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Believe buys Sentric Music amid speculation about future of Utopia

By | Published on Friday 31 March 2023

Sentric Music

Music distributor and artist services company Believe has acquired music publisher Sentric Music in a deal which it describes as “its first break into building a digital-first innovative music publishing business”.

Sentric is perhaps best known for providing admin services and sync support to self-published writers including DIY artists, although it also has a more traditional music publishing business too.

Bigging up its new purchase, Believe said yesterday that “Sentric’s proprietary and innovative platform is one of the most advanced solutions in the market, able to manage publishing for self-releasing artists profitably and at scale, while also offering global publishing deals to rightsholders at each stage of their development”.

“Sentric’s backend platform offers a publishing infrastructure best fit for digital rights’ management”, it went on, “while providing songwriters and publishers with a suite of tools and actionable data to power their strategies through its user portal”.

Sentric already had an alliance with Believe’s DIY distributor TuneCore, powering the publishing services that it offers artists who are self-releasing their recordings and also control the rights in their songs.

Unlike with recordings, where self-releasing artists need to find a distributor, on the songs side songwriters can actually rely on their collecting societies to license their rights to digital services, if they so wish.

However, in the UK, that requires writers to join mechanical rights society MCPS as well as performing rights society PRS. Plus, many would argue, because of various data issues that routinely negatively impact on songwriter earnings, by working with a platform like Sentric writers can get paid quicker and more accurately.

Noting the existing TuneCore tie up, Believe’s statement went on: “Moving forward, Sentric’s integration will further strengthen publishing for TuneCore’s self-releasing artists and expand it to new geographies. Sentric will then offer publishing services to all clients within the Believe Group, who will be able to monetise their music seamlessly”.

Commenting on the deal and his company’s ambition on the songs side of the business, Believe CEO Denis Ladegaillerie says: “The acquisition of Sentric is the first step for Believe in the roll-out of a global and comprehensive publishing offer”.

“The growth and digital transformation of the songwriters’ market is opening-up many opportunities”, he adds. “We are excited to be able to immediately expand the services we provide to our existing TuneCore clients with Sentric’s best-in-class royalty collection service, while starting to work on future innovative products and services for all of Believe’s songwriters and publishers”.

Believe has acquired Sentric – in a deal that values the latter at €47 million – from Utopia Music, which only bought the publishing business a year ago. That earlier deal was part of a flurry of acquisitions at Utopia which at the time seemed to have ambitions of provide a wide range of distribution, data and rights management services across the music industry.

Those acquisitions greatly increased the size and significance of Utopia, but then later in the year it was announced that the company was downsizing its recently expanded workforce, and in January this year CEO Markku Mäkeläinen departed the company, with founder Mattias Hjelmstedt stepping into that role.

Then it was announced that Utopia had sold back one of its other acquisitions, music industry directory and data platform ROSTR, to its founders. After which another company it had tried to buy in early 2022 – LA-based music rights management and licensing platform SourceAudio – sued the firm over the collapse of that deal.

Shortly before the Sentric sale was announced, Swedish business news site Breakit reported that Utopia’s subsidiary in that country, Utopia R&D Tech, was facing demands for tax payments of eight million kroner – about £625,000 – as well as other legal claims over unpaid bills and a bankruptcy petition filed by employees over the alleged non-payment of pension payments.

Another employee told the business site that they had not received their most recent salary payment. A spokesperson for Utopia told Breakit: “We sincerely apologise to all affected employees and stress that we are taking this matter very seriously. All late payments have been identified and will be resolved in the coming days”.

Profits from the Sentric deal will presumably help Utopia meet those financial demands. Though, of all the businesses that Utopia acquired, Sentric was the one most relevant to the company’s much stated wider mission of addressing data and royalty payment issues across the music industry in order to ensure every music-maker gets “fair pay for every play”.