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BTS have left Columbia Records for Universal Music Group

The new deal comes after a "years-long effort" from UMG executives to woo BTS' management company HYBE

By Patrick Clarke

Members of the band BTS
BTS will be ending their relationship with Sony after three years (Photo: HYBE)

K-pop megastars BTS will be ending their current distribution deal with Columbia Records and Orchard and joining Universal Music Group (UMG).

According to reports by Billboard, the group’s management company HYBE have struck a new licensing deal with UMG’s Geffen division, and a distribution deal with the UMG-owned INgrooves.

The new arrangement will come into effect on December 1. BTS’ deal with Columbia’s parent company Sony Music, first signed in 2018, was reportedly on a on a month-to-month basis, and they were required only to notify Sony of their intent to switch distributors.

Although the news has come as a surprise, Billboard descrbes it as the result of a “years-long effort” by UMG CEO Lucian Grainge and Interscope Geffen A&M CEO John Janick to convince HYBE’s executives.

Scooter Braun was also involved in the deal. The mogul sold his company Ithaca Holdings to HYBE in April, and he has close relationships with both Grainge and HYBE America’s Lenzo Yoon.

It follows an announcement in February that HYBE and UMG were working on a ‘strategic partnership’ that would include a joint-venture label based in Los Angeles, and has now been revealed as a precursor for the BTS distribution deal.

“I strongly believe that UMG and Big Hit, two companies that endlessly pursued innovation, will create a synergy that will rewrite global music history,” Bang Si-hyuk, founder and chairman of HYBE, which was then known as Big Hit Entertainment, said at the time.

Yesterday (October 22), UMG and HYBE also announced a new partnership with YG Entertainment and Kiswe to launch a new global live streaming platform.

Reports claim that one reason behind BTS’ departure from Sony was an unsatisfactory working relationship between Columbia chairman and CEO Rob Perry and HYBE founder Bang. Although Perry travelled to Korea a number of times, and is credited as a co-songwriter on BTS’ ‘Butter’, sources claim the two executives have never actually met since their agreement was reached in 2018.

BTS, who have two Number One albums to their name and eight Top 40 singles, were last heard on their Coldplay collaboration ‘My Universe’, which reached Number Three in the UK charts.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the group raised an impressive US$3.6million (£4.8 million) after teaming up with UNICEF to create a campaign called ‘Love Myself’.