Universal Music Group Buys 49% Stake In PIAS Group

Universal Music Group (UMG) has struck a deal to acquire a 49% shareholding in PIAS Group, the leading European independent music company.

Financial terms of the arrangement, announced early Wednesday (Nov. 30), were not disclosed.

By taking a minority stake in PIAS Group, UMG, the world’s leading major music company, expands on its strategic global alliance struck with the indie powerhouse in June 2021.

PIAS, or Play It Again Sam, was founded in Belgium 1982 by Kenny Gates and Michel Lambot, both career-long advocates for the independent music sector.

Gates and Lambot will retain majority control of the company, a joint statement reads, and UMG will have no seats on the company’s board.

Headquartered in London and Brussels, PIAS is said to be one of the largest independent and privately-owned music companies in the world.

The group includes the PIAS Label Group, which oversees the business’ various record label interests, and Integral Distributions Services, which provides support to its own, in-house labels and upwards of 100 independent label partners, including ATO, Beggars Group, Bella Union, Chrysalis, Domino, Epitaph, LSO, Mute, Ninja Tune, Partisan, Secretly Group, Transgressive and Warp.

Today, PIAS boasts 16 offices around the world with 300 employees.

“The boldly independent and music-centric culture that Kenny and Michel have built over the last four decades has provided a vital creative network to so many artists,” comments UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge, in a statement.

“While much of the past was focused on ‘majors versus indies,’ it’s clear that today, the important divide in our industry is about those committed to artist development versus those committed to quantity over quality. “

He continues, “We share Kenny and Michel’s passion for developing artists and moving culture, and we recognize that a healthy music ecosystem needs companies like PIAS who are committed to amplifying the best voices in independent music.”

As PIAS celebrates its 40th anniversary, Gates and Lambot insist the new arrangement will enable its artists, clients and team to flourish.

Says Lambot, one of the founders of the pan-European independent music companies’ trade body Impala, “we are still as ambitious as we were when we started out about growing our global presence and providing a world class service to the independent music community.”

Gates adds, “These days we are competing with finance and tech giants and a partner like Universal Music Group provides the additional support for us to compete and grow. Universal made it clear that they like us, they trust us and they need us, because they can’t do what we do and they value it highly.”

This move, Gates continues, “makes us stronger and secures the future of our brand, our staff and our partners while maintaining control of our destiny.”

Created in a Brussels cellar four decades ago by Gates and Lambot, PIAS began life as a distributor of independent labels. Four years, the pair launched publishing company Strictly Confidential, and PIAS continued to grow its footprint, including the opening of offices Paris and London (in 1994), Hamburg (1995), Madrid (2000), New York and Stockholm (2013), and Sydney (2017) through the acquisition of Inertia.

Lars Brandle