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Universal Music announces another revamp of its distribution and label services business

By | Published on Wednesday 14 September 2022

Virgin Music Group

Universal Music has further expanded and revamped its music distribution and label services operations, acquiring mtheory Artist Partnerships and putting its founders in charge of an all new Virgin Music Group, under which will also sit the major’s existing Virgin-branded label services divisions, as well the Ingrooves business.

All three majors have expanded the services side of their businesses in recent years, of course, providing distribution and other services to independent labels, and also to those artists that want to set up and run their own labels, but also want access to the infrastructure and influence of the major label system.

Last year, Universal rebranded its various artist and label services units around the world – which were operating under the Caroline brand – as Virgin Music Label & Artist Services, it no longer using the Virgin Records brand it got via its 2012 acquisition of EMI for frontline labels (well, not in the UK and the US anyway). Since that big old rebrand it has also launched Virgin Music services divisions in a number of other markets.

Those various Virgin Music services units will now sit within this all-new Virgin Music Group. That is most significant in the US, where – despite last year’s rebrand – Virgin Music Label & Artist Services still operated as part of Universal’s Capitol Music Group, where the Caroline business had previously sat. With this new revamp, Virgin Music Label & Artist Services US will become part of the new global services division.

The Ingrooves distribution and label services business has always operated a bit more autonomously from the rest of the Universal Music Group, despite being fully acquired by Universal in 2019, the major having previously been a minority shareholder. Under the new revamp, it will be formally part of the Virgin Music Group as well.

Seemingly prompting, at least in part, this latest revamp of Universal’s services operation is the acquisition of mtheory Artist Partnerships, the label services unit of independent music firm mtheory, which also has a team providing services and support for artist management companies. mtheory Artist Partnerships will be the third strand of the Virgin Music Group, and the founders of mtheory – JT Myers and Nat Pastor – become co-CEOs of the all-new Universal Music division.

This all raises the question, of course, as to who will be running the mtheory manager services business now that Myers and Pastor have all this Virgin Music Group CEOing nonsense to deal with. But I can answer that question. Newly appointed mtheory Manager Services CEO Cameo Carlson, that’s who. mtheory is also spinning off a producer royalty platform it operates as a standalone company which will be headed up by another co-founder, Jon McMillan.

So there you go. Consider yourself informed, and please update any major label corporate structure charts you have next to your desk or maybe stuck on your bedroom wall. And now, some official quotes for you all to ignore…

Universal Music CEO Lucian Grainge: “In order to remain the best home for artists and entrepreneurs we must drive innovation in our own businesses – offering new and high-quality resources for artists from all corners of the world while continuing to lead the industry’s transformation. Nat and JT’s track record for creating forward-thinking partnerships with artists that are built on a foundation of trust, creativity and business acumen is exactly the kind of leadership we want for the new Virgin Music Group division. Together with our frontline labels and global footprint, Virgin Music Group offers artists unmatched creative and commercial support”.

Universal Music EVP, CFO and President Of Operations Boyd Muir: “Expanding the community of artists, labels and entrepreneurs with whom we work presents a significant opportunity for us, strategically complementing our labels and leveraging UMG’s existing world-class infrastructure. Having worked with mtheory, I know that the vision for the growth of the industry that Nat and JT bring will be a great fit for UMG and our artists, today and in the future”.

mtheory founder and Virgin Music Group co-CEO JT Myers: “mtheory was founded on the idea that we could transform the music industry by offering better, more aligned partnerships with artists. By bringing these incredible global teams and resources together, we have the opportunity to turbo-charge that vision, and deliver even more value to artists, labels and music entrepreneurs”.

mtheory founder and Virgin Music Group co-CEO Nat Pastor: “We are so thankful to Sir Lucian and Boyd for entrusting us with the iconic Virgin Music brand, one of the most successful independent labels in the industry’s history, as well as Ingrooves, arguably the most sophisticated music technology platform in the world. JT and I have worked together for over 20 years, and we’re THRILLED to continue our journey to transform the music industry together, along with the Ingrooves, mtheory and Virgin teams”.

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