With the distinction between catalog and frontline music growing increasingly blurry in the streaming era, BMG announced Tuesday (April 18) that the company will combine its new release and catalog recordings businesses — claiming to be 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Calling the distinction between the two categories “outdated” in a press release announcing the change, BMG said its recorded catalog (traditionally defined as tracks older than 18 months) will now report locally (per its country of origin) and then globally through the company’s executive vp of global repertoire, Fred Casimir, for all sales outside the owning territory — a structure BMG already uses for frontline recordings. The changes are effective immediately.
“Music fans demonstrate on a daily basis that they reject the music industry’s outdated privileging of new music over older music,” said BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch in a statement. “Music is music regardless of its age. Great artists and great music have no expiry date and we believe it is time for the music industry to reflect that.”
In a note to BMG staff on Tuesday, Masuch said the shift “marks a significant expansion of [Casimir’s] responsibilities, and is a reflection of the success of the global frontline marketing team he created in 2018.” Casimir will now also oversee the company’s global catalog marketing team as well as its London-based global licensing hub, leading a team of roughly 90 employees.
Masuch continued that the integration “also means that on a local level, our repertoire leaders — Thomas Scherer in LA, Alistair Norbury in London etc – will uniquely in the music industry oversee music publishing and frontline and catalog recordings in their local territories.” He added that the change “empowers local leaders…shortens reporting lines and…makes us more responsive for our artist and songwriter clients.”
Over the last several years, catalog music has become increasingly dominant in terms of overall consumption. According to Luminate, catalog’s share of total consumption across all formats climbed to 72.2% in 2022, up from 69.8% in 2021 and 65.1% in 2020; by contrast, catalog’s share was a mere 35.8% in 2014. Additionally, between 2021 and 2022, the average age of the top 1,000 on-demand audio streaming tracks 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 analysis of Luminate data.
Some of that shift can be attributed to the way TikTok has driven streams of older songs like Fleetwood Mac‘s “Dreams” and Kate Bush‘s “Running Up That Hill” over the past few years. But it’s mainly been driven by the enduring popularity of so-called “shallow catalog” — i.e. music released within the last several years, as opposed to “deep catalog” like the decades-old Fleetwood Mac and Bush songs. That change was ushered in by the streaming model. Playlists on services like Spotify and Apple Music regularly surface tracks older than 18 months and thereby extend the lives of years-old songs in a way that didn’t happen during previous eras, when consumption was dominated by radio, physical sales and digital downloads.
“Successful music catalogues deserve the same effort, commitment and passion as newer recordings,” said Casimir in a statement. “I am delighted to take on responsibility for marketing BMG’s recorded catalogue.” Casimir joined BMG in 2009 when he was hired as managing director of BMG Germany from its sister Bertelsmann company FreemantleMedia, where he oversaw the company’s music-related businesses across Europe. He was named to his current role in 2019.
In its 2022 earnings released in March, BMG reported that the company enjoyed its best year ever, 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 — versus 663 million euros in 2021 ($784 million),
Following the release of that earnings report, Masuch told Billboard the record-setting year came about in part due to the company’s longstanding focus on “established repertoire” rather than new artists, with a recorded catalog that includes the likes of Black Sabbath, The Kinks, Motörhead, Rick Astley, Mötley Crüe, Kylie Minogue, Chris Rea and Nick Cave.
Masuch echoed that narrative in his note 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 had ever been in the past,” he said. “This is borne out by market statistics which show that the new release frontline business is down to 30% or less of streaming consumption.
“It is why we have invested heavily in classic repertoire and why the majority of our frontline new releases are by proven and established artists. But until now we have always followed industry practice in having a separate global reporting line for catalog recordings as opposed to frontline. This now changes.”