Historically, the tech and music industries haven’t worked well together. But Guy Oseary, Troy Carter and Scooter Braun — three managers of top music acts Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Madonna, respectively — know that in today’s entertainment landscape, the two sides need learn how to play nice.
“We’re not in the music industry — we’re in the multimedia industry,” Braun said at our D: All Things Digital conference on Wednesday. And from Psy’s widely lauded viral YouTube videos to Justin Bieber’s massive Twitter following (not to mention his best-selling perfumes!), these music execs are certainly aiming for cross-platform. [AllThingsD]
After promoting at the Palladium, A&Ring under Funkmaster Flex’s wing, and resurrecting rap and R&B at Warner Bros., Joie “Joey I.E.” Manda became president of Def Jam Recordings in March 2012. In 12 months, he oversaw three No. 1 albums, Nas’ renaissance, 2 Chainz’s explosion, and Frank Ocean’s game-changing debut.
Then, just as he marked his one-year anniversary at the esteemed rap record company, the Italian kid from Gravesend, Brooklyn, made yet another power move, announcing that he was heading to Cali to become president of urban music at Interscope Records. Hip-hop’s taken Joey far; here’s where he’s taking it next.
What was your first encounter with hip-hop?
Run-DMC, LL Cool J. Licensed to Ill was huge for me. I played that for a year straight. A lot of people describe their musical taste as eclectic. I only listened to one thing: hip-hop. It was special to me because you had to seek it out. There was no Hot 97 playing hip-hop records all day and all night. I taped Red Alert and Mr. Magic and Marley Marl once a week. I didn’t miss a day of Video Music Box. I knew every video, what everyone was wearing. After seeing Biz Markie, I had to go to Albee Square Mall.
How did you break into the business?
I dropped out of high school in the 11th grade, in 1989. I worked a bunch of different jobs. A friend of mine was a party promoter in Brooklyn, and sometimes he gave me 50 bucks to pass out fliers. I was still living with my mom. Then I started throwing my own parties. I moved out of my mom’s house. I started working for club owner Peter Gatien, who owned the Limelight, the Tunnel, and the Palladium. I did Saturday nights, which was a bunch of bridge-and-tunnel kids who came to listen to house music.
I brought Funkmaster Flex in and he gave me my first shot. I traveled around with him, went to all his shows, and helped him book shows. We were constantly together. He signed a deal with Kevin [Liles] and Lyor [Cohen] to do an album on Def Jam and he said, “I want you to A&R this album.” That was my dream.
Todd Moskowitz [then head of business affairs for Def Jam] let me sit on his couch and I ear-hustled, listening to how he, Kevin, and Lyor cut deals. In 2004, when Lyor went to Warner, he called Todd and me to revive Asylum Records. He wanted to make an infrastructure for urban entrepreneurs, to find the next Cash Money, the next Suave House.
For almost two decades, Warner Bros. Records had no presence or credibility in black music. When Todd took over and put you in charge of urban music, everything seemed to change: Common, Gucci Mane, Jill Scott, Waka Flocka, MMG. How did you make Warner a player again?
We made good decisions. I knew Rick Ross because we tried to sign him at Warner when Shakir [Stewart] signed him to Def Jam. We stayed in touch. I watched what he was doing and said, “That’s our A&R guy.” I bet on him even more than the artists he was working with. I knew he was gonna work as hard, if not harder, than us. It paid off.
You were at Def Jam for a year, doing big things. What made you decide to move to Interscope?
I’m excited about what’s happening at Interscope. John Janick just came over. I’ve known him for some time, and Jimmy Iovine is one of the top music men ever to do this. They’re rebuilding Interscope completely. That’s appealing to me, making something better and fine-tuning it. That’s what I love to do. Also, I was super excited to work with Top Dawg Entertainment. It’s the most important movement in music right now.
Not many people saw Kendrick Lamar coming, and now he’s killing it.
He delivered with good Kid, m.A.A.d city—he made a classic album.
You had a strong relationship with Ross and Maybach Music Group. How do you feel about parting company with them?
It’s difficult. I was at Def Jam for God Forgives, I Don’t. I won’t be there for the next Ross album. But even though I’m not the president of Def Jam anymore, I consider Ross a brother.
From working the door at the Tunnel to running a major label, what’s the most powerful role you’ve played?
Breaking an artist is the most powerful thing in the music business—helping them make a record and bringing it to market, believing in it with them. It’s powerful when you’re the only person in the room who sees an artist’s potential and you can show everyone else what it is and bring it to fruition.
What do you attribute your success to?
Growing up in hip-hop music and understanding it. I don’t mean to be cliché, but I’m a fan first.
Props to ComplexMag
Neil Jacobson is the Senior Vice President of A&R for Interscope Records, but his journey to getting there started out of very interesting means. He knew he wanted to be in the Music Business ever since he was in high school and pursued a degree in college at the Berklee College of Music. He even started his own record label in college as an experiment but couldn’t find a job to save his life after graduating college. This led into an interesting path as a Carpet Salesman and as a Caddy, which he used to sharpen his networking abilities along with his ability to sell. Through his connections, Neil was able to finally get the attention of the right person to finally put him into the Music Business. Listen to Neil’s crazy path of how he became a top A&R executive here!
In this clip from www.artistshousemusic.org – Bryan has worked in the music industry in various capacities including A&R, marketing, radio promotions, business development and concert promotions for over 15 years including time at Relativity Records, RED Distribution, Warlock Records, Serchlite Music and as COO of GOOD Music. In 2003, he drew upon his varied experiences and founded LMS with to help indie record labels succeed. To that end, he developed specific business solutions to achieve that goal, namely the Music Business Toolbox and the Label Management Systems Financial Software. His professional consulting clients include Kanye West, MSN Entertainment, Disturbing Tha Peace, Monster Cable and more.
Michael “Sha Money XL” Clervoix, former SVP of A&R for Island Def Jam, has been named EVP of Urban A&R for Epic Records, it was announced today. Sha Money will oversee artist development and certain aspects of their recording processes, as well as being tasked with further development of Epic’s urban roster.
In a statement, Epic chairman and CEO Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid stressed his confidence in Sha Money, saying that “Sha Money has time and again proven to be a cultural leader and has my complete support in ushering in the next generation of hip-hop stars,” write LA Reid in a statement.
“As I embark on this new Epic journey,” remarked Sha Money, “I have a great vision for what the new record industry should be like, the music, the experience and lifestyle.”
In addition to his previous work at Island Def Jam (where he was responsible for 2 Chainz and Big K.R.I.T.), Sha Money has previously served as president of G Unit Records, following a long-established involvement with 50 Cent, acting as his manager and producer. [Billboard.biz]
When you’ve spent two decades analyzing and writing about every aspect of the music business, what’s your next act? For Tamara Conniff, the former editorial director of Billboard, teaming up with A&R veteran Mike Caren was just the ticket.
“The timing seemed right,” Conniff said of her new gig as COO of publishing company Artist Publishing Group, or APG, “We’ve been talking about it forever and at least pretty solidly for a while.”
The two longtime friends came together on mutual needs — Conniff, having spent the years since her 2008 Billboard exit working with Irving Azoff at his Front Line Management, then entering the world of tech startups, had honed her skills at how to keep growing a company, while Caren, simultaneously running a recording studio, songwriting collective and publishing house, while also acting as Warner Music Group’s worldwide head of A&R, was looking for someone who could spearhead operations.
“Mike is creative and he needs to have the freedom to be in the studio, where I can help handle the business,” Conniff explains. “APG has grown over 100% percent in the last few years and we’re expecting the same kind of growth for 2013. My role is to alleviate some of [the business responsibilities] off of Mike so he can continue to be a visionary and I can make sure everyone gets paid on time and everything operates smoothly.”
To that end, Conniff adds that APG, which recently won two ASCAP Pop Awards and has notched more than a dozen Top 40 hits, is “actively signing songwriters” to artist partnerships, a system that few publishing companies have, where they can shepherd a song from creation to recording, production and mastering then place it or release it via a major like Warner Music Group. And their internal A&R process is different, too.
“We have a very hands-on concierge kind of system where everybody listens to everything and everyone is a part of the creative process,” she explains. “I can’t really think of another company that does exactly what we do.”
Building and growing a multi-faceted operation is a skill she learned from Azoff, whom Conniff calls “the best teacher in the world,” but joining APG also points to the music industry’s most consistently profitable sector, even in uncertain times.
Says Conniff: “The money is still in publishing — it always has been, but now everyone is realizing it because of the state of music and what’s happened with our industry in the past 16 years. Still, people need songs. They need hit songs.” [Billboard.biz]
Today he’s the CEO and chairman of Warner/Chappell Music, head of WMG’s Music Publishing and Catalog Development division and manages the Los Angeles-based Warner Bros. Records. But less than two decades ago, Cameron Strang was running New West Records out of his house as the indie label’s only employee. Before that, he was just a fan.
“I was fortunate because I didn’t get married until later in life,” Strang said to much laughter during ASCAP Expo’s “The Art of Publishing: Master Session” at the LOEWS Hollywood Hotel on Thursday. “From a career standpoint, I had a lifestyle where I could spend a lot of time [working]. I didn’t have kids to put through school. I lived in an apartment.”
The youngest of five children whose father dabbled in opera as a hobby, Strang was exposed to a variety of music as a kid. He took business and law in college, but after a brief stint as a litigator in Canada, he decided that wasn’t for him. Music was his passion and the desire to “live a happy life.” He estimates New West has released nearly 200 albums.
Under his stewardship, the label issued multiple Billboard 200 charting albums and racked up several Grammys. The catalog includes a great deal of Americana, roots rock and country from the likes of Steve Earle, Dwight Yoakam and Old 97′s. Strang’s Southside Independent Music Publishing company (home to Bruno Mars and Kings Of Leon, among others) was acquired by Warner/Chappell in 2010. New West announced a partnership with Warner’s ADA earlier this month.
“When you get there, on your first day, you get a binder with everybody’s picture and their name underneath it, all 400 people,” he told the crowd of mostly aspiring songwriters about taking on the CEO job at Warner/Chapell. “You start trying to memorize everybody’s name.” Despite the 32 offices around the world, the 450 employees, and the 1 million copyrights, Strang insisted that he’s taken the indie label mentality with him and tried to run it like a small company.
“We high-five in the hallway when we hear a cut or get a No. 1,” he said. “We still have fun and enjoy it.”
Strang told Randy Grimmett, ASCAP’s EVP of Membership (who moderated), that he sees the primary function of a publishing company as “service to songwriters. That’s what we all signup for when we start. We are 100% focused on the service to the songwriters. If you’re a new songwriter, that would be everything from education, creative services, introductions to people, advice, creative feedback, access to studios, access to all of the relationships that we have, financial services. Our interests are really aligned with our songwriters. It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 75% going to the writers. Once we get through that negotiation, which is hopefully brief, we all get to work together.”
Strang’s hands aren’t so much in A&R anymore as they were at New West and Southside, but he trusts the men and women at his company who handle that. He talked about Chris “Brody” Brown, who co-wrote Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You” and Bruno Mars “Grenade.” An LA Weekly profile on Brown was titled “From the Compton Crips to the Grammy Stage.” ”Not to give away all of our secrets, but in addition to musical ability, we really want to understand [who we sign] as people. I think we signed Brody on his 18th birthday and had met him even earlier. His musical talent was extraordinary.”
Strang insisted there isn’t any one particular method for discovering new talent. Music comes in the office, music is found online, staffers are invited to gigs. He answered one audience member’s question about access by pointing out that it’s not necessary to get your music straight to the top person right away. “Every big A&R person hears about every band he or she signs from somebody else,” he said. “It’s very rare that a guy walks in and plays a song for me. It’s usually the assistant of the promo guy played it for this guy, who showed it to this person he has lunch with, who…”
His biggest piece of advice for folks looking to score publishing deals: be patient. “You have to understand that, like with any profession, you have to work very hard. You have to expect it to take that level of commitment.” [Billboard.biz]
As President of A&R for all of Warner Music Group, Mike Caren has a lot of responsibility on his hands. But, what are those responsibilities? What does the President of A&R do? Does he operate as an A&R as well, or is he more tied to managing his A&R executives? Mike answers these questions in his own words and defines his role as President along with how he works in conjunction with his A&R executives. Ren also asks Mike how he balances his interests as a musician/songwriter/producer with his responsibilities running A&R for all his labels.
In this clip from www.artistshousemusic.org – Brad O’Donnell , Vice Presient of A&R at EMI CMG, discusses his early years in music starting out as a jazz bass guitar player and expanding to guitar and piano. He talks about his job responsibilities including, scouting, live promos, and helping artists develop. He comments that todays artist is far more sophisticated using technology to arrange, record, and produce their own music. He also comments on the many distribution channels available today such as ring tones, exclusives, iTunes, and so on.
Popular direct to fan tools provider Bandcamp has redesigned its home page and added features that focus on music discovery. The centerpiece is the Bandcamp Weekly show, hosted by Andrew Jervis who joins after an A&R post at Ubiquity Records and KUSF-FM. Every Tuesday he’ll delve into the Bandcamp vaults playing “exclusives, previews, recent faves, classics, and obscurities from around the world”
In keeping with Bandcamp‘s direct-to- fan mission, as songs play on the Weekly Show, the site will display the artist, the current track’s cover art, the album, related merch, and enable purchase without interrupting play. It’s the kind of feature set that Spotify and other music streamers need to adopt asap.
Warner Music Group (WMG) today announced the appointments of Aton Ben-Horin (@Aton) as Director of Worldwide Rhythm & Pop A&R and Latoya Lee (@MissLatoyaLee) as Manager of Worldwide Urban A&R. In these newly created positions, Ben-Horin and Lee will report to Mike Caren (@MikeCaren), President, Worldwide A&R. The two executives will provide additional A&R resource and creative support across Warner Music’s recorded music labels, including Atlantic, Elektra and Warner Bros. Records, as well as its international affiliates. The pair will assist in the development of new talent and existing signings by helping to identify songs, songwriters and producers and co-operating with WMG’s A&R executives around the world.
In making the appointments, Mike Caren said, “A&R is an increasingly global undertaking, as extraordinary music can come from any part of the world, at any time. By expanding our worldwide A&R team, we grow our ability to respond swiftly to artist development opportunities and reinforce WMG’s company-wide commitment to providing the best home for the most influential and popular talent.”
He added, “Aton’s wide-ranging experience as a producer, artist manager and entrepreneur will make him a superb addition to the industry’s leading network of A&R executives. At the same time, Latoya’s energy and instincts will ensure she brings a fresh perspective to our collaborative creative activities.”
Aton Ben-Horin said, “It’s an incredible time for Warner Music Group, and I’m honored to be a part of this legendary organization. I started as a musician and songwriter, so I have a deep understanding of the responsibility that comes with A&R, and I always put the music first.”
Latoya Lee said, “It’s a pleasure to work alongside Mike Caren and the amazing team at Warner Music Group. I am passionate about music, determined to support artists in achieving their goals and I’m ready for the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Before joining WMG, Ben-Horin served as Owner/CEO of Plush Recording Studios, and held roles within The Agency’s production team, and Plush Management LLC. As a producer, he collaborated with John Legend, Rick Ross and Ciara, among others, and as a DJ has played gigs around the world including Ultra Music Festival.
Lee started her career at her step father’s studio/record label, Top Notch Records. Beginning in 2009, she worked in A&R at BuVision/Def Jam, until relocating to Los Angeles in 2012.
Ron Fair, EVP and Chief Creative Officer at Virgin Records and the New Music Seminar are looking for the best new A&R people. Fair will select twelve finalists and conduct a live chat interview via the hot new Shindig video chat platform in mid-April.
The 12 will interact with each other and the veteran music exec as he selects the final six to speak at NMS 2013 in NYC in June. To apply, email a resume with a letter about your vision of A&R today to Fair@NewMusicSeminar.com.
To purchase your badge at the lowest possible rate visit:www.newmusicseminar.com/register by April 5th.
Warner Music Group’s publishing wing, Warner/Chappell Music, has named Jake Ottmann its new senior vice president of A&R, charged with finding, signing and guiding new artists as well as bringing established artists into WMG’s fold.
“I trust Jake to deliver and, more importantly, so do artists. I know he will be a superb addition to our fantastic A&R team, as we continue to make Warner/Chappell the first-choice destination for the world’s biggest stars and best new talent,” said Ottmann’s immediate superior, Jon Platt, president of WCM’s North American creative division.
WCM’s chairman and CEO, Cameron Strang, wrote of Ottmann that his “tireless focus on providing outstanding service to songwriters makes him a perfect fit with Warner/Chappell. His arrival is further proof we have the best A&R team in the business.”
Ottmann expressed his love of good music, regardless of genre distinctions, emphasizing his focus on bringing “hit-makers” into the WMG artist ranks. “I am genre agnostic when it comes to amazing songs. I want to sign and serve extraordinary writers, regardless of the type of music they create. I am so delighted to be joining Warner/Chappell because I know this approach is at the heart of its A&R activities. That philosophy has helped build the company’s incredible heritage, and propelled its recent momentum and success. I am looking forward to learning from Cameron, reuniting with my mentor Jon, and collaborating with the amazing team here. Together, we’ll be signing and developing the next generation of ground-breaking hit-makers at the world’s best music publisher.”
Less than a month ago, Warner/Chappell had a lucrative coup following their hire of Jon Platt last autumn, when it was announced that Roc Nation, Jay-Z and Beyonce’s publishing administration would follow the executive to Warner/Chappell. As Billboard’s Ed Christman wrote in February, “even in administration deals at a bargain-basement price, synch deals can still earn the administrator anywhere from 15% to 25%.” [Billboard.biz]
As the music industry wrestles with how to find the next big hit, research A&R — which uses data to identify artists’ movement in the marketplace — is rapidly gaining importance compared to traditional on-the-ground A&R. In this panel moderated by data scientist Zanab Hussain, Sony ATV Director of A&R Jacob Fain and Next Big Sound CEO Alex White sought to answer the question of which will ultimately prevail, the golden ear or the algorithm?
Fain explained that early research A&R, which he helped pioneer at Universal, meant hearing a song on the radio and calling record stores to find out if people were buying the record. “That’s how we found Colbie Caillat — she was a MySpace artist but we’d call Best Buy and they’d say all these 16 year-old girls were coming in asking for ‘Bubble Girl’.” Today, services like Next Big Sound, which feeds Billboard’s Social 50 and Next Big Sound charts, gather artist data from many sources including Facebook, Twitter, streaming services and more to create a comprehensive picture of how many people are actually listening to and engaging with a band.
“[With traditional A&R], you would go to a show and half watch the band, half watch the audience to see how they were reacting, what the gender balance was, etc.,” said White, whose company is in the process of launching a new product for A&R professionals. “What I’m interested in is the digital version of that. You can’t go to 10,000 shows, you in Austin know how hard it is to get to 15. What is the trackable digital equivalent of, say, an in-person crowd surfer. The volume of data is just exploding and humans need help to make sense of all this.”
White also emphasized that while qualitative methods like focus groups can be useful, there is often a big difference between what people say they’re going to do and what they actually do. He described tagging along as an intern in 2005 when L.A. Reid invited 25 kids to the Island Def Jam offices and played tracks by pop artist Fefe Dobson. The excited visitors expressed huge enthusiasm for the songs, said they loved her goth look (which didn’t match the music at all), and would definitely recommend the music to their friends — but Dobson never took off. “We’re interested in who actually watches the video, streams the song,” said White.
When asked if data ever is at fundamental odds with gut feeling, Fain cited Owl City, whom “everyone [in A&R] hated.”
“We brought it in and people didn’t get it, but it was exploding off of the charts. Finally he was signed, and four months later it was a No. 1 worldwide smash,” said Fain. “What A&R guy doesn’t want his name on that?” On the other side, said Fain, one of his favorite signings is Nashville songwriter Mark Sibilia. “It’s very rare, but he was Springsteen meets Dylan, we loved him — there was no data, but we signed him anyway.”
The panel discussed the role of social sharing in an artist’s dataset, where for example users connect their Spotify listening with their Facebook feeds. “Think about 1998, or even 2006, when you’d hear about a band and you’d buy the album in the store,” said White. “You’d have to play it in your car for a friend, and they’d have to remember it and then think of it the next time they were in the record store. Now you see it in your friend’s feed, and it’s right there in your Spotify. The friction that’s reduced is orders of magnitude.”
When asked if the human art of A&R would ever die as some predict, Fain said that it’s important to remember that A&R isn’t just finding the artists, it’s managing the entire process of creating the record. But even on the artist identification front, Fain argued that “there’s a human element you can’t take out. I am a tremendous advocate of [Next Big Sound's A&R data product], but you can’t just program this in and take the top 10 and sign them. It takes you to the 15 yard line but you really need a person and relationships to take it into the end zone.”
Several audience questions focused on the degree to which A&R software levels the playing field, for good or ill. Domino Records North American Sales Director asked if all the labels invest in the same software, wouldn’t there just be more math in the same footrace, where everyone was still chasing the same bands? White explained that many clients are concerned about that and ask his company not to sell to the other guy — but the product, instead of creating one huge ranked list, allows A&R professionals to enter a wide variety of criteria that they’re interested in — so different criteria could enerate very different lists. He added that “this tool doesn’t sign the band, negotiate the contract, or do any of the things that need to be done after the artists are identified.”
White also highlighted that artists are starting to use the data, which levels the playing field in another way – artists can be armed with their own data when they go into a label negotiation.
Ultimately, said White, even as A&R’s use of data becomes much more sophisticated and everyone gains the same tools, “we’re just at the beginning of all of this. Everyone thinks that everyone else has figured it out, but remember, if you’re the most experienced Facebook marketer there is, you still can’t have been doing it for more than two and a half years.” And, as Fain emphasized, “the human element is still very important.” [Billboard.biz]
Imran Majid has had a very impressive rise in the Music Business world, and he is now busy running the A&R Department at Columbia Records as the Vice President. It took a lot of sacrifice and prioritizing for him to get there though. It was hardly an easy road. There is no set path to becoming an executive in A&R, as Imran well knows. Along his path to success, Imran was able to identify key traits that helped him to get to where he is today. In this segment, Imran breaks down the necessary traits for someone to possess in order to have a successful career in A&R.
Mumford & Sons manager Adam Tudhope has teamed up with Gotye’s manager, Danny Rogers, to launch their first foray into music publishing, And Publishing. The company, which will operate from offices in London and Sydney, has been formed in partnership with Kobalt, who will handle administration and synchronization (excluding North America), as well as provide funding.
And Publishing is Tudhope and Rogers first joint venture and will have an initial staff of five, including U.K.-based A&R Thomas Child, Australia-based A&R Travis Banko, its two founding directors, plus synchronization manager Justin Reeve of Los Angeles-based Hidden Track Music, who will look after the company’s sync business in North America.
Prior to forming And Publishing, Tudhope and Rogers enjoyed considerable global success in artist management. In addition to representing Mumford & Sons, Tudhope, who is founder and managing director of London-based Everybody’s Management, also handles Keane, British folk artist Laura Marling, Wolfgang and Willy Mason. Meanwhile, Danny Rogers is managing director of artist management and touring company Lunatic Entertainment, which has offices in Sydney and London and represents Gotye, The Temper Trap and buzz U.K. band Chvrches. Rogers is also the co-founder of the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, which is held annually across Australia, Singapore and New Zealand (and just announced its entry into the. U.S. market)
Speaking exclusively to Billboard.biz ahead of And Publishing’s official launch at SXSW, Austin, Texas on Mar. 14 (which will feature performances from Chvrches, Flume, Jamie N Commons, among others), Tudhope outlines his vision for the company, why it chose to partner with Kobalt and the “heart and core” of Mumford & Sons’ global success.
Billboard.biz: And Publishing marks your first professional partnership with Danny Rogers. When did the two of you first meet?
Adam Tudhope: We first met a show at CMJ in New York a few years ago when The Temper Trap were on the same bill as Mumford and Sons – one of the first trips to New York for both bands, I think. And we just fell in love with each other’s bands and the bands fell in love with each other as well. Then, when Danny moved over to the U.K., I rented him some office space. Gradually we realized that both of us as managers had a whole bunch of resources, ideas and now staff that we could bring to bear in relation to artists. But we didn’t necessarily feel that either of us had the bandwidth to take on more management clients – at least not right at this very moment, while there is so much going on for both of us. So we thought that a way into helping new acts without having to be managers was publishing.
What distinguishes And Publishing from other recent start-up enterprises and your far larger competitors? Are you adopting a traditional approach to running a music publisher?
It is absolutely a traditional publishing company, in the sense that those are the only rights that we are planning to [own]. From a practical point of view, yeah, we’re hoping to do more than that. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that we know from having been mangers of globally successful acts that maybe other publishers just don’t have access to. Let’s say a new act with a manager that we sign from Australia wants to come and tour in Europe. Well we can help connect them to the right promoters or agents. We can help give them some advice on which venues they should be playing because we’ve done all of that before.
From a creative point of view, a lot of doors have opened up for Danny and me over the years, to our clients with regards to songwriting for other people – not just their own artist projects – and also in the world of sync. I feel that they are doors that we can leave open for our publishing clients.
What attracted you to Kobalt as partners?
The flexibility with the way that they do deals means that we can be really flexible with the way that we do deals, too. I think the way that we’ll win, as it were, is by finding new acts, probably with younger managers, who want someone to help shepherd them through the process. But also people that have a long term view and are willing to back their own success, which I have to say is something that I think Danny and I have always done with our management clients. The best deal is not necessarily the one that pays you the most money. The best deal can be the one that offers you the most flexibility.
Do you have any artists signed to the company at present?
We’re launching at SXSW and that’s when we start. We’re obviously looking at lots of stuff, but we thought that we would launch, let everyone know that we exist and then probably make a couple of offers on things, post SXSW, that we have already been looking at.
How many acts are you looking to sign going forward?
Two or three a year, no more than that. Certainly, for the first two or three years we won’t do too much. Most of all, the thing that Danny and I really agree on is that it has to be fun for us. That’s the point of this, really. That it’s a really fun thing for the two of us to do together – to find some new acts, who we really love, with managers that we like, and to have a good time doing it.
Following the international success of Mumford, Gotye and The Temper Trap, are you and Danny planning to expand your standalone management businesses?
No. We don’t want to do that. There’s a lot involved in doing what we do and both of us are really close to our acts. We have staff and people that work with us, but we’re not, at least at this stage in our careers – I think Danny would agree – interested in stepping back from having those direct relationships that we have with our artists that we [currently] have as managers.
Finally, the past twelve months have been a phenomenally successful period for Mumford and Sons. Did you ever anticipate the band getting this big?
Phenomenal success has never been part of the plan or ambition. It was not what we were trying to do. The heart and core of the band has been the same since they first met in a little after-hours [drinking] club on the Chelsea Road [in London] six years ago or whenever, which is just to play live, meet people and to have fun doing it. That’s what we’ve always aimed for and that’s what we’re still doing. [Billboard.biz]
In A&R, not everyone works in the same capacity. Some are better at spotting talent, while others are more capabledeveloping that talent. Often, two different A&R personnel will partner up to bring both separate talents together for one artist. Richard Griffiths, who reps One Direction and is a Partner of Modest! Management, used to run manyRecord Labels and worked prominently in A&R. His experience taught him that he was better at spotting talent, thanworking hand-in-hand in the studio to help develop the record. In this segment, Richard reflects on his days of workingin A&R and evaluating talent!
The A&R Report was granted the pleasure of getting to know Vice President of A&R at Epic Records, Malik Rasheed. We were granted the opportunity to interact with the humble executive in his LA Office, gaining some insight on his new journey at Epic Records; in addition, to his future goals and aspirations at the label.
How do you feel about the direction of Epic Records going in to 2013?
I look forward to building these new acts with L.A from the ground up. It’s a challenging, yet exciting time to be at Epic right now. I feel like a college coach, and we have a lot of 5 star recruits. A lot of people may not know what we have on our roster, but we know what we have and I’m excited to share this talent with the world. We have L.A Reid as our leader, Tricky Stewart who is one of the great producers and songwriters of our time, not to mention Sylvia Rhone who is one of the most decorated female executives as well. So with the great leadership, talent, and progressive staff that we have over here at Epic, we’re destined for great things this year.
What current projects are you most excited about over at Epic Records?
I have no favourites; everything here at Epic Records is a passion project and labor of love, everything! Look out for Ginny Blackmore, Quadron, Watch the Duck, Nylo, Future and Wallpaper. I’m excited everyday- coming over here at Epic Records working for L.A. Reid and Tricky & Mark Stewart. I’ve been given a lot of responsibility as of late, and I welcome it.
What’s your approach in finding new talent?
Cultural, Compelling, and Critically Acclaimed;
I ensure that I check out the artist’s show, whether it’s 40 people in the building or 400. It’s all about the artist being able to captivate the people and put on a good show. Lastly, it really comes down to the music resonating with me. I don’t care if I find online that the artist only has 200 views. It’s all about the music. My job as an A&R is to get people to hear it.
I’m always looking for someone able to identify to me, not by hype or by someone telling me; but by me seeing and understanding when taking in the music; as well as someone with their own voice and unique way of telling stories.
Has it always been your dream to have a career in the music business?
There was never really a Plan B for me. I’m really proud to be at Epic. Working with Mike Flynn, L.A Reid, and Tricky Stewart and Mark Stewart, I’m currently sitting where I’ve always dreamt to be. I’m excited because we are real music people here.
To be a facilitator for an artist to achieve their dreams is a great feeling. I got bit by the bug a long time ago, and I’m a lifer in this music business. I want to be mentioned amongst the greats, Ahmet Ertegun, Clive Davis, L.A. Reid.
I must also mention that it’s all about teamwork first. If Epic wins, I win. Individually, I’d love to make an impact in this business. I want us all to be the best. Everyday I’m trying to identify things that I’m not strong suited in. Ideally, I strive on closing the gap and making weaknesses turn into strengths.
What skills and characteristics of yours have helped you on building and maintaining your career?
I’ve always been great at maintaining good relationships and doing well by people. In addition, I’ve always had my hand on the pulse of culture. I’ve always been early when it comes to finding new talent.
I’ve been lucky to have great mentors such as Cameron Strang, (CEO at Warner Music Group), Tricky and Mark Stewart, and L.A Reid. Really, I’m about the work. I come everyday into the office with the thought that I will not disappoint them, because they bet on me. So the way I show and prove my respect to this business, and to them, is by working hard. L.A has always told me that ”there’s no real magic in this business, just’ hard work.”
How do you feel about the industry being digitally driven in regards to sales?
I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I believe at the end of the day if fans are really ‘true’ fans of yours, they will download, buy the physical album, go to the shows and purchase merchandise. If you give the people good music they’ll buy.
As an artist, you just need to be a brand people trust.
Name 3 things that helped you get you to where you are now at Epic Records?
First of all, passion. Second, I truly love this. Every act I sign here is a true ‘passion project’. Lastly, I’m very ‘hands’ on. I don’t like to pass the ball. If I sign an artist, I’m going to be a part of developing the marketing strategy, the album, and everything else that comes with the project – reason being, because, I know the artist. I make sure I always spend time getting to know the artist, so that I can put them out the best way possible.
What are your personal goals for the next 5 years at Epic Records?
I want to ensure that every artist I sign, I ‘break’ and embark on a journey and strong relationship with each act. I’d like to stay healthy and emotionally engaged and attached to the music. I just want to make sure I stay refreshed and excited about the new music coming out.
What suggestions do you have for an aspiring A&R looking to obtain a career in the music business?
Find something of your own and develop it. Build something, and build a brand. As opposed to going in to a label and becoming a general intern, try and do as much as you can for yourself.
Don’t expect any handouts. When you build your own connections and partnerships, you’re able to identify the skill sets needed to succeed on your own and at a label. Find mentors. Find people that are advocates of yours. Treat people with the utmost respect. Return phone calls. Assume that everyone has a gift to give. I try to listen to everything. .
Being a part of an artist’s livelihood, I’ve taken it upon myself to treat this business with the utmost respect. I wake up everyday doing something that I love to do, so I have to honor that.
Any last words for A&R Report?
I’ve learned that regardless of any adversities to stay positive, so that when you’re winning they’re cheering for you, and when you’re not winning they’re cheering for you. Great leaders know how to develop other great leaders. I live, breath and eat music.
This is what I do. I’ve never chased money; I’ve just chased the opportunity to make history. A&R Report [AlLindstrom]
Renman Live! returns this Friday, February 22nd, at 10am PST to chat with V.P. of A&R at Columbia Records, Imran Majid, along with Kyle Wilensky from CAA. We will be talking about Artist Development and Agents. If we have time, we will sneak in some wisdom from the good Dr. Bob Rotella! [RenmanMB]
Jamie N Commons has signed a record deal with producer Alex Da Kid’s (Eminem/Rihanna) Interscope imprint KIDinaKORNER, which will in turn go through Fiction Records in the UK. With an EP release due this spring, Jamie will cement his growing reputation as an exciting and original British talent.
Alex da Kid -
“Every so often you are introduced to an artist that transcends time. Jamie N Commons is such an artist. I am pleased to welcome Jamie N Commons to the KIDinaKORNER/Interscope family. “
The first taste of Jamie’s new material features in the trailer for the new series of the acclaimed hit TV show ‘The Walking Dead‘ which starts in the US February 10th. ‘Lead Me Home’ was written exclusively for the soundtrack. [HangOut]
Watch // New Song featured on ‘Walking Dead’ Trailer
Veteran urban music executive Ron Gillyard has joined creative services agency Quantasy as a partner, holding the title of chief growth officer. He comes to the Los Angeles-based company after stints as president of urban music at Interscope and J Records.
Notes Quantasy founder/CEO Will Campbell in a statement announcing Gillyard’s appointment, “Ron’s extensive background in the entertainment industry and invaluable connections and business instincts … will help us push the limits of creating immersive and culturally relevant experiences for our partners.”
Among Quantasy’s clients are such Fortune 500 companies as American Honda, Google, Wells Fargo and Farmers Insurance.
“Our catchphrase is ‘connecting the world through advertising, entertainment, technology and culture,’” Gillyard tells Billboard.biz. “For years those segments lived in four separate boxes, but the lines are blurring. We want to help clients look at the world through that one lens where everything fits.”
Most recently, Gillyard owned and operated Gillyard Entertainment LLC, an L.A.-based entertainment management and consulting firm. His management clients at one point included BeBe & CeCe Winans and India.Arie. In addition to serving as president of urban music at Interscope (2003-2007), Gillyard held a similar post at J Records (2000-2003).
Previous positions include GM at Bad Boy Entertainment and Motown. Over the course of his career, he has worked with such artists as Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Sean “Diddy” Combs, 50 Cent and Eminem. [Billboard.biz]
Matt Marshall has been named SVP A&R at Concord Music Group, reporting to Fantasy Label Group President Margi Cheske. He’ll manage all A&R activities for the FLG, which includes Fantasy, Hear Music, Stax and Concord Records. The 1988 Vassar grad took his psychology degree to Zoo Entertainment in 1990 as manager of A&R admin, where he spent quality time with Tool and our own Bud Scoppa (now his Studio City neighbor), and enthusiastically agreed with label head Lou Maglia every time he said a record “knocked my dick in the dirt.” Matt went on to A&R gigs at Epic (signing Modest Mouse and Tenacious D), RCA (co-signing Velvet Revolver) and Warner Bros. (inking and/or A&Ring Iron & Wine, Flaming Lips, Jenny Lewis, Built to Spill, Deftones, Devo and Josh Groban) “Matt’s passion for working with creative, visionary talent combined with his smarts and keen instincts, will help build upon Concord’s reputation as a home for great artistry,” said Cheske. Added Marshall: “I’ve greatly admired the remarkable success and independent spirit Concord has nurtured. I couldn’t be more excited and grateful for the opportunity to work with such a talented staff and contribute to this great company. And no, I didn’t use this quote when I took my last gig.”
Over the past few years, there has been talk that the Internet’s ability to discover and break new artists has made the job of traditional major label A&R obsolete. The numbers indicate otherwise. While labels are still figuring out how to best adapt to the changing environment, it’s clear that they are still powerful, influential, and backed with not only money, but manpower.
In 2012, major labels hired 55 new A&Rs and fired only 27. The number of hires is higher than the previous two years, and the number of fires is lower. Conclusion: the position of major label A&R isn’t obsolete—at least, not yet. [Pigeons&Planes]
For many top-level A&R execs in the music industry, a major place to find unsigned talent over the past four years has not been the clubs of Los Angeles or New York, but rather a website run out of a bedroom in a small town in Germany. The site, called Crazed Hits — which is now on hiatus — was created by Alex Wilhelm, a 22-year-old music fan with a whole lot of time and a knack for knowing a hit. And it didn’t take long for the American music industry to take notice. Currently Wilhelm has more than 36,000 followers on Twitter — many of them the top A&R execs in the business.
Following a knee injury that ended a promising soccer career at the age of 15, Wilhelm dove headfirst into music, picking up a guitar, taking internships at local recording studios, and studying books such as David Geffen’s “The Operator” and Jac Holzman’s “Follow The Music.” Scouring the Internet for music for 16 hours per day, Wilhelm began tracking Katy Perry two years before she signed to Capitol Records in 2007, and discovered OneRepublic a full year before Timbaland brought them to Interscope the same year.
“Seeing them get big made me want to create a platform for artists to get exposed,” he said. “I didn’t really have a grand goal. I was just a kid trying to expose good unsigned and unpublished music.”
Read the rest after the jump! [AlLindstrom]
With that in mind, he launched Crazed Hits on February 2, 2008, posting songs and artists that he found through Myspace and in the depths of the Internet. In its first month, he came across a young songwriter named BC Jean, whom he featured on his site. “I said to her, ‘send me all the songs that you have,’” he said. “She sent me 10 songs, and song number six was a song titled ‘If I Were A Boy,’ and I was like, this is a smash hit. So I posted that song, and a couple months later Beyonce recorded it.” The next year Jean signed to Clive Davis’ J Records.
A few months after he featured Jean, Wilhelm got a phone call from then-Epic Records president Charlie Walk, who’d heard about the site. “I always used to call him ‘the boy in the bubble,’” Walk, now chairman of advertising/branding company JWALK, told Billboard.biz. “What really made [the site] interesting to me was the purity, in a place without any sort of cultural influence in a bedroom outside Berlin. And what came out of that was some sort of global essence, understanding and curating talent or music that could be global.”
Walk quickly grew to appreciate Wilhelm’s ear for talent. “I was always more intrigued to hear his point of view than having my A&R team hustle me down to the Mercury Lounge to watch artists perform with 50 other A&R’s in the midst of a bidding war,” he said. “What Alex was doing was very singular but global. So that became very intriguing to me, I thought that was a very smart, sort of futuristic view of A&R.”
In Crazed Hits’ first year of operation, Wilhelm featured artists such as LMFAO (“people looked at them as a comedy act,” he said), Ke$ha, Owl City and Drake, all of them unsigned and with comparatively miniscule followings. The year after, in 2009, he featured tracks by Nicki Minaj, Mike Posner, and Brantley Gilbert, who wrote two songs that eventually became huge hits for Jason Aldean, and who wound up signing to Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records. By then, the whole industry was watching.
“Coming to the U.S. from Ireland, I understand the level of commitment and self-belief it requires to make an impact in the American music industry,” said Universal Music Publishing Group VP of A&R Declan Morrell. “Alex has a pure and unbiased ear for great music and a talent for finding it before anyone else. He somehow created an A&R site that quickly developed into a feeding station for the entire US A&R community.”
By 2010, Wilhelm was wading through 100 pitches per day, regularly communicating with A&R heavyweights such as Mercury’s David Massey, and then-Elektra chiefs Mike Caren and John Janick, and had received an invitation from the Recording Academy to serve on the Grammy Awards committee member. “His role was just being ambitious and good,” said Atlantic Records VP of A&R Steve Robertson. “He kind of raised the bar for independent major label scouting.”
Six weeks ago, Wilhelm shuttered Crazed Hits, setting the stage for himself to take a job as an A&R executive at a major label, though he can’t reveal which one just yet. The kid that scoured the Internet for 16 hours per day to find the best unsigned artists in the world is finally getting his own record deal.
“As an A&R person all you have is your gut and your instinct and your opinion. I’ve always took my gut and my instinct, and that’s how I ran Crazed Hits, and as long as I do that there’s really not a big difference. My job was before to find great songs, to find hit songs before they were recorded and to find hit artists before they were signed. And now, that’s still my job. The only difference is that now I get to be able to sign these artists and make records with them.”
Props to Billboard