Universal Music Group, the world's largest music company, has acquired a minority stake in renowned independent music company PIAS.

As both parties announced on Wednesday, Universal now holds 49 percent of the shares.

PIAS will remain "completely independent" under the agreement, the statement said.

Financial details were not disclosed.

However, the majority of the shares are said to remain with the founders, Kenny Gates and Michel Lambot.

Universal will also not get a seat on the company's board of directors.

Benjamin Fisher

Editor in Business.

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PIAS was founded in 1982 and claims to have 16 locations around the world with headquarters in Brussels and London, employing 300 people.

In addition to its own labels, the group also has a service division that handles sales and other tasks for other independent labels.

The new album by the British rock band Editors was recently released via PIAS.

“Universal likes us and needs us”

There has been a connection between the two companies for some time.

The participation of the largest of the three major music giants (Sony and Warner Music also belong to the squad) in the indie heavyweight follows after an unspecified “strategic alliance” was announced in June 2021.

It was said at the time that the agreement would give Universal access to the group's distribution network, while PIAS would be able to draw on Universal's funds in the future "to strengthen its position as a leading independent service provider".

In the announcement on the investment, co-founder Gates now pointed out that PIAS now competes with “financial and tech giants” and that a partner like Universal is helping to assert itself and grow.

Universal also "made it clear that they like us, trust us and need us because they cannot do what we do themselves and appreciate our work very much".

Universal Music CEO Lucian Grainge said Universal understands that a "vibrant indie sector is essential to a thriving music ecosystem" and is excited to support PIAS as a "strong independent force."

In the past it was often about "majors versus indies", today it is clear that the "important distinction in our industry" is between those who are dedicated to building artists versus those who put "quantity over quality".

Grainge had recently put forward a similar argument in conversation with investors after the quarterly figures were presented.

Referring to the 100,000 new songs on Spotify and Co every day, Grainge said he saw the danger that algorithms would increasingly navigate users to "poor-quality content".

That is not sustainable for the “platforms and not for music fans”.

In such sentences, the music manager's self-interest also resonates in view of the extensive Universal catalogue.

Publishing your own music on the streaming services is quick and easy these days thanks to various low-threshold digital distributors.

Various service providers also compete for independent artists in order to relieve them of individual tasks.

The three big majors have also been increasing their offers for independent artists who only want to buy individual services such as distribution or for independent labels.

For example, Universal maintains the Artist & Label Services division Virgin, Warner Music has a large distribution arm with ADA.

The distribution platform The Orchard has belonged to Sony Music since 2015.

Most recently, the number two in the music industry also acquired AWAL, a broader service provider for independent artists and indie labels.