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BTS agency strikes new distribution deal with UMG

SEOUL, South Korea — HYBE, the South Korean agency behind K-pop sensation BTS, announced Wednesday an expanded 10-year deal with Universal Music Group, including exclusive distribution rights for its artists' music.

"Universal Music Group will exclusively distribute physical albums and digital music released by labels under HYBE to the global market for the next 10 years," HYBE said in a Korean-language statement.

The deal applies not only to "existing labels but also to new labels to be incorporated under HYBE" in future, it said.

"Universal Music Group is to also support promotion and marketing of HYBE artists' activities in North America," it added.

The latest announcement follows HYBE and UMG's initial collaboration in 2017 on BTS, through a distribution agreement in Japan.

Last year, UMG's Geffen Records and HYBE collaborated on "The Debut: Dream Academy," a YouTube audition series that highlighted their joint venture to form a girl group in the US using HYBE's K-pop training program.

The final winners of the audition show — a six-member group — are set to make their debut this year.

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The two companies will further collaborate on HYBE's superfan media platform Weverse, aiming to bring "more of a direct connection" between UMG artists and their fandom, a separate statement posted on UMG's website on Tuesday said.

"HYBE has secured infinite growth potential through its partnership with Universal Music Group, the most iconic company in the music industry," Bang Si-Hyuk, Chairman of HYBE, said according to HYBE's Wednesday statement.

UMG's artists include Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber, among others.

HYBE's BTS, on the other hand, has become a global cultural phenomenon, selling out stadiums around the world and dominating key US charts while raking in billions for South Korea's economy and building an international legion of fans known as ARMY.

All BTS members are currently enlisted in South Korea's mandatory military service.

HYBE announced in September last year that all seven members of the group had renewed their contracts. The announcement implies that all seven members are likely