US independent music company Curb Records has acquired the 80% stake that it did not own in Word Entertainment from Warner Music Group.
The Christian faith-based entertainment company operating out of Nashville will now become a wholly-owned division of Curb. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Curb initially acquired a 20% stake in Word in 2002 from Time-Warner, the then owners of WMG. As part of the acquisition, Curb will purchase WMG’s share in Word’s recorded music, distribution, publishing, film, and live events divisions, as well as the company’s building in Nashville. The company’s printed music division remains jointly owned by WMG and Curb.
Rod Riley, president and CEO of Word, will continue to run Word Entertainment. As part of the agreement, WMG will continue to distribute Word releases to the general market, while Word will continue to distribute WMG releases to the Christian market. Word’s publishing catalog will continue to be administered by Warner/Chappell.
Founded in 1951, Word Entertainment is active in recorded music, publishing, film, live events, and church resources. Word’s roster includes King & Country, the duo who won two Grammy awards in 2015, and Francesca Battistelli, who won Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song at this year’s Grammys.
Mike Curb, who founded Curb in 1964 and who is Chairman of both Curb and Word, commented: “We are proud to continue our relationship with the Warner Music Group that started 50 years ago when my own musical group was signed by Warner Reprise and later signed by Word Records when it was still located in Waco, Texas and operated by its original founder Jarrell McCracken.” He added: “Rod Riley had led the transformation of Word into this century by developing some of the greatest contemporary Christian artists of our time. We look forward to working with Rod for the future leadership as we bring together Word Entertainment, Fervent Records and Curb Records, which have all had a long history in contemporary Christian music.”
“Mike Curb is a legend in our business, with over five decades of discovering outstanding talent and making great music,” said Warner Music Nashville president & CEO John Esposito. “Since Curb and WMG became partners in the ownership of Word 14 years ago, we have been at the forefront of the Christian Music movement. Rod is a tremendously talented, motivating leader, and I join him in saying how excited we are that we will remain partners. This move is a great opportunity for Word’s artists, songwriters, and employees, and the ongoing combination of our amazing teams ensures that Word’s future is very bright.”
Word Entertainment president & CEO Rod Riley said: “It has been an honor for me to be part of the Word and Warner families for the past decade, and so I am excited that our companies will be continuing to work closely together. I am grateful to Espo for his support and collaboration as we worked to continue to transform Word both creatively and commercially. Mike Curb has simultaneously served as a wise and thoughtful mentor to me for more than a decade, and I am thrilled that Word and Curb will continue on our journey to take Christian music to new heights. Our mission remains constant – to continually serve our artists and songwriters while we forge new ground as one of the preeminent faith-based entertainment companies.”
According to RIAA statistics, the Christian music market accounts for 4-6% of the US music market, depending on the years, more than jazz or classical music sales. The combination of Curb and Word will create a significant player in the field. In 2014, Christian/Gospel sales of albums reached 17.4 million units, according to the RIAA. At its peak in the 1990, album sales of Christian music exceeded 50 million units. Over 60% of the distribution of this music genre goes through specialist stores.