Rising acts get some Leverage in licensing

Leverage Records fosters TV placement, album prod'n

As film and TV licensing become increasingly important to musicians’ careers, Leverage Management boss Stephen Levinson has teamed up with legendary music producer Rick Rubin and A&R men Michael Goldberg and Isaac Heymann to launch Leverage Records.

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The fledgling label offers artists the opportunity to have their music licensed for high-profile shows such “Boardwalk Empire,” which Levinson exec-produces through his Leverage talent management and production company. It also gives them the chance to work with one of the top producers in the biz, known for his career-defining work with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Dixie Chicks and the Beastie Boys.

Goldberg and Heymann handle day-to-day operations and A&R for the new label, which will be distributed by Columbia/American under the Sony Music Entertainment umbrella. They are currently on the verge of signing their first artists, and expect to have deals in place by the end of the year.

“There are so many projects we do at Leverage and scripts that come through here that the opportunities are endless for the artists we sign,” said Heymann. “I don’t think there are any other labels that have the access throughout the entertainment industry that we have.”

Heymann points out that Leverage artists are not automatically featured in Levinson’s programs — it has to be a natural fit.

“The one main point that everybody made when we started the company is that it all has to be organic and natural,” he said. “There’s no reason for us to sign an artist and say, ‘It has to go in this show and it has to go in this film.’?”

That said, Leverage artists will likely be on the top of the pile.

They will also have direct access to Rubin for creative input and even album production if all parties concur.

Goldberg said Leverage plans to sign artists from multiple genres. “If I hear a great voice or a great song or performance, it’ll start with one of those that will attract us to the artist. It could be any genre from hip-hop to pop to rock — anything.”

Strategic onscreen placements in Levinson’s programs have boosted the careers of artists including Foster the People, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Regina Spektor, who have been featured on “Entourage” or “Boardwalk Empire.”

“Certainly the right placement at the right time can really help an artist and expose them to millions of people at once,” Goldberg points out. “In this time in music, everyone’s fighting for attention. So I think the right (placement) could definitely help artists launch their careers.”

Universal Music Publishing Group has announced two high-level promotions: Monti Olson will become the company’s exec VP/head of pop and rock music, moving up from previous position as VP of A&R. And David Kokakis was promoted to senior VP/head of business and legal affairs/business development, replacing the outgoing Robert Allen.

BMG Chrysalis appointed Wendy Griffiths to senior VP of marketing. Griffiths previously spent 25 years at Warner Bros. Records, most recently as senior VP of film and soundtracks.

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