Music Industry Moves: Downtown Launches Business and Professional Services Division, Names Pieter van Rijn President

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Downtown Music Holdings has announced a new division for its global offerings, streamlining all of its business and professional services units under a single division. The new division, to be known as Downtown Music, will offer technology solutions, distribution, label and artist services, publishing administration, video and user-generated rights monetization, neighboring rights, royalty accounting solutions, sync licensing and creative support for music businesses and globally recognized artists and songwriters.

Pieter van Rijn will assume the role of President of Downtown Music. van Rijn, who has been CEO of FUGA, which Downtown acquired in early 2020, will offer expanded leadership across the group of service offerings. Pieter van Rijn’s successor at FUGA will be announced in the coming weeks.

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The move brings together Downtown companies FUGA, Downtown Neighboring Rights, Adrev and Downtown Music Services artist, label services and publishing administration units. The company provides services for over 2,500 business and professional clients including publishing companies, songwriters and artists, management companies, DiY and Distribution platforms, production and gaming companies, and other rights owners.

“Downtown is committed to placing the tools of the trade in the hands of those who create the art that we all depend on,” said Andrew Bergman, CEO of Downtown. “Downtown’s new structure offers the most nimble, flexible end-to-end service offering available in the music industry.”

+ Hipgnosis Songs Fund’s chief catalog officer Amy Thomson is stepping down from her role at the end of the month to market a customizable version of the catalog-management platform she built at the company. Phase one of the new platform — which has not been named and will track deal summaries, contacts, song lists, statement dates and a digitized collection of an artist’s rights — launches next month with ABBA co-founder Björn Ulvaeus among other artists. The move was first reported by Billboard.

Thomson, who joined Hipgnosis in September of 2020 and spent many years managing Swedish House Mafia and others via her ATM Artists company, will remain a consultant to Hipgnosis after her departure.

In a statement to Variety, Hipgnosis founder-CEO Merck Mercuriadis said, “Amy has played an incredibly important role in building Hipgnosis into the incredible company it is today with a portfolio of songs valued at over $3 billion. Her contributions have been significant in both establishing our song management paradigm as well as working with me to advocate for songwriters. I’m delighted that she will remain as a consultant and I look forward to championing her new endeavors which complement ours.”

+ The Recording Academy has named Maureen Droney vice president of its Producers and Engineers Wing and promoted Chantel Sausedo to VP of artist relations.

Droney — who worked as an engineer on recordings by Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Santana —advises on technical matters related to recording. She joined the Academy in 2005 and reports to chief awards and industry officer Ruby Marchand. Sausedo, who joined the Academy in 2021 after many years of booking or producing multiple awards shows (including 10 Grammy Award ceremonies), is responsible for managing and developing relationships with artists and key members of their teams and collaborating on planning, systems review, evaluation of outreach, and other efforts for the Academy and its affiliates; she reports to COO Branden Chapman.
“I am thrilled to have Maureen and Chantel in their elevated roles in the P&E Wing and Artist Relations teams,” said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “What they both have been able to accomplish thus far at the Academy has been extraordinary, and their respective roles are integral to the success of the organization. I look forward to how they will continue to serve the Recording Academy and the greater music community.”

+ Eric Clapton’s catalog of studio albums recorded between 1983 and 2010, along with three live albums, are moving to Surfdog Records effective Oct. 1, 2022. Since their first release, the albums — which include 1983’s “Money and Cigarettes,” 1994’s “From the Cradle” and the 1992 hit “Unplugged,” among others — had been licensed to and released by Warner Records; Clapton’s four most recent studio albums have been released by Surfdog.

“Eric has enjoyed working with many individuals at Warner over the years, but with the greatly changed landscape of the music business and the increasing significance of streaming income, it has been decided to take a different approach to the marketing of the catalog,” the announcement reads. “In recent years Eric has collaborated with and been impressed by Dave Kaplan and Surfdog on several new record releases in North America, including his last four studio albums, and is also now looking forward to working with Surfdog worldwide in relation to this catalog.”

+ Leila Oliveira has been promoted to president of Warner Music Brazil, effective from Oct. 28, the company announced Thursday.  She will succeed Sérgio Affonso, who has been president of the company for more than 15 years and is leaving at the end of October to launch an independent label, which will be distributed by Warner Music.

Oliveira, who has served as general manager of the company since November, will remain based at Warner Music Brazil’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro and will report to president Alejandro Duque. She first joined the company in 2013, heading up its business development operations, and previously held roles at Bandit Films & Digital, Telefónica, and Terra Networks.

Duque said, “This is a pivotal moment in the development of Warner Music Brazil.  Sergio has done so much to build a strong company that has delivered amazing success for artists from a huge range of backgrounds.  Now Leila will write the next chapter in the company’s history, building on Sergio’s success and making Warner Music Brazil a force to be reckoned with on the global music scene.”

Affonso added, “I’ve had an amazing time running Warner Music Brazil, getting to spend time supporting the most remarkable artists and helping turn their dreams into careers. I know that they’re all in safe hands with Leila, who I’ve worked with closely for nearly a decade and proudly indicated as my successor. I’m sure she’ll build on my legacy to make Warner Music Brazil even bigger and better.  I’ve got a number of exciting projects in the pipeline and will be speaking about them in due course.”

Affonso has worked at Warner Music for 38 years, signing artists including Anitta, Ferrugem, IZA, Kevinho, Ludmilla, Kelly Key, O Rappa, Raimundos, Maria Rita, Céu and Detonautas, and working with some of the biggest names in Brazilian music – Milton Nascimento, Paralamas do Sucesso, Gilberto Gil, Rita Lee, Jorge BenJor, Gonzaquinha, Titãs, Ultraje a Rigor, Kid Abelha, Barão Vermelho and many others. Between 2002 and 2007 Affonso was President of Warner Music Mexico and signed artists such as Jesse y Joy, Motel, Miguel Islas, Panda and Ximena Sariñana.

+ Sony Music Publishing U.K. has promoted Rob Stratton to director of visual + media rights. He will be responsible for maintaining and strengthening relationships with broadcasters and media production companies and will also support Cathy Merenda and the greater visual + media rights team in the U.S. He first joined the company in 2014.

Merenda said, “Rob is an excellent fit for this role, and I am delighted to be working alongside him to deliver a superior level of service to SMP’s Visual + Media Rights clients.”

Tuesday, Sept. 20

+ Music producers and entrepreneurs will be the focus of a new partnership between Mike Caren (pictured at left), founder of Artist Partner and Artist Publishing Group, and Luke Mitzman of 100 Management. Together, their clients include such hitmakers as Alex Da Kid, Cirkut and Stargate, who are credited on songs by Imagine Dragons, Eminem, Katy Perry and many more star artists.

APG divides its business between recorded music and publishing. Artist Publishing Group has stakes in the songwriting of Charlie Puth, Youngboy Never Broke Again, Kevin Gates, 24k Golden and Bazzi. Artist Partner Group is home to Puth, Gates, Kehlani, Alec Benjamin and Ava Max, among others. Mitzman’s company was launched in 2015 and has included such clients as Zane Lowe, DJ Netsky and Dr Woo.

+ Milly Petriella has joined management company Milk & Honey as managing director for the Australasia region and director of cultural and social responsibility globally. The Sydney-based industry veteran starts on Oct. 1, reporting jointly to president and founder Lucas Keller and head of international Peter Coquillard.

Said Keller: “We are bullish about ANZ and bringing prolific talent to the global stage and want to be the preeminent management company in the territory for songwriter and producer management.”

+ UTA has hired Anna Gregorek for the new position of senior director of music brand partnerships. Based in London and reporting to Alisann Blood and Toni Wallace, co-heads of global music brand partnerships, Gregorek will be tasked with leading the U.K. brand business for UTA, building on momentum from 2021 when the agency acquired strategic advisory firm MediaLink, literary and talent agency Curtis Brown Group and software and data analytics company MediaHound.

+ Pete Simmons has been promoted to head of A&R, U.K. for Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG). The London-based executive, who joined the company in 2014, has worked with Bicep, Four Tet, Maise Peters, Griff, girl in red, Rex Orange County, Tom Misch and Thundercat in a series of A&R positions. He will continue to report to UMPG U.K. managing director Mike McCormack.

Monday, Sept. 19

+ The Recording Academy‘s Black Music Collective (BMC) has added new members to its honorary chairs and leadership council. Together, the group is committed to the “inclusion, recognition and advancement of Black music and its creators and professionals within the Recording Academy and music industry at-large,” according to the BMC.

Yolanda Adams, Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Ethiopia Habtemariam and Yvette Noel-Schure will be joining returning honorary chairs Jeff Harleston, Jimmy Jam, Quincy Jones, and John Legend. New on the leadership council are Prince Charles Alexander, Jimmie Allen, Denzel Baptiste and David Biral (Take a Daytrip), Jennifer Goicoechea, Mickey Guyton, Claudine Joseph, Ledisi, Herb Trawick, Ebonie Ward and Yola.

“The Black Music Collective has remained steadfast in its mission to advance Black music since its founding in 2020. We are thrilled to have inaugural members of the BMC returning and honored to have an esteemed community of new industry leaders joining us to accelerate progress,” said Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “Black music is an integral part of all music, and we are committed to the long-term work required to drive real and measurable change.”

New and returning leaders will work with the Academy’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team and BMC leads Ryan Butler and Ricky Lyon. Rico Love, the vice chair for the Recording Academy’s board of trustees, serves as the new BMC Chair.

+ Warner Music Group’s global catalog division has named Tracie Parry as its new senior VP, head of business and legal affairs. In her new role, she will report to Kevin Gore, president of the global catalog, recorded music division.

Parry will continue to be based in Nashville, where she was most recently senior VP/head of U.S. legal shared services for WMG’s Center Of Excellence. Parry will also bring several members of her current legal team to the global catalog division along with her expanded duties, including VP of legal affairs Jeff Allen.

Parry will run the legal and business affairs department and oversee all U.S. catalog artist and production deals, catalog acquisitions, joint ventures, and all licenses and trademarks, as well as catalog deals in the emerging Web3 space.

+ Abby Harari, who formerly worked publicity at Def Jam, has transitioned to a new role as a publicist for Nettwerk Music Group. In her new role, Harari will be working closely with the roster’s indie/alternative talent, in addition to its pop artists and singer-songwriters. Nettwerk’s roster includes Passenger, Neil Francis, MallRat, SeaFret and more.

Claire Julian, director of publicity at Nettwerk, said: “Abby is a dynamic and driven publicist and a true music fan, and we are so happy to have her join our growing team here at Nettwerk.”

+ Troy Carter and Suzy Ryoo’s Venice Music Collective, a distribution and artist-support platform, has officially launched its new consumer-accessible subscription services.

Venice will transition from NFT-gated, membership-only access to a subscription-based platform, with three different tiers available: essential plans (starting at $60 annually), professional plans ($500 annual) and premium plans (invite-only).

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