BMG nabs Mute catalog from UMG

Music unit acquires English punk and electronic label

On the heels of its purchase of some of EMI’s cast-off publishing assets, BMG has acquired the catalog of English punk and electronic label Mute Records from Universal Music Group.

The disposal of Mute was a regulator-mandated proviso for completion of UMG’s $1.9 billion buy of EMI’s label holdings, wrapped in September. Similarly, Sony/ATV, the key player in the purchase of EMI’s publishing unit, was forced to sell off the Virgin Music and Famous UK pub catalogs and other song holdings; that deal was also announced on Dec. 21.

Terms of the deal were not released.

Founded by Daniel Miller, who recorded as the Normal, in 1978, Mute released a host of punk and new wave hits by acts such as Depeche Mode, Yazoo (aka Yaz), Erasure, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Fad Gadget, Nitzer Ebb, Moby and Goldfrapp. Miller had reportedly been interested in buying back his label, which he sold to EMI in 2002.

Acquisition of Mute’s masters indicates a new willingness to re-enter the label side of the business on BMG’s part. The company sold its share in its music joint venture with Sony in 2008. While the company has been aggressive in picking up publishing assets during the last three years, the Mute deal is its biggest label move to date.

BMG had already cautiously reentered the label arena with its released of albums by Bryan Ferry, Dexys and Nena in 2012.

BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch said in a statement, “We are delighted to become the new custodians of the Mute Records catalogue, one of the most prized and influential in electronic and alternative music and a testament to the vision and A&R skills of Daniel Miller. BMG looks forward to working with all the artists concerned to give these copyrights the care and attention they deserve.”

In a statement, UMG said, “Per our agreement with the European Commission, we have begun the sale process of divested assets with the acquisition of the Mute Catalogue by BMG Rights Management. We know that BMG will provide a good home for Mute’s artists. Moving forward, we are confident that with our sales strategy and the number of parties that have expressed interest in the remaining assets, we will be able to create exactly the level of value that we would expect from the quality of these divestments.”

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