As the distinction between catalog and front-end music becomes increasingly blurred in the streaming age, BMG announced on Tuesday (April 18) that the company will combine its new release and catalog record businesses – claiming it’s a first for a major music company .
Calling the distinction between the two categories “outdated” in a press release announcing the change, BMG said its recorded catalog (traditionally defined as recordings older than 18 months) will now report local (by country of origin), and then globally through the company executive vice president of global repertoire, Fred Casimir, for all sales outside the owner’s territory — a structure BMG already uses for front-line records. Changes take effect immediately.
“Music fans are demonstrating daily that they are rejecting the music industry’s outdated privileging of new music over older,” said the BMG executive. Hartwig Masuch in a statement. “Music is music, regardless of its age. Great artists and great music have no expiration date, and we believe it’s time the music industry reflects that.”
In a memo to BMG staff on Tuesday, Mazuch said the change “marks a significant expansion of the [Casimir’s] responsibilities and is a reflection of the success of the global marketing team he established in 2018.” Kazimir will now also lead the company’s global catalog marketing team as well as the London-based global licensing center, leading a team of approximately 90 employees.
Masuch continued that the integration “also means that locally our repertoire leaders – Thomas Scherer in LA, Alistair Norbury in London, etc. – will uniquely in the music industry oversee music publishing and front-line records and catalog in their local territories.” He added that the change “empowers local leaders … shortens reporting lines and … makes us more responsive to our artist customers and songwriters.”
Over the past few years, catalog music has become increasingly dominant in terms of overall consumption. According to Luminate, catalog’s share of total consumption across all formats rose to 72.2% in 2022, up from 69.8% in 2021 and 65.1% in 2020; in contrast, the catalog’s share was just 35.8% in 2014. Also, between 2021 and 2022, the average age of the top 1,000 streaming audio-on-demand records rose from 3,287 days in 2021 to 3,462 days in 2022 — an increase of 176 days, or nearly six months — according to a billboard Luminate data analysis.
Part of that shift can be attributed to the way TikTok has powered streams of older songs like Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” over the past few years. But this is mainly due to the enduring popularity of the so-called “shallow catalog”—i.e. music released in the last few years, as opposed to the “deep catalog” like decades-old songs by Fleetwood Mac and Bush. This change was introduced by the streaming model. Playlists on services like Spotify and Apple Music regularly feature tracks older than 18 months, thus extending the life of songs by years in a way that was not possible in previous eras when consumption was dominated by radio, physical sales and digital downloads.
“Successful music catalogs deserve the same effort, commitment and passion as newer records,” Casimir said in a statement. “I am delighted to be taking responsibility for the marketing of BMG’s record catalogue.” Casimir joined BMG in 2009 when he was appointed Managing Director of BMG Germany from its subsidiary Bertelsmann FreemantleMedia, where he led the company’s music business throughout Europe. He was appointed to his current role in 2019.
In its 2022 earnings published in March, BMG said the company had enjoyed its best year on record, with revenue up more than 30% thanks to strong growth in both publishing and recorded music . It generated 866 million euros ($912.6 million) for the year – 40% of which was attributed to the company’s recorded music business – up from 663 million euros in 2021 ($784 million),
Following the release of this earnings report, Masuh said billboard The record-breaking year was due in part to the company’s long-standing focus on “established repertoire” rather than new artists, with a recorded catalog that included the likes of Black Sabbath, The Kinks, Motörhead, Rick Astley, Mötley Crüe, Kylie Minogue. Chris Rea and Nick Cave.
Mazuch repeated that narrative in his memo to BMG staff on Tuesday.
“BMG was the first music company to recognize that in a streaming environment, older music would be relatively more important than it ever was in the past,” he said. “This is supported by market statistics that show that the new release business has declined to 30% or less of streaming consumption.
“This is why we have invested heavily in classical repertoire and why the majority of our first releases are from proven and established artists. But until now, we’ve always followed the industry practice of having a separate global reporting line for catalog records, as opposed to a front line. Now that is changing.”