You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Davis spins BMG diskery

Meet J Records, the biggest lable startup...ever

After nearly a year of public sniping and speculation, BMG Entertainment and music industry giant Clive Davis have entered into a 50/50 joint agreement to form J Records.

Terms of the deal remained undisclosed, but industry sources place it somewhere between $100 million and $150 million — an unprecedented amount for a pure record company.

“We believe this is the biggest startup record label that’s ever been financed,” BMG Entertainment prexy-CEO Strauss Zelnick told Daily Variety. “But we’re in a growth mode. In the six years that I’ve been here, we’ve doubled our current market share from 10% to 20%, so this is the perfect time to invest money with one of the industry’s top executives to build for the future. I’m gratified this has come to fruition, and I’m happy for Clive, too.”

“It was very important to me to have an equity interest,” Davis told Daily Variety, “although I wouldn’t necessarily call this a startup — it’s more like an instant major. For one thing, the deal is three to four times larger than that for any previous record company.

“Second, we’ve assembled an incredible senior executive team as well as an incredible group of artists, and we’ll be announcing additions to both of those next week.”

Arista pedigree

Joining Davis at the new diskery — which takes its moniker from his middle initial (three of his sons’ names and three of his grandchildren’s names all start with “J” as well) — is former Arista exec veep-G.M. Charles Goldstruck, who’ll serve as prexy-chief operating officer of the new venture. Other erstwhile Arista execs making the transition are senior veep of promotion Richard Palmese, senior veep of worldwide marketing Tom Corson, senior veep of finance Alan Newham, senior veep of biz & legal affairs Julie Swidler, senior veep of A&R Keith Naftaly and A&R veeps Peter Edge and Hosh Gurelli.

The new diskery’s artist roster will include several former Arista acts (boy band LFO, R&B trio Next, soul diva Deborah Cox, teenage female blues guitarist-vocalist Shannon Curfman, country thrush Abra Moore and Wyclef protege Jimmy Cozier) as well as R&B singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, hip-hop veteran Q-Tip, and O-Town, the group featured in the ABC-TV series “Making the Band.” Young R&B diva Monica’s future discs will be joint ventures between Arista and J as well. Plans call for the diskery’s first records to be released in October. Davis also intends to establish a music-publishing component sometime “within the next year.”

Davis entered the disc biz as an attorney for Columbia Records in 1960, eventually serving as prexy from 1967 to ’74. He founded Arista a year later, selling it to BMG in 1979. This past year his accolades included a Lifetime Achievement Grammy and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a nonperformer. A 25th anniversary TV special devoted to Arista attracted 9.9 million viewers.

“I was offered presidencies of other labels; I was offered Wall Street and Internet money,” Davis said. “But “BMG Entertainment (chair) Michael Dornemann and Strauss Zelnick have always been behind me. I was never moved aside, and I very much want Arista to succeed under L.A. Reid — it was my label.

“But every label has to re-evaluate its artist roster every three years, so we intend to be extremely hospitable to new artists as well as those veteran artists such as Carlos Santana, who contributed about $260 million to BMG worldwide last year.”

No film production

Although he has been successful in the realm of soundtracks in the past with multimillion sellers “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale,” Davis dismissed the idea of his new company getting into film or TV production: “We’re looking for long-lasting career artists who can be headliners; we’re going to be a record label.”

“It couldn’t have ended up in a better way,” Goldstuck told Daily Variety. “We’ve got the funding, the executives and the artists. Plus we’ve got BMG distribution in the U.S. as well as overseas, which we’re very comfortable with because we know all those people. And we’ll have all of BMG’s Internet deals working for us. By this time next year, we expect to employ 100 people.”

As for why, at age 67, Davis has opted to remain in the game, the answer is simple: “‘Cause I love it.”

More Music

  • The Lonely Island Are Comically Plausible

    Concert Review: The Lonely Island Are Comically Plausible Pop-Rappers on First Tour

    A funny thing happened on the way to the Lonely Island’s first-ever, multi-city tour, which kicked off at Bonnaroo this past weekend. At their third stop Wednesday at the Met Philadelphia, the hip-hop comedy trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone proved they could parody rap-pop with comic plausibility and their own brand of musical [...]

  • Livenation AR Live stream

    Live Nation to Debut AR Live Stream at Music Midtown Festival

    Come September, Live Nation is set to begin streaming live events in augmented reality. The entertainment giant will debut live AR broadcasting at the Music Midtown festival in Atlanta, Georgia, where attendees will also be able to unlock filters and other AR effects. Live Nation announced the new initiative at the Cannes Lions festival Thursday, [...]

  • Elton John performing at Earls Court,

    Elton John Has a Message for Struggling LGBTQ Youth: 'Be Proud of Who You Are'

    Elton John isn’t at a loss for words when asked if he has a message for young LGBTQ people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. In an exclusive interview with Variety at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, just hours before the world premiere of his long-in-the-works biopic “Rocketman,” John spoke candidly about the [...]

  • Frank Ocean

    What Happened to the Black Queer Music Revolution That Frank Ocean Almost Started?

    Seven years ago, Frank Ocean got us talking about a revolution — or at least hoping for one. On the eve of releasing “Channel Orange,” his groundbreaking 2012 debut studio album, the then-24-year-old alt-R&B singer-songwriter wrote an open letter on his Tumblr blog in which he revealed that his first love had been a man. [...]

  • Donald Glover Beyonce

    Beyoncé and Donald Glover Harmonize in 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' Ad Preview

    Anyone who’s longed to hear Beyoncé and Donald Glover harmonizing got just enough to further whet the appetite in a first snippet of their version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” that’s included in a new commercial for Disney’s upcoming “Lion King” remake. The TV spot lasts just 30 seconds, hardly time at all [...]

  • Pride Allies

    The Hollywood Allies Who Helped Protect, Advance the LGBTQ Community This Year

    Strong and proud as it is, the LGBTQ community’s fight for equality needs allies — from loving and accepting families to galvanized colleagues and corporations to the movie star you’ve never met calling for boycotts of a homophobic nation-state. Several of those queer supporters in Hollywood and music used the megaphones of social media, public [...]

  • Amazon Music

    Amazon Music Launches on Comcast's Xfinity X1 Set-Tops

    Amazon Music is rolling out on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 — the first pay-TV distribution deal for the ecommerce company’s music service. The cable operator’s addition of Amazon Music comes six months after it added Amazon Prime Video to the X1 lineup. Prime Video quickly became one of the most-used apps on the service, which prompted [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content