A&M Associated taps Barbis

Former Island Records prexy Johnny Barbis has been tapped to helm A&M Associated labels, a newly formed outfit designed to handle sales, marketing and promotion for the Polydor and Rocket labels. The move ends speculation about when and where Barbis would resurface within the Polygram family.

Barbis, who will be based in Los Angeles, ankled his three-year run at Island when founder Chris Blackwell opted to return to the daily operation of the label (Daily Variety, Oct. 7). He has been on a three-month hiatus.

The highly regarded Barbis had been expected to be named to a new gig within Polygram, given his talents and close relationship with the conglom’s top brass Alain Levy and Roger Aames.

Barbis told Daily Variety he wants to help build a “super label” with all the labels adding to the A&M Associated pot to create a steady flow of top product that is promoted and marketed to its fullest.

“I want to work hand-in-hand with the labels,” Barbis said. “This is not going to be a stand-alone company, but a way of offsetting a logjam of releases so that records won’t have to be put on hold (and can) be marketed with the backing of the significant resources available to us.”

The new alignment is similar to Epic Records bowing a 550 offshoot, or Warner Bros. Records separating Reprise so that more releases can be funneled through the system without getting lost in the shuffle or straining a label’s resources.

The new structure is viewed as a way to ensure that releases get sufficient marketing and promotion attention and have every opportunity to succeed.

“Having (Johnny) here with a dedicated promotion staff directing the overall marketing effort for A&M Associated will provide a focus that will have powerful results,” A&M president and CEO Al Cafaro said.

Polydor Records president Nick Gatfield and Rocket Records chiefs Elton John, John Reid and John Cannelli will continue to be fully responsible for A&R for their respective labels and will work with Barbis on release plans.

“I believe Polydor will benefit enormously by having an executive of (Barbis’) caliber representing our repertoire as well as the focus of a dedicated staff,” Gatfield said.

Polydor U.K. has been on a winning streak lately with releases from Cast and Boy Zone catching fire overseas, while the domestic side has benefited from upstarts Tonic and a resurgence in the “Grease” soundtrack, which has in the past two months outsold most of the industry’s catalog offerings, such as discs from the Eagles and Pink Floyd. It sold more than 1 million copies last year.

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