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MUSIC

Sony buys BMG stake from Bertelsmann

Sony on Tuesday agreed to buy the 50 percent it does not already own in music giant Sony BMG from German media group Bertelsmann.

Sony buys BMG stake from Bertelsmann
Photo: DPA

Financial details were not disclosed but sources familiar with the matter said that for the German firm the deal was valued at around $1.5 billion (€960 million).

“This move is consistent with our new growth strategy and will enable us to focus on our defined growth areas,” Bertelsmann chairman Hartmut Ostrowski said in a statement.

When Ostrowski took over his post in December of last year, he labelled the company’s music sector as developmentally weak and planned to place it under review. In June, the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that Ostrowski had decided to get out of the music business owing to falling sales caused by internet downloads.

“Sony has been an excellent partner, and they are the right company to take this business to the next step and ensure that it realizes its full value and potential,“ Ostrowski said.

Sony and Bertelsmann had each owned half of the music publishing firm since its creation in 2004, and Sony reportedly had an option to buy Bertelsmann’s stake.

“This acquisition will allow us to achieve a deeper and more robust integration between the wide-ranging global assets of the music company and Sony’s products, operating companies and affiliates. It enables us to offer a total entertainment experience to consumers,” Sony CEO Howard Stringer said Tuesday.

Sony Music Entertainment Incorporated (SMEI), as the new entity will be known, is to encompass a string of music labels that include Arista Records, Columbia Records, Epic Records, J Records, Jive Records, RCA Records and Zomba. Among its best-known artists are Celine Dion, Alicia Keys, Yo-Yo Ma, Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, Usher and Jay Chou.

Bertelsmann is also active in television with the RTL group, publishing, with Gruner + Jahr and Random House, services, and book and record clubs. Those clubs are currently being restructured however, and their partial sale is also expected to follow.

afp/ddp/tl

MUSIC

Dancing like there’s no Covid: first German nightclub reopens in Leipzig

For techno enthusiast Philipp Koegler, it almost felt like a normal Saturday night again as he joined 200 fellow revellers at "Distillery", the first German nightclub to reopen since the start of the pandemic.

Dancing like there's no Covid: first German nightclub reopens in Leipzig
A file photo of a disco ball in a night club. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

“Tonight, there are no rules,” the almost 30-year-old told AFP, whipping off his mask on his way to the dance floor.

Despite more than a year of closures forced by the coronavirus, it didn’t take long for the thumping beats, low lights and buzzing crowds to reawaken the much-missed club atmosphere.

“It feels like I’ve come back after being away on vacation for a week,” Koegler beamed.

But of course there are some rules to restarting the party, even in Germany where coronavirus infections have declined steadily in recent weeks as the pace of vaccinations has picked up.

The Distillery club in the eastern city of Leipzig, which bills itself as the oldest techno venue in Germany’s former Communist east, is taking part in a pilot project supported by scientists from the Max Planck institute and the local university hospital.

Just 200 club-goers are allowed in instead of the usual 600 and each person must take two different kinds of coronavirus tests earlier in the day, with entry granted only if they test negative both times.

Once inside, the masks can come off and revellers don’t have to socially distance.

Each participant also agrees to being re-tested a week later, to uncover potential infections despite the precautions taken.

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Organisers hope the project can serve as a blueprint for further club re-openings to help the hard-hit sector back on its feet after a devastating year.

Although several venues in Germany experimented with open-air parties, club-goer Konny said it “just isn’t the same”.

“In the club, you’re in a different world,” she said.

Growing influence

Distillery manager Steffen Kache expressed pride at being the first club in the country to reopen indoors.

“Everyone is jealous,” he told AFP.

Kache said that if there has been an upside to the pandemic closures, it was that politicians had woken up to the social and economic importance of Germany’s vibrant club culture.

Lawmakers last month agreed to reclassify nightclubs as cultural institutions rather than entertainment venues, putting them on a par with
theatres and museums to provide more protection and tax benefits.

Germany’s nightlife capital Berlin alone – home to iconic clubs Berghain, KitKat and Tresor – usually attracts tens of thousands of foreign visitors each year who generate over a billion euros in revenues.   

Many observers fear that when the pandemic dust has settled, not all of Germany’s clubs will have survived the lengthy shutdowns.

The collaboration with local authorities that made Distillery’s pilot project possible was “unthinkable before the crisis”, Kache said, and evidence of a “reconciliation” between underground club culture and the political establishment.

He said he hoped the next step would be “the nationwide reopening of cultural spots and clubs, without Covid restrictions”.

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