Warner Music Group continues to diversify its business under the leadership of Max Lousada, with the announcement that it has agreed to acquire leading European merchandise e-tailer EMP Merchandising.
It’s the latest in an acquisition spree that has also seen the major snap up the likes of youth media brand Uproxx, live music & ticketing site Songkick; A&R insight tool Sodatone and dance label Spinnin’ Records.
Back in April, when he won the 2018 Strat Award at the Music Week Awards, WMG CEO of recorded music Lousada set out his vision for Warner to be more than a record label.
“I want to be known to be able to really influence culture as a music company and to have the ability to service the aspiring beatmaker or guitarist or singer-songwriter and have a global solution to get his or her music and art shared,” he said in an exclusive interview. “And to be with them for the rest of their career in whatever guise or relationship s/he needs. I want Warner to be seen to create a rich offering that is very dynamic and different from our competition. The definition of success will be that we have a very clear identity. The fact that we’re privately owned and can buy, build and change at our own speed and to our own agenda means we’re uniquely placed.”
EMP will become a standalone, direct-to-fan business unit within WMG’s global artist/label services division WEA, run by president Tony Harlow. EMP CEO Ernst Trapp and CFO Jan Fischer will continue to manage EMP as a fully staffed organisation.
Founded in Germany in 1986, EMP offers fans merchandise from bands such as Twenty One Pilots, Panic! At The Disco, Metallica, Motörhead, Guns N’Roses, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, The Doors and many others. It also carries merchandise from brands such as Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, and Harry Potter; gaming brands such as Nintendo and PlayStation; sporting franchises such as the NFL; and alternative fashion brands such as Vans. The company operates a network of websites serving 18 European countries, with a community of millions of customers, and a fast-growing paid loyalty program.
“EMP has built a powerful lifestyle destination that will be a perfect complement to our global artist development and marketing strategies,” said Stu Bergen, CEO of international & global commercial services, recorded music, WMG. “Their music-led expertise will give us great insight into what audiences love and what they want, and at the same time open up exciting new opportunities for our artists. We look forward to bringing Ernst, Jan, and everyone at EMP into WMG’s growing family of brands.”
“In today’s streaming world, merchandise is still one of the best ways that fans can express their passions and personalities,” said Lousada. “It’s also a big part of how music has visible and physical impact on global culture and fashion. Welcoming EMP will be our latest move to expand our relationships with influencers across the globe.”
“It’s always been our goal to create the most authentic, exclusive products,” said Ernst Trapp. “Our team is made up of devoted fans who are curating the music, themes, and lifestyle brands that they know fellow fans will embrace. By joining WMG, we will be able to expand our international reach, explore new genres, reach new audiences, and take fan experience to a whole new level.”
The acquisition, from current EMP owners Sycamore Partners, is expected to cost around £138m and is set to be completed by the end of the year, subject to competition authority approval in Germany.
To read Max Lousada’s Strat Award interview, click here.