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RCA prexy gives Nipper something to bark about

IT’S BEEN ROUGHLY 2 1/2 YEARS since Joe Galante took over the presidency of Bertelsmann Music-owned RCA Records. As with Bill Clinton, the early days of Galante’s administration weren’t a piece of cake, with staff changes and roster shuffling the prime business of the first 30 months.

But this week Nipper finally has something to bark about, as the Sisters With Voices album “It’s About Time” is set to become the first platinum pop album of the Galante era, passing the 1 million units mark and likely heading toward double platinum.

“It’s been tough,” the longtime Nashville executive and native New Yorker admitted. “This business judges too quickly. We went the last two years with little product flow, the U.K. label still in transition. The industry should understand — BMG is about commitment. Short term for us is five years.”

After a period of downsizing, Galante said his West Coast staff is now larger than before, and noted that senior A&R VP Dave Novik continues to build his staff in contemporary music.

He also pointed to the achievements of his black music department, constructed after his arrival (and the subsequent end of a licensing deal with Jive), and the startup of a second country music label, BNA, which has so far yielded a platinum record by John Anderson and a gold by Lorrie Morgan.

With those areas growing, Galante now plans to turn his attention to the rock and alternative music side, which has shrunk to 15 acts, roughly 25% of the normal major-label complement.

Albums are on the way from Chapterhouse, This Picture, Rick Astley and ZZ Top , in addition to Bruce Hornsby, whose album should get a goose from an upcoming “Unplugged” performance featuring Hornsby teamed with Pat Metheny and Bonnie Raitt.

“We’ll get there,” Galante said. “We’re in the game. We’ve got the people — and we’re getting the music.”

ONE OF L.A.’s WORST-KEPT SECRETS should be made official some time in the next week, as Capitol VP Larry Jenkins segues to Columbia Records in New York to become that department’s veepee of media and artist relations.

Sources say Jenkins will report to Fred Ehrlich, the Columbia general manager , and will be joined by Leyla Turkann, the owner of Set To Run public relations. What will happen to Set To Run has not been determined.

The Jenkins/Turkann team is expected to arrive at Columbia sometime in August , according to sources, with current department head Mary Ellen Cataneo moving to a corporate PR role whose parameters are still being developed.

While Jenkins, who grew up with a job goal of record label publicist, has apparently hit the jackpot, other lean and hungry publicists around town are casting a covetous eye at his Capitol position. The jockeying for this one should be fierce.

SPEAKING OF COLUMBIA: Company insiders confirm that the Sony Music U.S. president will be referred to as “Thomas” Mottola in all future public correspondence, a change from the casual days when “Tommy” was the preferred form of address. Apparently the thinking is that “Tommy” sounds like that snot-nosed kid you play catch with, while “Thomas” is the head of a major international software corporation.

Of course, Mottola is still free to refer to his boss, Michael Schulhof, as “Mickey.” (Note to Mr. Mottola: Calling him “Mikala” got your predecessor in hot water, if “Hit Men” is to be believed.) And we’ll bet that Columbia Records’ president is still called “Donnie” Ienner more often than the more formal “Don” in casual conversations.

But this trend could get out of hand. Should we call the Interscope Records president “James” Iovine instead of Jimmy? Is it more proper to address the Warner Bros. Records chairman as “Morris” Ostin instead of Mo? Or the WB Records president as “Leonard” Waronker instead of Lenny?

And wouldn’t it seem extremely Alphonse & Gaston if someone thought to call Joe Smith “Joseph,” EMI Music chieftain Jim Fifield “James,” or A&M vice chairman Herb Alpert “Herbert”?

RUMBLINGS: A decision in the long-rumored sweepstakes between Sony Nashville and Arista Nashville for the services of Tim DuBois is said to be imminent. No one is sure which way the pendulum will swing, but sources say BMG chairman Michael Dornemann took a personal hand in negotiations with DuBois … Some sources speculate that Geffen A&R exec Gary Gersh may have found an early exit out of his contract, which reportedly has six months to go … Is Hollywood Records giving A&R exec Bob Pfeiffer his own label as part of his new pact? … Don’t believe the hype regarding powerful entertainment attorney John Frankenheimer heading to BMG as its North American CEO … Believe the hype that powerful entertainment attorney Joel Katz plans to open a New York office for his firm.

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