Publishing News

Downtown Acquires Sheer, Africa’s Largest Independent Publisher

Jan 25, 2022

Downtown Music Holdings announced today that it has acquired South Africa-based Sheer Music Publishing, the largest independent music publisher in Africa. Building on a long-standing relationship between Sheer and Downtown’s eponymous music publishing division, this acquisition formally expands the company’s geographic footprint to the African continent, while also providing the African music industry greater access to artist and label services available through Downtown.

According to the announcement, Sheer will continue to function as a standalone business within Downtown’s portfolio of music publishing, distribution, monetization, artist, and label services businesses. As part of a broader enterprise, Sheer will further the ability of African creators to receive proper compensation for their work in partnership with other Downtown companies, including CD Baby, Songtrust, and FUGA. Additionally, Sheer and Downtown plan to develop new services specifically designed for the needs of African creators.
Sheer’s key South African clients include Cassper Nyovest, Kwesta, Philip Miller, and the Parlotones; other prominent African writers include Sauti Sol, Willie Paul, and Eric Wainaina from Kenya, Orezi, Bracket and Harrysong from Nigeria, Salatiel from Cameroon, and Stonebwoy from Ghana. Companies that Sheer sub-publishes for Africa include Warner Chappell, Kobalt, Concorde, Bucks Music, and Budde Music.

“Africa is a high potential market for digital music services due to its large population, a high proportion of youth, and the people’s passion for music of all genres,” said David Alexander, managing director of Sheer. “The rapid penetration of broadband services along with lower data price points makes the African continent a rising star in the music business of tomorrow. We are excited to grow our current relationship with Downtown to leverage their strong team, services, and technology to elevate the thriving African music culture beyond the continent to the rest of the world, and return significant value to African creators.”

Sheer will maintain its current independent royalty platform to service its existing international publishers for sub-publishing in Africa and will adapt global best practices on data-matching techniques and income tracking.

“For Downtown, as we’ve expanded across six continents and more than 20 cities looking to markets that have a rich tradition of music is a key driver in our global strategy,” said Downtown CEO Justin Kalifowitz. “The vibrant music industry across Africa reflects the diversity of the continent itself. We are excited to collaborate with Sheer Music Publishing to expand the artist and label services available to African creators, and further support Downtown’s vision to create a more equitable and innovative global music ecosystem.”

The African music industry has expanded in recent years, thanks to a combination of digital platforms, high-profile collaborations between major African and international artists, accelerated adoption of smartphones, and demographic trends. According to data in The Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings Institute’s annual “Foresight Africa” report, approximately 60 percent of the African continent’s 1.25 billion people are under the age of 25, the youngest population in the world with Sub-Saharan Africa’s youth population is growing faster than any other region. Global music streaming services have quickly expanded into the region, following strong growth from Pan-African streaming competitors.

Founded in 1996, Sheer is a direct member of Africa-based royalty collection entities, including the South African Music Rights Organization (SAMRO), MCSK (Kenya), and COSON (Nigeria). In addition, Alexander is a non-executive director of SAMRO, a director of the Music Publishers Association of South Africa (MPRA-SA), and vice-chair of the Composers and Publishers Association of South Africa (CAPASSO), among other affiliations.

In recent years Downtown has also purchased AVL Digital, which includes the CD Baby, Soundrop, DashGo, and AdRev businesses, followed by the January 2020 acquisition of FUGA, the Netherlands-based B2B music technology and services company.

Article by Jem Aswad