BMG Buys Virgin, Famous Music Catalog From Sony/ATV

Matt Hartman

The deal gives BMG worldwide rights to songs by artists including Duffy, Nirvana, Take That and Robbie Williams.

BERLIN -- Music label BMG has signed a deal to acquire selected music publishing catalogs from Virgin Music Publishing, Famous U.K. Music Publishing and selected titles from Sony/ATV and EMI Music Publishing.

The deals give BMG, the world’s fourth-largest music publishing company, worldwide rights to songs from recording artists such as Take That, Nirvana, Duffy and Iggy Pop

The 21,000-song Virgin Publishing catalog includes such hits as Nirvana’s "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Robbie Williams’ "Let Me Entertain You" and Pop's "Passenger." Hits from 1980s, such as Tears for Fears' "Shout," Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon" and Human League's "Don't You Want Me" also highlight the catalogs BMG has acquired.

“These catalogs contain some of the most influential and successful songs in popular music,” BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch said in announcing the deals Friday. “We are delighted to have won the opportunity to represent the writers of those songs and to demonstrate to them BMG’s commitment to 21st century service.”

The catalog deals are a result of Sony/ATV’s $2.2 billion purchase of EMI’s publishing arm during the summer. To secure European regulatory approval for the acquisition, Sony Music and the estate of Michael Jackson, who jointly control Sony/ATV, had to agree to see off various rights catalogs. 

Financial details of the deals were not disclosed by BMG, backed by German media group Bertelsmann and private-equity house KKR, is thought to have bid about $90 million for the catalogs, beating out competitors including Warner Music and Saban Capital.