Bella Figura's leaders on the RAK acquisition, financial discipline and creativity with catalogues

Bella Figura's leaders on the RAK acquisition, financial discipline and creativity with catalogues

Bella Figura Music has just confirmed its acquisition of RAK Publishing, exclusively revealed by Music Week.

The company’s leadership team discuss the acquisition in an exclusive interview in the latest edition of Music Week. Co-founder and CEO Alexi Cory-Smith has been eyeing RAK since her time at BMG.

Cory-Smith launched Bella Figura, billed as a “blueprint for managing music rights in the digital age”, in 2022 with former BMG colleague Neelesh Prabhu, who heads Bella Figura’s investments team. She first went public with vision for the company in a Music Week exclusive in February last year.  

Backed by private equity firm Freshstream Investment Partners, the company has now invested more than $80 million in rights for catalogues across publishing, master recordings and neighbouring rights, including RAK. Creators include David Gray, R3hab, Guy Chambers and Jeff Silverman, while in March it inked a new agreement with artist and songwriter Adrian Wright, founding member of The Human League, acquiring Wright’s writer’s share. 

RAK Music Publishing was founded by legendary record producer Mickie Most and his wife Christina, which represents more than 100 writers including Suzi Quatro, Errol Brown, Steve Harley and Kim Wilde.

“When I was at BMG, RAK was always on the wishlist,” Cory-Smith told Music Week. “You’d look at the pipeline and strategy and targets for the year, and RAK was always there as a shining light of one of the great British independents. Every year, you’d go knocking on the door and be told, ‘No, no, no.’ But there was a conversation and I got a phone call saying, ‘We’re watching Bella Figura. We think what you’re doing is interesting and could be a good fit.’ And we absolutely jumped at it.”

Asked what it means for the future development of Bella Figura, Cory-Smith said: “RAK is a chapter in British pop history. It’s a really good one for us to have. It demonstrates the kind of music, the vintage, the quality and the legacy of what we want to work with, and the opportunity around it. It ticks every box on our wish list. We can just do so much with it, so it’s a bit of a flagship, really.”

Hannah Overton, who was appointed head of operations last autumn, added: “We feel the weight of responsibility to be the custodians and the guardians of these catalogues. Certainly, RAK’s story is special and one that all music fans know, and we take that responsibility seriously when we’re looking after these wonderful songs that Mickie Most and Christina helped curate. Those writers are special in culture. We’ve all been quite touched by the death of Steve Harley and it’s our responsibility to make sure a new audience is introduced to his songs.”

Bella Figura has launched at a time when there’s been a boom in song rights, but also turbulence in terms of public listings such as Hipgnosis Songs Fund and Round Hill Music Royalty Fund (since acquired by Concord).

“We always come up against this thing of, ‘Oh, you’re another fund,’” Cory-Smith told Music Week. “We’re not, we’re a music company. We’re a record label and we’re a publisher. We’re independent, but we are funded by investors. It was always with the idea that we work with established, successful writers, artist catalogues, then we continue and enhance that legacy.”

“I come from a part of the business that cares deeply about credible artists and the cultural capital they hold, and we want to do something similar at Bella Figura and work those catalogues in an artistic way, with a group of passionate music fans who understand that,” said Overton. “If we concentrate on the art, I think the rest will follow.”

“The proof will be in the pudding as we deliver those creative results,” continued Cory-Smith. “I think it’s a slightly lazy thing – there are lots of funds in the space and smart money knows that music is a really good place to invest at the right price. I didn’t do this with my little piggy bank; you need to raise money to build a business with the ambitions we have. 

“We have access now to serious funding and we want to build something really valuable. We’ve built a team to look after the music we’ve acquired and invested into, and we’ve delivered some nice results. Eventually, one would hope people will talk about us as a music company and not confuse us with all the various investment vehicles out there.”

Alexi Cory-Smith stressed that Bella Figura has a “very disciplined and experienced investment team doing our valuations”.

There has recently been media coverage questioning the appetite for investment in songs following the turbulence at Hipgnosis

Asked about the general state of the market in terms of catalogues, Cory-Smith said: “It is very healthy. I think there’s been some slowing down and less of a gold rush, perhaps, and of course interest rates and the cost of capital have had an impact. Maybe there are fewer opportunistic players, but I think it’s a healthy market. We always have a pretty busy deal pipeline at any one time. It doesn’t mean we do a lot because we’re more laser-focused – we’ll home in on a few things.”

Subscribers can read the full exclusive Bella Figura Music Week interview here.

PHOTOS: Louise Haywood-Schiefer


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