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UMG Acquires Catalog of UK-Based South Asian Label Oriental Star Agencies

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Universal Music Group (UMG) has acquired the catalog of Oriental Star Agencies (OSA). Founded in 1966 in London by Pakistani immigrants Muhammad Ayyub and his brothers, OSA is known as one of the United Kingdom’s top labels for South Asian talent.

The OSA catalog consists primarily of recorded music, but the new UMG deal encompasses all of its master recording holdings and its publishing. This includes 18,000 songs and video recordings, including from Malkit Singh, a well-known Bhangra artist; Bally Sagoo; and Attaullah Khan. It also includes works from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a prolific, Grammy-nominated artist and film composer who is known for popularizing a form of Sufi devotional music, called “qawwali,” outside of his native Pakistan.

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The sounds of OSA artists were able to permeate the United Kingdom’s musical consciousness even further at the turn of the 21st century, when several older OSA tracks were placed on the soundtrack of the hit soccer movie, Bend It Like Beckham, released in 2002. The label continued to operate independently until 2017 when it sold to Hi-Tech Music, another British record label.

According to IFPI’s Global Music Report, the Asian recorded music market grew 15.4% in 2023, marking the third consecutive year the continent has experienced double-digit revenue growth. Now, Asia accounts for just under 23% of the global market and is expected to continue to expand. Japan, South Korea and China account for the majority of Asia’s global music exports, but South Asian countries overall continue to grow year after year.

In recent years, as the music catalog market grew red hot and competition among buyers became greater than ever, some investors showed increased interest in acquiring music from typically underrepresented genres and nationalities in the catalog market. Reservoir, for example, invested in new relationships and catalogs in Saudi Arabia and Egypt; Wahoo Music Fund One focused solely on Latin music purchases; Singapore-based blackx tried to corner the Asian music market; and Armada Music’s BEAT started buying up dance catalogs.

According to a press release about the OSA deal, the catalog acquisition “complements UMG’s current service offering and will help drive momentum for the South Asian music market, enabling local artists to reach the largest possible audience in the global community.”

“This acquisition of a hugely successful and iconic British-Asian label specializing in South Asian music will further increase Universal Music Group’s exposure to, and participation in, a fast growing and rapidly changing market,” said Adam Granite, executive vp of market development at UMG, in a statement. “I am particularly pleased that Universal Music Group will become the next custodian of Oriental Star Agencies, a label that has played an unparalleled role in bridging the musical identities of the UK and South Asia, taking the unique sounds of its artists to a broad audience. We believe this catalog has huge potential, and look forward to taking it to the next generation of music fans globally.”

“This is a momentous day for OSA and all our artists,” added Mohammed Twassen of OSA. “Becoming part of the UMG family will turbo-charge our South Asian music, helping it to get in front of more music fans across the world. The past decade has seen a true global explosion of music from the region, and now, under UMG’s stewardship, the next decade promises to be even more exciting.”

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