Taking over a record company will never be a drama-free proposition, but new Disney Music Group topper Ken Bunt’s succession has been so smooth, it might as well have been scripted by, well, Disney. After spending 14 years as protege to Bob Cavallo as he transformed the Mouse House’s label group into a teen-pop power player, Bunt officially took over for his retiring mentor in February, and has endeavored to stay the course.
“It might surprise some people, but it’s a very familial place here,” Bunt says, “and not at all the corporate sort of environment some people might think, which is all down to Bob’s influence.”
While the label’s M.O. hasn’t changed, Bunt has been busy streamlining operations, bringing flagship Walt Disney Records, pop-oriented Hollywood Records and Disney Music Publishing Group into the same headquarters and under the same A&R leadership. The licensing departments have also undergone a shift in his tenure, with master and sync departments coming together under one roof, making the licensing process smoother for film and TV partners.
“Other than Sony, we’re really the only record label that’s still part of an entertainment company, so we have so many different levers that we can pull,” Bunt says, though the popular perception of the label’s stars as progressing through a Disney Channel assembly line bears little resemblance to reality.
Hollywood Records’ new batch of signees, for example, runs the gamut from “Pretty Little Liars” star Lucy Hale, whose country debut is due in early 2013, to blues singer ZZ Ward and rock group Cherri Bomb, who’ve been out gigging on the Vans Warped Tour far away from Radio Disney’s auspices.
Bunt also hopes to be more proactive nurturing longtime artists. On that matter, he is keen to point to former Disney Channel star Demi Lovato, who underwent some very public growing pains only to emerge with an “X-Factor” hosting gig and her highest charting single late last month.
“It’s not engineering that we do with our acts; it’s figuring out where they want to go next,” Bunt explains. “With Demi, it was a very organic growth. As she became an older teen and then a young woman, her story changed with her. It’s important for people in this industry to see that we hang in there, and don’t bail at the first sign of uncertainty.”
Impact: Bunt stepped up to the top spot at Disney Music Group.
Next: Hollywood Records will release albums from newcomers Lucy Hale, Coco Jones and ZZ Ward.
Cause: City of Hope.