of their music rights up for auction and allow investors to directly own shares of their favourite hits, and then trade and exchange these shares with other investors on ANote Music’s innovative secondary market.

“Since day one, we have set out to redefine how the music industry is financed,” said Marzio F. Schena, founder and CEO of ANote Music. “Through increased transparency and public access, we at ANote Music strive to democratise rights throughout the music industry across the board. This partnership with Artist First is another milestone on that journey, as we further serve the industry by opening access to the image rights of Le Vibrazioni, an internationally renowned Italian rock and pop icon, to the masses.”

Universal Music Serbia and Virgin Music Label & Artist Services announced their global distribution partnership with Serbian hip-hop label Balkaton. The Belgrade-based label was launched in 2015 and boasts a label including Rasta, Alen Sakić, Riga Dri, Tyzee and Sanela.

Going forward, Universal Music Serbia and its Virgin Music Label & Artist Services division will support the label aiding its brand expansion and helping to maximize artist impact. “The entire team at Universal Music, whether in Serbia, across the region and internationally is very excited about working together with Balkaton,” said Universal Music Serbia’s General Manager, Ilija Milosevic. “This partnership comes at a time when all key digital services in the region are now fully available and our market is finally ready to show its full potential and follow all current trends in this ever-innovative industry. Therefore, Balkaton being the initiator and an absolute leader of creative development within the entire Western Balkans region, is our ideal partner to start this great change together.”

The start of the partnership is marked by a brand new Balkaton star – Kali, whose debut single ‘Crna Magija’ was released July 9. Founder and CEO of Balkaton Stefan Djuric Rasta said the partnership comes at a “crucial” moment for Balkaton. “Since after this difficult period that got us all,” he said, “we are coming back stronger than ever and preparing many new projects, tracks, albums and bangers that we want to present globally, and not just in the Balkans region. I think that this type of collaboration will definitely set another level on the Balkan music scene and set a milestone in its history.”

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