With overall revenue growth of 9% and a 7% gain in EBITDA, BMG boasts of its best first half since parent company Bertelsmann returned to the music business with a new-look model in 2008. While the pandemic stymied growth in music publishing, BMG’s core business, a 29.4% uptick by recorded music carried the day for the fiscal period that ended June 30.
Revenue for the period was €296 million, EBITDA at €50m. Citing releases from brother band AJR, British rapper KSI and veteran talent Van Morrison and Mick Fleetwood & Friends, BMG says it outperformed the industry in each of its core markets, the U.S., U.K. and Germany.
CEO Hartwig Masuch tells Variety that the results “mean that with a fraction of the investment of our competitors, our artist-friendly business model and efficiency mean we were able to outpace the market in our three core territories and grow our recordings business by 29.4% in a year.”
MRC Data reported unit-based growth of 13.5% for H1 in the U.S. in July; the revenue-based H1 summary from the Recording Industry Assn. of America won’t arrive until early next month. Earlier this month, the German Music Industry Association flagged 12.4% growth for the first six months of the year.
Publishing accounts for about two-thirds of BMG’s revenue, and there, revenue was flat, which the company mostly attributes to COVID’s impact on the live music business.
“The pandemic has clearly hit performance revenues hard,” says Masuch. “We’re under no pressure from our shareholder to make the numbers appear better than they are. We are very confident that the market will come back. In the meantime, we are having continuing success in publishing with the likes of DJ Khaled, 220Kid and D’Mile as well as iconic writers like Diane Warren, Jagger & Richards and Roger Waters.”
In fact, BMG is on the hunt for more publishing assets, through a partnership with private equity investor KKR & Co. “Earlier this month we did our first substantial deal under this arrangement, in the eight-figure millions,” Masuch says. “We have four further deals in due diligence and a pipeline of 71 in which we are potentially interested with an aggregate value of just over €1bn. Across the market we believe music asset sales are running around 50% ahead of 2020’s number.”
BMG often says that it is built on creative-friendly terms, offering more transparency to songwriters on publishing revenue and allowing recording artists to own their own master, in a manner similar to Kobalt. Masuch took the occasion of this positive first half report to tout the advantages of a new-look business model and make a dig at the majors.
“There is more flux in the music market right now than at any time in music business history,” he says. “That can only be bad news for incumbents but good news for challengers like BMG. The key success criteria in attracting catalogs are access to capital and ability to operate efficiently. We have both.”
With most of the company in work-from-home mode, BMG noted that it has weathered the pandemic without reducing its global workforce of 1,001, and in fact has added 255 employees since lockdown conditions began last year.
The new BMG is the second music foray by German media company Bertelsmann, which made a big splash in 1986 when it acquired 75% interest in RCA/Ariola from General Electric. From there, its distributor was renamed BMG Distribution. In 2004, it merged with Sony Music, but sold its 50% interest to Sony in 2008 for a reported $1.2 billion.