Thursday, June 20, 2024

From the NMPA’s criticism of Spotify’s bundling plans to Concord’s bid for Hipgnosis assets… it’s MBW’s Weekly Round-Up

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Welcome to Music Business Worldwide’s weekly round-up – where we make sure you caught the five biggest stories to hit our headlines over the past seven days. MBW’s round-up is supported by Centtrip, which helps over 500 of the world’s best-selling artists maximize their income and reduce their touring costs.


This week brought more evidence (as if any was needed) that the race to acquire the world’s most valuable music rights is far from over.

We learned that Cutting Edge Group, a prominent buyer of film and TV music rights, completed a USD $500 million debt refinancing that will give them dry powder for a $1.5 billion pipeline of potential music rights investments.

In announcing its acquisition of Cloud 9 Music, Amsterdam-headquartered dance music company Armada mentioned it’s eyeing $500 million in music investments within the next five years.

But the largest news in this vein came from Concord. It was revealed this week that the California-based music company is making a $1.4 billion cash bid for the assets of the UK’s Hipgnosis Songs Fund.

In other news, K-pop giant HYBE unveiled Supertone Shift, a new tool from Supertone, the company it acquired for $32 million in 2022. Now in beta-testing, Supertone Shift allows artists to change their vocals in real time.

Finally, the NMPA hit out at Spotify this week over a change to the way the streaming service pays out mechanical royalties in the US. Spotify now considers its Premium subscriptions to be “bundles,” as they include audiobooks. This effectively reduces the mechanical royalties Spotify pays to songwriters and publishers in the US.

Here’s what happened this week…


Credit: Pavel Suslov / WMG

1) CONCORD, FINANCED BY APOLLO, MAKES $1.4BN CASH BID TO ACQUIRE HIPGNOSIS SONGS FUND’S ASSETS

Remember when Concord bought Round Hill Music‘s assets off the UK stock exchange for $469 million in November?

The US company is now looking to pull off a similar acquisition, this time for the song portfolio of another UK-listed entity – Hipgnosis Songs Fund.

The HSF board notified shareholders on April 18 that Concord has made a cash offer equivalent to $1.40 billion to acquire its assets.

Concord’s offer is technically being made by Concord Chorus Ltd (CCL), an entity controlled by Alchemy Copyrights LLC.

Investment giant Apollo Global Management is financing Concord’s bid via debt capital, as well as taking a minority equity interest in CCL…


2) CUTTING EDGE GROUP SECURES $500M TO FUND MUSIC RIGHTS ACQUISITIONS

Cutting Edge Group has completed a $500 million debt refinancing with a syndicate of four banks led by US-based Fifth Third Bank and Toronto-headquartered private investment firm, Northleaf Capital Partners.

According to the announcement from UK-headquartered Cutting Edge on April 15, the new funds will be used for a combination of “corporate purposes” and the acquisition of music rights across the film, TV, theatre, gaming, and wellness spaces.

Cutting Edge said it has already identified a “circa $1.5 billion pipeline” of potential investments. The Financial Times reported that those deals “could be further funded by bringing in third-party investors”.

Founded in 2006, London-based Cutting Edge has been a prominent buyer of film and TV music rights over the past few years…


3) HYBE-OWNED SUPERTONE’S NEW AI ‘VOICE CHANGER’ LETS ARTISTS CHANGE THEIR VOCALS… IN REAL-TIME

Supertone, as long-time MBW readers will know, is the AI voice replication software that Korean music giant HYBE fully acquired in a $32 million deal in 2022.

At the end of February, the AI capabilities of Supertone were demonstrated via a voice clone of HYBE’s own CEO, Jiwon Park, ‘speaking’ on a company earnings call.

On April 16, Supertone launched the beta version of a new tool called  ‘Supertone Shift’.

The tool is described as a “one-of-a-kind real-time voice changer” which HYBE claims will “empower creators with new possibilities of expressions and content creation”.

Picture the scene: an artist singing live on stage, via multiple different AI-assisted voices, all switched in real time…


Maykel Piron Armada

4) ARMIN VAN BUUREN’S ARMADA FORMS NEW PARENT COMPANY, ACQUIRES AMSTERDAM’S CLOUD 9 MUSIC, AND TARGETS $500M IN NEW INVESTMENTS VIA ITS BEAT MUSIC FUND

Amsterdam-headquartered Armada Music – the Armin van Buuren co-founded label behind such dance/techno legends as Chicane and Ferry Corsten – announced last year the launch of BEAT Music Fund, which it described as the first-ever dance music investment fund.

At the time, Armada said it planned to spend $100 million on catalog acquisitions in its first two years; the company now says it’s planning $500 million in investments within the next five years.

Its latest acquisition is Netherlands-based label and publisher Cloud 9 Music, whose publishing division will merge with Armada’s existing publishing company, Armada Publishing B.V., under the new name Armada Music Publishing.

Cloud 9 employees will join the team, in effect tripling the headcount of Armada’s publishing arm…


Spotify

5) NMPA ACCUSES SPOTIFY OF ‘ATTACKING SONGWRITERS’ AS STREAMING SERVICE CHANGES HOW IT PAYS OUT MECHANICAL ROYALTIES IN THE US

In 2022, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) accepted a (near) music industry-wide settlement to improve songwriters’ streaming royalty rates in the United States from January 1, 2023.

The settlement – known as ‘Phonorecords IV’ or ‘CRB IV’ – will see songwriters and music publishers paid a headline rate of 15.35% of a given interactive streaming service’s US revenue by 2027.

Now, Spotify has confirmed that a big change has arrived to the way it pays out mechanical royalties in the US, as it now considers its Premium plans to be ‘bundles‘ – because they combine audiobooks and music.

Treating Premium (including Individual, Duo, and Family) as a bundle rather than a standalone subscription impacts how the company pays mechanical royalties to songwriters and publishers in the US.

In short: The rate now paid for Spotify’s Premium plans is lower than the headline rate for a standalone subscription agreed with publishers as part of the CRB IV proceedings.

The move has raised the ire of the US-based National Music Publishers Association


MBW’s Weekly Round-Up is supported by Centtrip, which helps over 500 of the world’s best-selling artists maximise their income and reduce their touring costs.Music Business Worldwide

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