Exceleration Music Moves Into Distribution With Redeye Acquisition

Exceleration Music, the independent music company that has invested in and acquired numerous indie labels over the past several years, has acquired global digital and physical distribution and music services company Redeye, it was announced Friday (Sept. 8).

The deal not only marks Exceleration’s biggest acquisition to date but an expansion into distribution and services, effectively creating an entirely new division at the company — albeit one that will continue to operate under the Redeye name. Under the agreement, Redeye founders Glenn Dicker and Tor Hansen will continue to lead the company, retaining its existing staff and infrastructure while taking advantage of the resources and expertise offered by the Exceleration partners and team.

“We looked at what was happening with the distribution landscape, [which was seeing] a lot of consolidation,” Exceleration co-founder Glen Barros tells Billboard. “You know, you have each of the majors buying up indie distributors, and we thought it would be good to really preserve and strengthen a great indie option and make sure that indie labels have a fully independent path to market.”

The deal also includes Redeye’s in-house labels, Yep Roc and Sundazed, along with its publishing company, Riff City Sounds. Yep Roc’s roster includes Nick Lowe, Dave Alvin, Aoife O’Donovan, Alejandro Escovedo, Chuck Prophet and Jobi Riccio. Sundazed is a reissue label based in the United States.

Redeye — which signed a distribution deal with Exceleration in May — represents some of the world’s most prominent independent labels, including Beggars Group, Domino, New West, Saddle Creek, Mom+Pop, Kemado/Mexican Summer, Stones Throw, Warp, Drag City, Real Gone, Innovative Leisure, Carpark, !K7, Thrill Jockey, Luaka Bop, Partisan, Sargent House, Ninja Tune, Barsuk and Daptone.

Founded in 1996 by Hansen and Dicker, the distributor is headquartered in Hillsborough, N.C., and boasts more than 120 employees spread across 15 locations in the United States, Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia. Prior to the acquisition, it was wholly owned and operated by Dicker, Hansen and their team. In 2019, the company merged with Sweden-based distributor Border Music to expand its distribution operation in Europe.

In addition to Hansen and Dicker, Redeye’s leadership structure will remain in place following the acquisition. The list of high-level executives at the company includes Michael Petkov, head of international; Jason Taylor, director of global sales (physical and digital); Laura Pittard, director of global marketing; Michael Howard, associate vp of global operations; Hank Stockard, global business development director; Sean Pecor, IT director; and Jim Trenner, global accounting director.

Moving forward, Exceleration will support Redeye’s existing growth plans by providing operational and strategic support as well as capital. “Redeye has done a lot of work over the last few years to expand their worldwide footprint on the physical side, and they’re been a digital distributor for a long time too,” says Exceleration co-founder Dave Hansen. “So we’re going to work with them to continue building that network and offer a real solution for their existing customers, our label group and new customers [as well].”

More than anything, adds Barros, the Redeye acquisition dovetails nicely with Exceleration’s overall mission: to strengthen the independent music community in whatever ways it can. “We really want to serve this community according to what’s important within this community, and [that] is having, I think, an independent vibe,” he says. “It really is looking at the whole sector holistically and saying, ‘How can we really fill the needs of the community and do it in an indie way?’”

Exceleration was founded in 2020 by a group of five prominent independent label executives: Barros (former CEO of Concord Music Group), Hansen (executive chairman of Merlin and former GM of Epitaph), Charles Caldas (former CEO of Merlin), Amy Dietz (former GM of Ingrooves) and John Burk (a Grammy-winning producer and former president of Concord Records). Its music rights group includes investments and partnerships with labels and catalogs including +1 Records, Alligator, Azadi, Bloodshot, Candid, Heroic, Kill Rock Stars, Mom+Pop, SideOneDummy and The Ray Charles Foundation/Tangerine Records. The company currently boasts nearly 30 employees and is currently hiring for two additional positions, including a head of finance. Funding for Exceleration comes from all five of its partners as well as institutional and private investors.

“Working with the Exceleration team feels like expanding the family,” said Dicker in a statement. “Sharing strong ideals and a strategic vision, it feels like the next natural step on our journey towards providing our world class distribution service to an expanded independent community.”

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