The Deals: Luther Vandross Estate Strikes Merch Partnership; Insomniac Pacts With FUGA

The estate of Luther Vandross tapped Epic Rights — part of Universal Music Group’s merchandise and brand management company Bravado — as the global merchandise management agency to develop a multi-category worldwide retail and e-commerce program for the late singer. The agreement will see a roster of new licensing partners create branded merch and other elements to extend Vandross’ legacy in advance of multiple anniversary celebrations slated for next year. Vandross released his solo debut album, Never Too Much, in 1981; he went on to release 11 consecutive platinum albums and win a total of eight Grammys. According to a press release, over his more than 30-year career, he sold in excess of 40 million albums worldwide and also produced records for Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick. Next year is the 20th anniversary of both his Dance With My Father album and Live at Radio City Music Hall, which marked his final live performances. Other activations will include the launch of the Luther Vandross Foundation and a remix collaboration for Black History Month.

Full-service B2B distributor FUGA, a division of Downtown Music, partnered with electronic label Insomniac Music Group for a deal that will see FUGA provide a range of distribution, marketing and label services for several labels under the Insomniac umbrella, providing access to over 260 DSPs globally. Insomniac will also be utilizing FUGA’s sync and audience engagement services and have access to its trends and analytics platform. Insomniac additionally reached a deal with Downtown Neighbouring Rights.

China-based online music platform NetEase Cloud Music struck a licensing renewal agreement with Japanese entertainment company Avex. Under the deal, the companies will collaborate on promoting the presence of Avex artists on the NetEase platform. Avex’s roster includes Ayumi Hamasaki, Ai Otsuka, Kumi Koda, Awesome City Club, HIRAIDAI, I Don’t Like Mondays and NAQT VANE.


Actor and singer-songwriter Reneé Rapp signed with WME in all areas. Known for her role on the HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls, Rapp recently signed with Interscope Records, which released her debut EP, Everything to Everyone, on Nov. 11. She continues to be represented by Adam Mersel of Immersive Management, Lisa Socransky Austin and Sloane, Offer, Weber & Dern LLP.

Universal Music Group (UMG) partnered with Artist Partner Group (APG) on The Fast & Furious: Drift Tape (Phonk Vol 1), “a fan-first mixtape” released in conjunction with character pieces from Universal Pictures’ Fast & Furious franchise that are meant to reintroduce characters to fans. Led by APG CEO Mike Caren and UMG’s Steven Victor, the project features music and collaborations from Phonk music’s biggest artists, including Kordhell, MUPP, Kaito Shoma, SCXR Soul and more. The full mixtape will be released Dec. 16.

Montreal-based pianist and composer Alexandra Stréliski signed to XXIM Records/Sony Music Masterworks. The first release under the deal is the song “The Hills,” which is Stréliski’s first new music in four years; she’s slated to put out a new album in spring 2023. All forthcoming music will be released by XXIM Records/Sony Masterworks worldwide, excluding Canada, in partnership with Montreal-based Secret City Records, her Canadian label home since 2018.

MOBO Group welcomed The Orchard to its recruitment and mentoring platform MOBOLISE, which launched in beta in 2020. MOBOLISE “supports and connects career opportunities to empower diversity, excellence and transformation in the workplace,” according to a press release, via a jobs board, mentoring and career development events and educational resources. It aims to create a more equitable industry by overcoming systemic obstacles faced by Black professionals. “MOBOLISE directly supports The Orchard’s goal to attract diverse talent by providing resources and information to the MOBOLISE community as well as direct recruitment opportunities to add to our workforce,” said Naledi Nyahuma Seck, vp of diversity & inclusion at The Orchard.

The Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority and Oak View Group reached an exclusive multi-year naming rights agreement with Tahoe Blue Vodka for a new live entertainment, sports and conference center on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. Located in Stateline, Nevada, the 6,000-capacity Tahoe Blue Center is projected to open in July 2023 and host 130 events annually. The deal includes prominent exterior and interior signage. This is the first naming rights sponsorship for the vodka brand.

Payton Smith (“Like I Knew You Would”) signed with Combustion Masters, which recently released his latest single “Need You To Not.” Smith is currently in the studio with Combustion president Chris Warren at the production helm. New music from the singer, who’s signed with Eclipse Music Group for publishing, is expected early next year.

Independent digital distributor IDOL signed a full-service digital distribution partnership with independent label Fire Records, which boasts acts including Black Lips, Jane Weaver, The Lemonheads and Vanishing Twin on its roster. IDOL will handle the digital distribution of Fire Records’ repertoire to its global network of DSPs, excluding South Korea. Fire Records will also work closely with IDOL’s international audience development team on marketing and release strategy for frontline releases, with a dedicated specialist working on the label’s back catalog.

Q Prime South signed singer-songwriter Paul Cauthen for management. Cauthen, who will be on tour throughout December and into early 2023, is working on new music for release next year. His most recent album, Country Coming Down, was released by Thirty Tigers.

Warner Music Latina has signed emerging Mexican singer-songwriter Arriola to “continue the development” of his career within the regional Mexican genre, according to a press release. Arriola (real name Eduardo Arriola Gómez) — who released his first single “En Eso Estoy” when the label announced his signing — is also currently working on additional new music that will be part of his first album under the label. – Griselda Flores

Synch clearance and licensing software Trevanna Tracks partnered with music and cue sheet reporting company Soundmouse. The deal will allow Trevanna users to move song metadata, including splits and usage, from Trevanna to Soundmouse in order to generate accurate cue sheets. “Trevanna’s data and documents give production teams everything needed to air a synced song, but it doesn’t take the next step to ensure ongoing downstream payments,” said Jennifer Freed, founder and CEO of Trevanna Tracks. “This process was brilliantly sorted by Soundmouse.” Added Soundmouse head of business development Mark Vermaat, “This partnership enables collaboration between music supervisors and editors, saves time, and significantly lessens the margin for error in reporting royalties.”

Irish singer-songwriter Lisa O’Neill signed with Rough Trade Records for the release of her next album, All of This Is Chance, which is slated for release Feb. 10.

Country trio Track45 signed with UTA for booking. Comprised of siblings Jenna, Ben and KK Johnson, the group will be working with UTA agent Lance Roberts as its day-to-day. Track45 is signed to BBR Music’s Group’s Stoney Creek Records and managed by T.R.U.T.H. Management’s Missi Gallimore.

Nettwerk Music Group signed several new artists: lo-fi hip-hop producer linanthem; Sun Lo, a new project from artist-producer Attlas and songwriter-vocalist Richard Walters; alt-pop duo Bestfriend; beatmaker and producer Mr. Käfer; and disco-pop artist and producer Wingtip. The label recently released linanthem’s single “wind in my sails,” Sun Lo’s debut single “Factory Gates”; Mr. Käfer’s single “Blurred”; and Wingtip’s single “Mr. 29.” On Dec. 9, the label will release Bestfriend’s new single “LEMON LIME.”

Natalie Carr signed with Dallas Austin‘s distribution company DAD, which will release her new song “Drive.”

Mailboat Records signed yacht rock group Yachtley Crew. The outfit, which is managed by Andy Gould and is revving up for a series of monthly performances at Palms Casino Resort’s KAOS, recently released their first original song, “Sex On the Beach.”

Chris Eggertsen