BMG merges label with Windham Hill

BMG Entertainment has merged Private Music with Windham Hill/High Street Records. The move creates a powerful label that essentially gives BMG a lock on the new-age- tinged adult contemporary music marketplace.

The move also places the catalog of Private, which boasts such profitable new-age stalwarts as Yanni and Patrick O’Hearn, under the aegis of Windham chief Steve Vining, a savvy marketer known for exploring alternative avenues of album promotion that circumvent radio when necessary.

The new structure will also facilitate a more aggressive marketing of Private’s veteran artists.

BMG had been expected to merge the labels in late spring, but execs pushed up the timetable. (Daily Variety, Aug. 27).

“Both labels appeal to similar audiences and have similar promotional and strategic marketing opportunities,” said Strauss Zelnick, prexy/CEO of BMG Entertainment, North America, told Daily Variety. “While I personally regret the effect this move will have on the staff which has worked to build Private over the past 11 years, it is also the right action to take as we continue to manage our operations more efficiently and effectively.”

The three labels and a collective nearly 75% market share adds to the BMG pop music clout already established by its Arista Records.

Private will continue to operate as a label, but label prexy/CEO Ron Goldstein has ankled the post he had held since 1987.

The label’s 35-person staff will be greatly reduced, with redundant functions taken over by Windham staffers.

Insiders note the new structure makes BMG’s already profitable new-age/adult-contemporary business more so as a result of the streamlining.

An increase in releases culled from the back catalogs of the two labels, as planned, will also add to the coffers.

Windham Hill is currently riding high with the success of pianist George Winston’s “Linus and Lucy – The Music of Vince Guaraldi” which is approaching 1 million copies.

Private can count on keyboardist Yanni, Taj Mahal and Michelle Shocked to also help pay the bills. Yanni has sold more than 13 million albums over his 10-disc repertoire and Mahal just picked up a Grammy nomination.

BMG recently closed the year in the third spot on the album market share list, with a 13.48%, ahead of Polygram.

The conglom, which was the year’s singles-market share leader with a whopping 28.7%, overtook Polygram in the final weeks of the year on the album share listing.

“Having the opportunity to work with the incredible talent on the Private Music label is an extraordinary opportunity,” said Vining.

Windham Hill will boast traditional new-age acts, such as Winston and O’Hearn and artists such as pianist Jim Brickman, who has slowly been incorporating vocals into his albums and currently has a single (“Valentine”) working up the pop sales and radio charts.The label also recently inked Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Janis Ian.

High Street will function as an alternative rock and pop music outfit, with acts, singer/songwriters and film soundtracks at its core.

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