Do you have kids and are looking for who to blame for the chorus of kids’ voices echoing in your head all day long? Are you childless and wonder why in the world you keep seeing commercials for KIDZ BOP even though you thought it disappeared twenty years ago? Perhaps you’re just confused about how a record label based on covering popular songs with underwhelming children singers could ever be successful. Who is the genius mastermind who figured out the way to print money? So, who actually owns KIDZ BOP?
Background on KIDZ BOP
KIDZ BOP is an extremely popular and successful brand of music produced by the KIDZ BOP Enterprises LLC record label. The entire business model of KIDZ BOP involves releasing compilation albums of covers of popular songs sung by children. For songs that have objectionable or offensive language, the words are changed to a “kid-friendly” alternative.
It might seem strange that a group composed entirely of children can remake any song they want and become more popular than the original artist. But there’s a lot of money in making popular content “family-friendly” for America’s conservative, Christian audiences. KIDZ BOP can record any song they want without the permission of the original artists. They only need permission to change the lyrics.
The idea began in 2001 when Cliff Chenfeld and Craig Balsam, co-founders of the Razor & Tie entertainment company, released the first Kidz Bop album in October of 2001. Since then, KIDZ BOP has released at least one record every single year, with one including the most popular songs of that year and other holiday-themed records. It used to number each primary record release consecutively until Kidz Bop 40, which was released in November 2019. It now titles each album with the year of its release.
This simple recipe has been successful. With only two exceptions, each Kidz Bop album has reached number 1 on the US Kids music chart every year. Kidz Bop 9 and Kidz Bop 12 each reached number 2. Every main record has been certified gold. KIDZ BOP has sold well over 21 million albums and earned billions of streams online. It is the top streamed artist in the US on the Sporify Kids app. They have expanded internationally to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Mexico and now offer merchandise, a live group dedicated to touring, and more.
The first Kidz Bop tour was in 2007, and since then they have assembled a full-time touring group with a full rock band that tours every year.
This success has not come without criticism, of course. Parents, educators, and other industry veterans have complained that simply replacing the words of popular songs does not remove the violent, sexual, or objectionable overtones of the songs. In 2017, a study on the censorship in Kidz Bop songs showed that just replacing words does not eliminate the association to the replaced word with children who have heard the original song before.
Who Actually Owns KIDZ BOP?
KIDZ BOP Enterprises LLC is owned by Concord, an independent creative rights company. Concord largely makes money by acquiring the rights to sound recording, publishing rights, theatrical performance rights, and even the rights to narrative works. Altogether, Concord owns the rights to more than 1 million plays, musicals, and songs.
Concord is the latest abomination to emerge from Concord Records, which was founded in 1973. Concord Records became Concord Music Group, part of Bicycle Music Company, which became Concord Bicycle Music, and finally Concord. Through a series of acquisitions of other music management companies, record labels, and publishing companies, Concord has built up massive control in the music industry.
Concord’s divisions include Concord Music Publishing, Concord Label Group, Concord Theatricals, and Concord Originals. This does not include the control Concord has over other companies through significant stake ownership.
Concord Music Publishing boasts the musical talent of Imagine Dragons, Iron Maiden, Cyndi Lauper, Pink Floyd, Ty Dolla $ign, and many more.
Concord Label Group owns Concord Records and Jazz, Fantasy Records, Fearless Records, Loma Vista Recordings, Rounder Records, Craft Recordings, Craft Latino Recordings, and KIDZ BOP.
Concord Theatricals owns the license to Wizard of Oz, Hello Dolly, Bye Bye Birdie, Hair, Dreamgirls, Spongebob The Musical, and the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda, among others.
In 2022, Concord made the largest asset-backed issuance of senior notes, in the music industry using over 1 million copywrites to secure $1.8 billion in funding.
The current CEO of Concord, Bob Valentine, took over the position in July of 2023. He worked at Act III Communications when it acquired Concord Records in 1999. He left to work at Fox Entertainment for four years before coming back to the new Concord and staying with the company ever since. Valentine has a long background in financial services, banking, and similar positions. He says he has always seen himself as helping artists reach their highest potential.
Who Owns Concord?
Concord is a private company, and 93% of its stock is owned by the Michigan Office of Retirement Services (ORS). This is a government organization that is responsible for creating and administering the retirement programs for all of Michigan’s state employees including public school employees, judges, state police, the National Guard, and other state employees and officers. It also oversees the healthcare benefits for retirees in the state, traditional insurance plans, healthcare funds, HRAs, and more. It manages over 280,000 retired customers and 227,000 active employees, or one out of every fourteen adults in the state.
To put that into perspective, the Michigan Office of Retirement Services manages the 18th largest public pension system in the United States, and the 47th largest in the world. It manages around $67.8 billion in net assets. There are five different systems administered by the Michigan Office of Retirement Services, with the first, the State Employee Retirement System, being created in 1942, and the last, the Judges Retirement System, created in 1992.
The Michigan Office of Retirement Services actually considered selling Concord in 2021 and opened for offers from interested buyers. In the end, it, along with then-CEO Scott Pascucci, decided not to sell. They retain ownership of Concord, generating significant profits to use for their retirement programs.
Who Owns the Michigan Office of Retirement Services?
The Michigan Office of Retirement Services is a division of Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management, and Budget.
This department includes the State Administrative Board, the Office of Children’s Ombudsman, the Office of the State Employer, the State Budget Office, the Office of Retirement Services, and many other autonomous entities. The department director is Brom Stibitz.
We’ve come a long way from annoying children-focused renditions of popular mainstream music to the complex world of state government. But, when the rights to an artist’s work are owned by heartless, passionless mega-corporations, not the artist, and used to generate wealth at any cost, we can’t be surprised at where the money leads us.
Technically we could continue the line of ownership to those who own Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management, and Budget, which would be the Government of Michigan which, in turn, is owned by the people of Michigan. It might come as a surprise to residents of Michigan that they own, in some small roundabout way, the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Creed, Hans Zimmer, Creedence Clearwater Revival, KoRn, The Offspring, and, of course, KIDZ BOP.
So, in other words, everyone who lives in or pays taxes to Michigan shares the blame for inflicting KIDZ BOP on the world. Where this infraction falls on the scale of criminality, we’re not sure, but we believe some form of compensation is certainly owed. When that day of reconciliation will come is a mystery, but we can only hope it is soon. Sleep with one eye open, Michigan!
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