Universal Music Combines Distribution Operations Under New Virgin Music Group Banner

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Universal Music Group has consolidated its artist services operations into a new global Virgin Music Group division, the company announced Tuesday (Sept. 13).

Virgin Music Group will be led by music entrepreneurs and mtheory founders JT Myers and Nat Pastor, who will serve as co-CEOs. In their new roles, Myers and Pastor will spearhead the expansion of UMG’s independent music capabilities across all of its business units and regions while reporting to UMG chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge.

The new division encompasses Virgin Music Label & Artist Services and Ingrooves Music Group, as well as mtheory’s bespoke label division, mtheory Artist Partnerships, which UMG has acquired. All Virgin Music Label & Artist Services regional hubs will immediately become part of Virgin Music Group and operate under a unified strategy while continuing to leverage local A&R expertise and creative networks in their respective countries. This includes Virgin Music Label & Artist Services in the U.S., which will split from Capitol Music Group to become a standalone company serving all of UMG’s U.S. labels and partners.

As for market share, a source close to the situation says that all market share calculations will remain the same, meaning Virgin will continue to contribute to Capitol Music Group’s market share — but that could change down the line.

UMG is the last of the major labels to consolidate its independent distribution operations after Warner Music, which combined its Independent Label Group and Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA) under one roof in 2012, and Sony Music, which merged The Orchard and RED into a single global entity under the Orchard brand in 2017.

Under the terms of the deal, mtheory’s manager services business will remain fully independent and be led by newly appointed CEO Cameo Carlson. Mtheory will also spin out its MPRS Global producer royalty administration platform, which will be headed up by its new CEO (and mtheory co-founder) Jon McMillan.

“In order to remain the best home for artists and entrepreneurs we must drive innovation in our own businesses — offering new and high-quality resources for artists from all corners of the world while continuing to lead the industry’s transformation,” said Grainge in a statement. “Nat and JT’s track record for creating forward-thinking partnerships with artists that are built on a foundation of trust, creativity and business acumen is exactly the kind of leadership we want for the new Virgin Music Group division. Together with our frontline labels and global footprint, Virgin Music Group offers artists unmatched creative and commercial support.”

Boyd Muir, UMG’s executive vp, CFO and president of operations, added, “Expanding the community of artists, labels and entrepreneurs with whom we work presents a significant opportunity for us, strategically complementing our labels and leveraging UMG’s existing world-class infrastructure. Having worked with mtheory, I know that the vision for the growth of the industry that Nat and JT bring will be a great fit for UMG and our artists, today and in the future.”

In addition to running Virgin Music Group, Myers and Pastor will support UMG’s corporate business development activities, leveraging their “experience advising mtheory clients, music industry entrepreneurs, and large enterprises on strategic initiatives and music transactions,” according to a press release.

Said Myers, “mtheory was founded on the idea that we could transform the music industry by offering better, more aligned partnerships with artists. By bringing these incredible global teams and resources together, we have the opportunity to turbo-charge that vision, and deliver even more value to artists, labels and music entrepreneurs.”

Pastor added, “We are so thankful to Sir Lucian and Boyd for entrusting us with the iconic Virgin Music brand, one of the most successful independent labels in the industry’s history, as well as InGrooves, arguably the most sophisticated music technology platform in the world.”

Virgin Music started as Virgin Records, the label founded by Richard Branson in the U.K. in 1972. Over its history, the company distributed labels including Frontline, Stiff, Charisma and Circa and also created Caroline and Astralwerks, which became thriving divisions within UMG after the music giant acquired Virgin’s parent company EMI in 2012.

You can find a brief overview of the divisions that make up Virgin Music Group below.

Virgin Music Label & Artist Services: Launched in Feb. 2021 as a network of regional hubs in the world’s leading music markets. Virgin handles global distribution for indie labels including 10K Projects (Surfaces, Trippie Redd, Internet Money, iann dior), Work Show (Brazil), Mushroom Group (Australia & U.K.), Mavin Records (Nigeria), Photo Finish Records (SHAED, McKenna Grace), Primary Wave Music (including Sun Records, Green Hill and Gaither music) and Range Media Partners (U.S.). It has helped achieve global success for artists including Lauv, Lil Baby, NCT 127 and St. Vincent. It also partners with domestic labels to represent artists — including DAVE (U.K.), Tame Impala (Australia) & NF (U.S.) — on a global basis.

Ingrooves Music Group: Acquired by UMG in 2019 and headquartered in Los Angeles, Ingrooves offers marketing strategy, insights and analytics, rights management, advertising, innovative and patented technology, royalty accounting, video monetization and music licensing. Ingrooves has acquired local distributors Electromode in South Africa and Alda Music in Iceland and partnered with frontline labels to form distribution relationships with artists including BTS/HYBE (Interscope/Geffen Records) and Daddy Yankee (Republic Records). It has offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

Mtheory Artist Partnerships: UMG has acquired mtheory’s bespoke label division, mtheory Artist Partnerships, though mtheory’s artist services business was not part of the transaction and will remain independent. The label division boasts “aligned, equitable partnerships” with artists including Major Lazer, Tove Lo, Tom Odell, Empress Of, RL Grime, bbno$ and Porter Robinson and claims more than 80 gold and platinum certifications in 23 countries.

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