Sony Music Acquires Probity — Vastly Increasing Its Merchandising Footprint

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Sony Music Entertainment (SME) has acquired UK-based music-merch company Probity – dramatically increasing its merchandising footprint in the process.

Sony Music higher-ups unveiled the Probity purchase in an email to Digital Music News. Under the deal, Probity will retain its existing team (including founder Mark Stredwick) and continue operating out of London, as “a new entrepreneurial division” of SME’s Thread Shop merchandising company. Additionally, Thread Shop and Probity employees are set to “jointly leverage their strong capabilities to drive new business opportunities around the world,” per the message.

Metallica, Van Morrison, Rage Against the Machine, Zara Larsson, and Cage the Elephant are just some of the acts who have partnered with Probity, whose employees “design, source and manufacture” a wide variety of apparel and merch products. On the retail front, a quick examination of Probity’s website reveals that the merchandise creator has released products via Hot Topic, Forever 21, Spencer’s, the UK’s Grindstore, and other chains.

More broadly, the buyout follows Sony Music’s acquisition of The Araca Group, a New York-based entertainment company and merchandise-production agency, as well as the purchase of British merchandise business Kontraband. Those deals were sealed in August and September of last year, respectively. On the heels of these additions, The Thread Shop closed deals to craft exclusive Beatles and Jimi Hendrix merch. (The official Jimi Hendrix online store debuted nearly five months back, in late July.)

Addressing the Probity deal, Thread Shop head Howard Lau emphasized the purchase’s wider promotional and revenue implications for signed acts.

“We are very pleased to be further enhancing the reach and competitive capabilities of The Thread Shop around the world with the welcome additions of Mark Stredwick and the Probity team,” the 16-year Sony Music veteran Lau said. “Together we can offer our artist clients and the music community an even more robust set of merchandising opportunities to complement their music revenues, branding, and marketing.”

On Monday, Digital Music News was first to report that Sony Music had acquired Human Re-Sources, J. Erving’s artist distribution and services company, and merged the asset into its existing distribution business, The Orchard. And in terms of strategic moves and buyouts from the other Big Three record labels, Universal Music Group (UMG) revealed earlier this month that it had entered the content-creation space with LA- and London-based Mercury Studios.

Similarly, Warner Music in August added IMGN Media to its roster, in a deal that was worth approximately $100 million. A media-tracking company that specializes in identifying viral trends, IMGN raised about $6 million from angel investors after forming in 2015.