Hybe Inks 10-Year Universal Music Partnership Deal — Covering Distribution, Weverse Initiatives, Promotion, and More

hybe universal music group partnership
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hybe universal music group partnership
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(l to r): Hybe chairman Bang Si-Hyuk, UMG head Lucian Grainge, and Hybe America CEO Scooter Braun. Photo Credit: Jordan Strauss

BTS agency Hybe has officially inked an expanded partnership agreement, spanning a decade, with Universal Music Group (UMG).

Seoul-based Hybe (KRX: 352820) announced the 10-year pact with Universal Music (UMG on the Euronext Amsterdam) this afternoon, in a formal release that was emailed to DMN. The multifaceted tie-up will see UMG exclusively handle distribution for Hybe’s roster, including the K-pop girl group that the companies jointly developed. (Geffen had previously scored deals to release BTS members’ solo projects.)

Additionally, amid a growing industry focus on superfan monetization – an ambition that’s prompting Warner Music Group to develop an app for diehard supporters – UMG is set to “further collaborate” with Hybe’s Weverse platform.

These efforts, the companies spelled out, will bring “more of a direct connection between UMG artists and their fandom,” which is presumably reeling from the absence of the major label’s catalog from TikTok.

And this bolstered direct connection, the involved parties elaborated, will ostensibly “help enhance the growth of superfan platform Weverse in North America.” Worth bearing in mind here is the increasingly diversification-geared Hybe’s ownership of Quality Control as well as Exile Music.

Next, Scooter Braun, who sold Ithaca Holdings to Hybe back in 2021 and became Hybe America’s sole CEO at the top of 2023, is expected to oversee expanded collaborations “on artist promotions and marketing activities in North America.”

“The opportunity created here not only allows us to help our current roster,” Braun said in part, “but grow opportunities for independent artists and labels globally. I’ve known and respected Sir Lucian Grainge for many years, and alongside Chairman Bang and HYBE CEO Jiwon Park, we look forward to the undeniable opportunities that will come from this partnership as we together grow the music industry’s future.”

Meanwhile, the UMG head Grainge in remarks of his own touted the union as one component of his often-discussed vision for “the music industry’s evolution.” And Hybe chairman Bang Si-Hyuk, whose global-buildout plans have been apparent since at least the aforementioned Ithaca purchase, emphasized the deal’s potential to expand his company’s international footprint.

As 2024 proceeds, monitoring the promotional initiatives (on Weverse and otherwise) produced by the Hybe-UMG partnership will prove interesting on multiple levels. Moreover, with the SM Entertainment shareholder Hybe evidently pursuing an even larger North American presence, time will tell how effectively its K-pop mainstays can tap into new fanbases.

On that front, certain of the genre’s artists have managed to build followings beyond their original collection of supporters. Hybe act Jungkook for a time surpassed BTS’ Spotify monthly listener total and continues to hover around the mark, for instance. And Blackpink’s Jennie now boasts about twice as many Spotify monthly listeners as her YG Entertainment-signed group.