Music pact gives Celtic Heartbeat bit o' green

Buoyed by the success of the music of “Riverdance,” Universal Music Group has inked a worldwide joint-venture pact with Celtic Heartbeat Records, a label designed to focus on the emerging Irish music scene.

The label will be run by artist managers David Kavanaugh, chief of Upfront Management; and Paul McGuinness, owner of Principle Management and manager of rockers U2, who began their 14-month world tour April 25. Celtic co-founder Barbara Galavan will shepherd the operation of the label.

“Riverdance” composer Bill Whelan, credited with kick-starting the Irish music craze, is among the artists signed to the label.

Contemporary Irish artists

Sources said Celtic, which nabbed a seven-figure deal plus a hefty credit line, will focus on signing contemporary Irish artists in a move designed to attract record buyers from the more than 85 million Irish-Americans residing in the U.S.

Back-office functions for the Dublin-based label (sales, marketing, promotion) will likely be handled through Universal Records.

Celtic Heartbeat was jettisoned from the Atlantic Records family last year as part of a restructuring.

Catalog to Atlantic

Celtic’s catalog, which includes Anuna and Francis Black, will revert in stages as Atlantic recoups its investment in the three-year old label.

The pickup by Universal proves particularly timely, as Irish music appears poised to break big here and abroad as evidenced by the success of such acts as The Chieftains, the “Riverdance” legiter and its spinoff, “Lord of the Dance,” both of which have been playing to sellout crowds and have become PBS pledge-drive staples.

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