Harmony turned down a $5bn+ acquisition supply. It explains why – and the place it’s going subsequent.



You may normally inform when a music firm is as much as Huge Stuff – as a result of their title will maintain showing in music enterprise media headlines. Not less than, that’s the standard logic.

Harmony turned down a $5bn+ acquisition supply. It explains why – and the place it’s going subsequent. 1

As a result of there’s really a counter-intuitive method to inform when a music firm is as much as Actually Huge Stuff: once they go quiet to a suspicious diploma.

That’s exactly what occurred at Concord following its $400 million acquisition of Downtown Music Holdings‘ copyright portfolio in Could 2021.

For the subsequent 12 months, MBW barely acquired a enterprise announcement from Harmony’s communications dept. But behind the scenes, in hushed boardrooms away from the ear of the broader enterprise, Actually Huge Stuff was certainly taking place.

Throughout that year-long interval, Harmony (and its majority proprietor, the State of Michigan Retirement System) welcomed in – and chewed over – a number of gives for the sale of its firm. The agency was reportedly solely ever interested by contemplating an “extraordinary” supply with a agency threshold: greater than $6 billion.

Contemplating Harmony’s post-Downtown annual income sits at roughly $600 million – with EBITDA anticipated to land in extra of $200 million in 2022 – a $6 billion acquisition supply actually would have been “extraordinary”. (We’ll prevent the maths: It’s someplace close to to a 30-times a number of of revenue.)

The gives acquired shut, nevertheless. In keeping with Bloomberg, Harmony was finally provided someplace north of $5 billion, mentioned no, and packed away discussions.

Which begs the query: The place does Harmony go from right here?

“We’re now engaged on a brand new five-year plan to develop the corporate dramatically and aggressively,” Harmony CEO, Scott Pascucci, tells MBW in an unique interview.

Components of that plan are already coming collectively rapidly:

  • Final month, Harmony introduced its eight-figure acquisition of Aussie music writer, Native Tongue;
  • Information has additionally slipped out that it’s acquired L.A-based pop manufacturing facility, HitCo;
  • and MBW understands that Harmony is firmly in the running for one of many greatest single-catalog offers in historical past, from Pink Floyd. (We’re instructed this Floyd catalog bundle – which incorporates masters however not publishing – is available on the market for round GBP £420 million, by the best way; that’s about USD $486 million at forex change charges as a result of uncommon energy of the greenback vs the pound. Final summer season, GBP £420 million would have been value round USD $580 million.)

Harmony, then, may be very a lot again in M&A mode. Which maybe shouldn’t be a shock for a corporation that spent an estimated $1 billion on acquisitions throughout its first 14 years in enterprise, earlier than spending two nine-figure sums buying a majority stake in Pulse Music Group (2020), and then the Think about Dragons publishing catalog, earlier than buying that Downtown’s copyright portfolio (2021).

MBW sat down with Harmony CEO, Scott Pascucci, and President, Bob Valentine, to get the within observe on the corporate’s discussions to promote final 12 months – and its ultra-aggressive return to music’s M&A market…

Lay it out for us: Why did you resolve to discover a sale, why didn’t you promote, and what does that imply now?

Scott Pascucci: The State of Michigan Retirement System began investing in [us] as Bicycle Music some 14 years in the past, and their funding has continued to develop. They’ve at all times been an extremely regular supply of capital, and really supportive. Their fairness curiosity in Harmony has elevated through the years and is now over 90%.

By no means as soon as in that future did Michigan ever say, ‘We need to promote Harmony.’

They fund pensions, which carry 20/30/40 12 months time horizons. There was no purpose for them to consider promoting. They at all times beloved our enterprise; they at all times instructed us they have been on this someplace between the long-haul and endlessly.

“By the method, we had a bunch of firms that have been actually interested by placing proposals on the desk. All of these proposals have been effectively north of $4 billion.”

However in late 2019 they began getting numerous cellphone calls from folks [who were] saying they wished to purchase Harmony. These are folks working outdoors the music business, traditionally talking.

Lastly Michigan acquired to the purpose the place they mentioned: ‘You realize what, we’ve got a fiduciary responsibility to all of our pensioners to discover this. We’ve an obligation to seek out out what Harmony is basically value.’

So Michigan mentioned to us ‘let’s take a look at the market’. By the method, we had a bunch of firms that have been actually interested by placing proposals on the desk. All of these proposals have been effectively north of $4 billion.

However we had began the entire course of skeptical that we might do something, and so it proved.

You wished $6 billion minimal, proper? That was your “extraordinary” quantity?

Pascucci: There’s at all times a quantity at which you must promote something. You would possibly personal a stunning home with your loved ones; that home just isn’t on the market. But when somebody gives you $10 million for it, you would possibly grow to be a vendor!

We acquired nice gives, we didn’t counter anyone. And we mentioned, ‘Okay, that was very informative. We’ve discovered quite a bit in regards to the firm. We now have an excellent sense of what it’s value as a ground – and that’s a really excessive quantity.’

That was the top of the story.

We’re now engaged on a brand new five-year plan to develop this firm dramatically and aggressively.

The place is the funding coming from for that aggressive five-year plan?

Pascucci: Michigan has by no means backed off on their help of us financially. The expansion capital [Concord uses] going ahead will likely be a mixture of Michigan and perhaps some debt financing.

Possibly we’ll soak up some outdoors minority traders too – that’s to be decided.  And we’re getting large enough now that numerous offers we will simply do beneath money stream.

Bob Valentine: Plus we’ve got entry to a revolver [fund] with 13 banks concerned. There’s loads of capital [Concord] can entry from Michigan, however there’s been a few massive offers not too long ago come up that would [potentially require additional capital].

Tempo Music is a Non-public equity-owned music firm on the lookout for an exit after lower than 5 years. Does that make you grateful for having a longer-term class of investor?

Valentine: Completely. Having a shareholder like Michigan investing in these belongings is the very best situation for a corporation like ours. As a result of the time horizon that they consider issues is simply a lot better than anybody else within the market.

We’re in an atmosphere proper now the place rates of interest are going up, and all of us see what’s occurring with inflation. The large query within the music market: Is that this going to place a damper on valuations in music?

“Having a shareholder like Michigan investing in these belongings is the very best situation for a corporation like ours, as a result of the time horizon that they consider issues is simply a lot better than anybody else within the market.”

My reply: When you’re working a monetary mannequin that had an exit deliberate someday inside three to 5 years, in all probability sure.

However I don’t assume it has the identical impact in case you are issues from a 15 or 20-plus-year time horizon.

How does Harmony proceed to win offers in such a aggressive M&An area?

Pascucci: All people likes catalog belongings for publishing, us included. However recorded music belongings are extra sophisticated to onboard and to handle. So we are inclined to have an edge there.

After which if there are go-forward relationships with writers or artists [involved in deals], as a result of we’re an actual music firm – we’re not only a monetary funding automobile – that additionally tends to offer us an edge.

There appears to be extra grasp rights offers beginning to grow to be out there – and never simply Pink Floyd! Artists from varied eras appear to be recapturing possession of their data. Kate Bush, for instance. I bear in mind when Harmony did a deal to distribute the ‘Warner Bros‘ R.E.M catalog. That was one of many first huge ones within the development.

Valentine: Masters have historically not traded [in the M&A marketplace] as a result of the majors owned many of the good things. However we’re now getting right into a world, a window, the place contractual reversions are [kicking in].

Whether or not it was 15 years in the past or 20 years in the past, numerous these important acts acquired their masters again, as a result of they have been in situations like this [during the CD era]: They’re on their third contract with a significant, and the foremost says, ‘Wonderful, we’ll provide you with again the primary a part of your catalog 15 or 20 years from now, should you’ll do one other three data for us.’

These rights, in a special period – the streaming period, not the CD period – are actually returning to these artists.

“These rights, within the streaming period, are actually returning to artists.”

We consider that there’s typically nonetheless extra upside in shopping for masters and exploiting masters [than publishing catalogs]. Harmony was shopping for masters effectively earlier than many different firms began shopping for masters, and we’ve constructed up an actual report firm.

Pascucci: The newer entrants into the music enterprise gained’t be capable of pursue these [premium recorded music] belongings as a result of they’re not arrange [to service and distribute] them. Plus it’s nonetheless tougher to sub-contract out the administration of masters than it’s in publishing.

What would you want folks to know about Harmony?

Pascucci: Individuals don’t fairly know the right way to view us, and that’s actually because they need to pigeonhole us into any individual else’s class. We’ve labored very arduous to construct one thing that doesn’t match any individual else’s class!

We’re not a significant. We’re not attempting to be a significant. We’re not a small indie. We’re a lot larger than that. We’re neither only a report firm nor only a writer; we’re way more numerous than that. We’re not an asset acquisition machine. We’ve purchased numerous belongings, but it surely was for a function – as a result of we wished to construct a music firm, and actually viable profitable music firms have a powerful catalog basis.

We’ve constructed one thing that we consider is exclusive.Music Enterprise Worldwide

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