South Korean music company HYBE has made a major entry into the U.S. market by acquiring Atlanta-based QC Media Holdings, the company behind hip-hop label Quality Control Music and a roster that includes Migos, Lil Baby, City Girls and Lil Yachty.
The deal was worth $300 million in cash and stock. According to HYBE regulatory filings, the company paid $250 million in cash and issued a total of $50 million in stock to Quality Control’s two co-founders, CEO Kevin “Coach K” Lee and COO Pierre “P” Thomas.
Founded in 2013, Quality Control will fall under the HYBE America umbrella and the leadership of its CEO, Scooter Braun. HYBE America encapsulates SB Projects, as well as Big Machine Label Group, which HYBE obtained through its 2021 acquisition of Braun’s Ithaca Holdings.
“Based on hip-hop, QC has been making a strong presence in the American music scene,” HYBE CEO Jiwon Park said in a statement. “With our shared vision, I have high hopes in what we can operate and achieve together.”
In HYBE, Quality Control gets a team with a history of building artists from scratch into global stars. “All of HYBE’s leaders are entrepreneurs with phenomenal combined history [of] finding talent and taking it to the next levels,” said Thomas in a statement.
“P and I are ecstatic about this partnership with Scooter and HYBE and are confident they can get us to our global ambitions we’ve had in our scope since the beginning of the company as nothing means more than our artists impacting worldwide,” Lee added. “Over many years, Scooter and I have cultivated real trust and a common way of looking at the world and culture.”
Quality Control expands Braun’s purview to a genre that has been missing from HYBE’s broad roster. SB Projects clients include Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and Kid Laroi. Big Machine’s country-focused roster features Tim McGraw, Thomas Rhett and Rascal Flatts. HYBE has dipped its toes into hip-hop with Big Machine’s partnership with Blac Noize! Recordings, the label behind the 2022 summer anthem “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” by Hitkidd and Glorilla.
HYBE dominates K-pop with artists such as BTS, the BTS members’ solo projects, Tomorrow X Together, Enhypen and Seventeen. In December, it launched a new Japanese imprint, Naeco, and signed Japanese singer Yurina Hirate. HYBE also has a joint venture with Universal Music Group’s Geffen Records and is developing an international girl group in the U.S. But the ambitious Korean company had a limited presence in the world’s largest music market until the 2021 Ithaca acquisition. Quality Control, Braun’s first major acquisition as HYBE America CEO, further diversifies HYBE and gives it a premiere hip-hop brand.
Quality Control’s recordings have been distributed through Universal Music Group’s Motown Records, which formed a joint venture with Quality Control in 2015 along with UMG’s Capitol Music Group. A HYBE spokesperson did not comment on the state of the joint venture following the acquisition. Quality Control’s Thomas noted that both companies have a relationship with “the Universal Music Group family of companies [that] makes this seamless,” he said in a statement.
In 2022, Motown/Quality Control’s overall market share rose to 0.97% from 0.90% in 2021. In terms of current market share — music released over the previous 18 months — Motown/Quality Control improved from 1.18% in 2021 to 1.33% in 2022. It had remained part of Capitol’s market share during that period, despite its ostensible status as a standalone entity. Capitol’s overall market share declined from 6.81% in 2021 to 6.40% in 2022 while its current share dropped from 5.64% in 2021 to 4.97% in 2022.
In 2022, Lil Baby had 2.97 million equivalent albums – a metric that combines sales and streams – and 4.3 billion on-demand streams in the U.S. in 2022, according to Luminate. His track “In a Minute” peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100 in April and ranked No. 43 on the year-end Hot 100 Songs chart. Despite not releasing a new album in 2022, Migos had 2.9 million album equivalent units and 4.3 billion on-demand streams last year. Lil Yachty had 424,000 album equivalent units and 637.8 million on-demand streams. City Girls had 251,000 album equivalent units and 361.6 million on-demand streams.
The acquisition also broadens HYBE’s tech portfolio. HYBE built its own social media platform, Weverse, to create a direct connection with its K-pop groups’ massive fan bases. It also owns a controlling stake in AI audio startup Supertone. Last year, Quality Control’s Solid Foundation Management, the company’s artist management arm, invested an undisclosed sum in music streaming platform SoundCloud. “This partnership is a vital part of our plan to innovate the entertainment industry through a diversified portfolio and innovative technologies,” said Bang Si-Hyuk, HYBE’s chairman, in a statement. “We will work together to continue adding to the global depth of hip-hop.”
Additional reporting by Dan Rys.