Concord Music Group Buys Rounder Records

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Yesterday, Concord Music Group made the surprise announcement that they had purchased Rounder Records, the Massachusetts-based folk and roots label now in its fortieth year. The two labels will combine to create the “the world’s preeminent independent music company” (see press release below).    Both labels have historically focused on adult listeners. Jazz/r&b and classic rock on the Concord side, and folk, bluegrass and adult rock music making up Rounder’s roster.

In a music world dominated by the likes of Justin Bieber and American Idol, and with no sign of letup, what is the value of a music company like Rounder Records (mostly folk/bluegrass) or Concord Music Group (mainly jazz/indie r&b)?  I think they are simply in a different business – one is aimed at teens and the other their parents (generally).  Pop fans vs. everyone else.

Rounder’s catalog includes tens of thousands of titles in hundreds of genres, recorded with a fan’s sense of discovery and a librarian’s ethos in organization and span.

There are so many conversations each side can’t be part of. Justin Bieber will never/rarely ____________ and Concord/Rounder will never/rarely ____________.   Justin Bieber has never jammed with Johnny Gimble, and very few artists on Rounder have ever been on MTV for more than a minute or two.

The marketing muscle of pop (i.e., volume such as sales, sponsor partnerships, tv shows, arena ticket sales) cannot be emulated but once in a very blue moon by folk and roots music – there isn’t means for a groundswell.   Likewise, pop artists cannot often, or repeatedly make long-lasting artistic statements like a career songwriter.  Rounder has documented so many incredible artists over the years…

What would become of not only Jazz and Folk/Americana, but genres such as Blues, Reggae/World, New Age/Electronic or Old School R&B, each massively important and developed in their own right, but a blip on the mainstream radar, if Concord or Rounder were to go under?  These genres are counting on this merger to improve their lot.

This is an earth-shaking deal in the eclectic/indie music scene that Earbender trades in and I hope the united ConcordRounder will create a more powerful company.   Both are based on high-quality music, with a strong reputation in a certain genre. No label can compete with them in their respective areas of expertise, and they are also popular with the best type of buyers – adults.  We are more loyal, can pay more and with greater use of technology, have more ability to recommend music to their friends than ever before.

What do you think?  I say we should all go to Starbuck‘s next week and buy a copy of  Willie Nelson’s “Country Music” album to show our support for the merger!

Full press release:


Acquisition Firmly Establishes the Combined Entity as the

World’s Preeminent Independent Music Company

Los Angeles, CA – April 14th, 2010 – The Concord Music Group today announced the acquisition of storied Massachusetts-based independent music label Rounder Records. Rounder, celebrating its 40th year as the world’s leading American roots music label, is a major force in a broad range of musical genres including bluegrass, Americana, singer-songwriter, Cajun & Zydeco and children’s music. Rounder possesses an extraordinary recorded catalog and current artist roster including bluegrass superstar Alison Krauss, singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter, banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, actor/musician Steve Martin, jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux, the iconic Robert Plant, notable children’s artist/activist Raffi and country legend Willie Nelson, to name just a few. The acquisition of Rounder and its essential collection of over 3,000 masters combined with Concord Music Group’s rich catalog of more than 10,000 master recordings strengthens Concord’s status as one of the world’s most significant independent record companies, with a leadership position in multiple genres.

Rounder’s creative and marketing functions will continue to be based in Boston and its owners and founders Ken Irwin, Bill Nowlin and Marian Leighton Levy will remain active with the company in a creative and advisory capacity. The company’s senior management will also remain in place: John Virant will continue as the President of Rounder; Sheri Sands will stay on as General Manager. Operating synergies will be achieved by combining the sales, administrative and support functions of the two companies.

Rounder, founded in 1970 by Cambridge folkies, Irwin, Nowlin, and Leighton Levy, has been at the center of nearly all of the American roots revivals that have reshaped the music world in the last 40 years. The self-titled 1975 record by J.D. Crowe and the New South (featuring future stars Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice and Jerry Douglas) revitalized bluegrass and inspired such modern superstars as Rounder’s own Alison Krauss, who is the most decorated female artist in the history of the Grammy® Awards and has also sold over eight million albums and DVDs. Her collaboration with Led Zeppelin front-man Robert Plant on the album Raising Sand emerged as one of 2007’s major critical and word-of-mouth sales success stories. The album was RIAA certified platinum in early 2008 and won five Grammy® Awards including Album and Record of the Year in 2009. An unequaled leader in the preservation and re-release of precious historic recordings, Rounder has brought the music of Jelly Roll Morton, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and Mississippi John Hurt back to vibrant life. In addition, their dazzling work on the epic anthologies from the Library of Congress and the Alan Lomax Collection has been universally respected and admired.

Glen Barros, President and CEO of the Concord Music Group, said, “The combination of Concord and Rounder makes so much sense on a creative, strategic and cultural level. With the addition of Rounder, Concord is gaining a magnificent catalog of recordings, the opportunity to work with more of the world’s most amazing artists and a company filled with some great people. Plus, Rounder’s uncompromising commitment to authenticity and intense independent spirit is perfectly in line with everything that Concord is about.”

Norman Lear, Concord Music Group Chairman and co-owner added, “We couldn’t be more honored to join together with Rounder in our collective mission to deliver great, timeless music.”

Marian Leighton Levy, co-Rounder Founder, concurs and adds, “For us, it’s always been about the music. We have long been aware of Concord’s commitment to great catalogue labels within a vibrant and contemporary independent context, and feel the Concord Records Group provides not only a great home for our music and artists, but also a stronger and more secure position going forward.”

John Virant, President of Rounder, said “We’ve always been the little label that could, and our new affiliation with Concord – another fiercely independent organization that shares our core values — ensures that we can remain true to our central calling: discovering and nurturing quality musical talent.”

About Concord Music Group:

Concord Music Group is one of the largest independent record and music publishing companies in the world and is owner of a rich and historically significant catalog of recordings. Concord Music Group’s legendary family of labels include Concord Records, Concord Jazz, Fantasy, Stax, Milestone, Riverside, Specialty, Telarc, Peak, Heads Up, Prestige and several others. They include titles from some of the most admired and enduring names in music, including Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Isaac Hayes, Little Richard, Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson, Rosemary Clooney, George Shearing and Mel Torme. The group’s current roster of world-class artists includes George Benson, Chick Corea, Kurt Elling, Will Downing, Kenny G, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sergio Mendes, Esperanza Spalding, Macy Gray, Angie Stone and many more. In 2007, Concord partnered with Starbucks Entertainment to form Hear Music, an innovative record label rooted in quality, authenticity and passion. Hear Music works directly with artists, both emerging and established, to bring quality music to the widest possible audience, in both Starbucks locations and music retailers worldwide. Hear Music releases include records from Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello and Playing For Change.

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