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Windham Hill regroups

BMG Entertainment’s Windham Hill Records has joined forces with sister labels Private Music, High Street Records and Dancing Cat Records to create the Windham Hill Group.

The move further solidifies BMG’s place as the dominant force in the new-age-tinged adult contemporary music marketplace and allows it more room to flex its marketing muscle.

Under the new structure, each label will retain its own identity, but will be able to call upon the group’s considerable promotion and marketing resources to tout their respective releases.

In January, BMG merged Private into Windham Hill in a move designed to facilitate a more aggressive marketing of Private’s vet acts, such as Patrick O’Hearn and Yanni, under Windham Hill chief Steve Vining. (Daily Variety, Jan 16.).

Perfect marriage

The change also consolidated the marketing needs of each label under one roof, as both labels appeal to similar audiences and have similar promotional and strategic marketing opportunities. A handful of marketing execs have been added to the rolls to support the new emphasis.

“What we’re building is a marketing-driven organization that doesn’t rely on radio, and one that will stick with an album and take it to the next level even when it stalls on the charts,” Windham Hill prexy Steve Vining told Daily Variety. Vining is known as a savvy marketer interested in exploring alternative avenues of album promotion, as well as the tried and true.

As proof, Windham Hill pianist Jim Brickman recently nabbed his — and the label’s — first No. 1 adult contemporary chart single with “Valentine,” the first track off his “Picture This” disc.

The feat is particularly remarkable considering Brickman bested multimillion album sellers and chart-topping warblers Celine Dion and Toni Braxton for the post.

Unique promos

The landing of the well-earned spot comes on the heels of weeks of album promotion that exemplified the Windham Hill philosophy of mixing expected promotional appearances with some nontraditional avenues, such as linking Brickman with a home shopping channel and Godiva Chocolates to help tout the disc.

The success of the label has attracted such seminal artists as Janis Ian to ink a recording pact, and permits expansion into other musical genres as world music, contemporary classical and Celtic.

The label’s current good fortunes also will aid in convincing managers and artists who normally wouldn’t give Windham Hill or Private Music a second glance to consider signing deals with them.

“Our new team has already proved that we can aggressively market established core artists, such as (pianist) George Winston, and reach gold sales in record time,” Vining said. “(And) with the addition of Larry Hamby (as veep of A&R), we are ready to stretch the parameters of what people can expect from us.”

Vining described Hamby, a former A&R veep for A&M Records, as having “impeccable pop credentials” and being “a strong player with a lot of industry history.”

The three labels and their collective nearly 1% market share of the adult music marketplace adds to BMG’s pop music clout already established by its Arista Records.

Windham Hill also is riding high with the success Winston’s “Linus and Lucy — The Music of Vince Guaraldi,” which is approaching 1.5 million copies, and Private also can count on keyboardist Yanni, Taj Mahal, Etta James and Leo Kottke to help pay the bills.

BMG recently closed the year in the third spot with 13.48% of the album market share — ahead of Polygram, which it overtook at the end of the year on the album share listing.

High Street, under the aegis of A&R veep Patrick Clifford, will continue to function as an alternative rock and pop music outfit.

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