In the second of two acquisitions of former EMI catalogues, German-based music rights company BMG secured ownership of the original Mute archive yesterday.
The Mute record company, founded by Daniel Miller in 1978, was an EMI subsidiary from 2002 to 2010, and the major kept ownership of the label’s catalogue when Miller took the company independent again. Many had expected Miller to bid to reclaim control of the catalogue once Universal Music confirmed it was on the list of EMI assets to be offloaded in a bid to placate European regulators, who at the time were investigating the competition implications of Universal acquiring the wider EMI record company.
But BMG has secured the original Mute collection, which includes recordings by Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Erasure and Moby. The BMG music rights company is more prolific in the publishing rights domain (ie the copyrights in songs), but has always insisted that it is as interested in sound recording rights, and has bought up some master recordings in the past, as well as forming partnerships with usually heritage artists releasing new material.
BMG has long been tipped to bid for all of the EMI assets Universal is selling, including the UK-based Parlophone record company, though BMG bosses have always been adamant that they have no interest in becoming a ‘traditional record company’ – making risky investments in new artists in return for full recording rights ownership – so the Parlophone Label Group would be a strange purchase, given it is, basically, a traditional label business.
Whether confirmation of the Mute deal – a more straight forward catalogue acquisition – means BMG is now out of the running for the rest of the EMI assets isn’t clear, though that would be logical. That might mean the consortium being led by ‘Idol’ creator Simon Fuller and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell is now a favourite to get Parlophone.
The Mute deal, confirmed by Universal to Music Week, came just hours after BMG announced it had bought the EMI publishing catalogues put up for sale by Sony/ATV as part of its regulator deal when acquiring the EMI publishing business.