Business News Deals Labels & Publishers

Utopia buys Proper Music

By | Published on Thursday 20 January 2022

Utopia Music

The recently acquisitive Utopia Music continues to be pretty acquisitive, this time pushing itself into the world of music distribution – and physical distribution in particular – with the acquisition of the UK’s Proper Music Group.

Although start-up Utopia initially talked primarily about seeking to address the data issues that negatively impact on how artists and especially songwriters get paid when their music is played, through a series of acquisitions the company seems set to become a more wide-ranging service provider to the music industry, covering financing, meta-data, marketing insights and distribution as well as rights and royalties data.

Previous acquisitions have included music industry focused financial services business Lyric Financial, Quincy Jones-backed music metadata set-up Musimap, music industry directory ROSTR and data analytics platform ForTunes.

With the Proper purchase, Utopia says that it is launching a full on distribution and label services side to the company which will, and I quote, “offer partnering labels physical distribution and sales, manufacturing, digital distribution services, marketing for creators and performers, digital retail marketing, reporting and budgeting, real-time analytics, and synchronisation”.

The distribution and label services side of the music industry is already a pretty crowded market-place, although with the Proper acquisition Utopia’s distribution and label services division will be particularly well equipped when it comes to CD and vinyl distribution.

As CD sales slumped in the 2000s, the physical distribution strand of the music industry went through a period of significant down-sizing, of course.

However, for the small number of distributors that survived – like Proper in the UK – there was a pretty solid business, working for those indie labels still selling decent numbers of physical discs, doing fulfilment for the growing range of direct-to-fan stores, and handling all the heavy lifting for those newer digital distributors that wanted to offer physical distribution as an add-on service.

And although best known for physical distribution, Proper does also offer digital distribution as part of its menu of services, as well as many of the other things that have become part of the label services offering, including marketing, social and PR services, and support registering and administrating neighbouring and publishing rights. All of which will seemingly be part of Utopia’s label services offer too.

Confirming Utopia’s latest deal, the firm’s COO Roberto Neri said yesterday: “We are delighted to announce our acquisition of Proper, which will serve the whole industry and digitise operations and processes when it comes to distribution. This acquisition serves as a building block towards achieving a real Utopia. It will allow us to ensure ‘fair pay for every play’, and be more efficient by offering better and faster financial services to creators, and servicing both major and independent labels. We are excited to welcome them into our family”.

Meanwhile, Proper Music Group MD Drew Hill added: “Proper has a long history in the UK music scene of which we are incredibly proud. That’s why when we learned of Utopia’s mission we knew we wanted to be a part of it. We believe that together we can help the whole value chain reach new heights, and as such we could not be more excited about this new venture”.

Proper’s founder and former Chairman Malcolm Mills also commented on the deal, stating: “I am immensely proud of what Proper has achieved since I started the original business in 1988, with the company thriving through the evolution of digital to become one of the UK’s leading distributors”.

“It is entirely due to the quality of people employed in the company and I am grateful to them for their relentless dedication and commitment to providing the exemplary service that has made Proper unique in this field”, he continued. “Utopia has the perfect vision to take the company to exciting new heights and realise its potential on the global stage”.