Motown shuffle

Label becomes Mercury black music arm

As part of a continuing conglom-wide restructuring, Motown Records will become the black music arm of the Mercury Records Group.

A number of Mercury artists will be shuttled to the new division, including Brian McKnight and Tony, Toni, Tone, which instantly gives the venerable Motown proven additions to its existing and developing roster.

The anticipated shift is expected to be announced Friday, and is another example of the vote of confidence given by Polygram chiefs to Mercury Records Group chairman Danny Goldberg.

In addition to consolidating the marketing and promotional muscle for artists in the genre under one roof, the melding of the two assets also gives recently installed Motown prexy George Jackson a release slate from which to immediately draw, in addition to the Motown 40th anniversary projects that are in the hopper.

The label has created an anthology boxed set, which is due out in February to accompany the airing of an ABC television special about the label’s history.

Insiders noted that Mercury and Motown execs have been working on a number of projects together, and that having two labels within the Mercury Records Group trading in the R&B genre reduced the power of each.

But wags suggest the consolidation dilutes the brand name or marquee value of Motown by, in effect, positioning it inside the less-revered Mercury.

A small number of staffers are expected to be pinkslipped as part of the realignment.

The move is the latest by Goldberg to put his imprint on the group. He recently tapped Kevin Gore VP and general manager of the classics and jazz outpost.

Gore, a former jazz marketing and promotion exec for Columbia Records, is known in the industry as an aggressive, knowledgeable and seasoned devotee of the genre.

Several candidates, including Geffen Records’ Robert Smith, had been considered for the important post. An official announcement of Gore’s nod is expected soon.

Industry vet Michael Krumper was recently tapped senior VP of marketing for the Mercury Records Group. His duties in the newly created post include finding cross-promotions and strategic partnerships for the Classics and Jazz, Mercury and Motown Records labels.

Krumper, who joined Mercury from Atlantic Records, will also oversee a broad range of projects involving the label group.

“My mission here is to use the strength of each of these companies to empower the other, developing synergies among all the labels,” Krumper said.

The formation of the group stemmed from a realignment last year that saw a variety of labels — including Mercury, Motown, Verve, London and Deutsche Grammophon — put under the aegis of Goldberg, who ascended from prexy of Mercury Records to chairman of the group.

The nod reunites Krumper with Goldberg, as the pair both worked at Atlantic Records. During Krumper’s nearly six-year run at Atlantic, he was responsible for many high-profile pacts, including bringing Matador Records into the fold, and directing the marketing of albums released under the Matador/Atlantic banner.

Krumper managed Robyn Hitchcok and Marshall Crenshaw at Gold Mountain Management, a post he held before joining Atlantic.