In a drama that has been playing out for most of the past week, Interscope president of A&R Aaron Bay-Schuck will be leaving the company for a top post at Warner Bros. Records. While sources close to the situation insist that his deal with WBR had not been signed as of Friday evening, there’s little doubt that an official announcement is coming within the next few if not couple of days; a memo has already circulated at Interscope stating that Bay-Schuck is leaving the company but will remain there until Sept. 2018.
The news, which was broken by Music Business Worldwide early this week, comes on the heels of the news that Tom Corson will be leaving his COO post at RCA Records to take a top job at Warner. Sources speak of a still-vague power-sharing arrangement between the two execs.
Not coincidental in all of this is the fact that Max Lousada officially takes the reins as CEO of recorded music at Warner Music Group next week. These two moves will make the big splash he needs out of the gate: poaching top execs from his two biggest competitors, and stripping Sony of yet another top exec in the wake of L.A. Reid’s sudden departure from Epic and Rob Stringer moving from Columbia upstairs to Sony Music chief.
Warner Bros. Records is arguably Loussada’s steepest challenge: It’s one of the most storied labels in music-business history but has struggled in recent years. Chairman/CEO Cameron Strang has had some wins since he was appointed in 2012 — the company has scored Top 10 albums from Prince, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Linkin Park, Michael Buble, Fleet Foxes, Gorillaz, The Head & the Heart, Mac Miller, and Mastodon over the past year-and-change — but has not managed to make a significant boost in market share, vibe or morale, a situation the departure of label president Dan McCarroll earlier this year did not improve. Warner Music Group’s other main label, Atlantic, has been on a roll since the tag team of co-chairmen Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald took the helm in 2004 and remains one of the most formidable companies in the business.
That reference is no coincidence either. An industry source tells Variety that Bay-Schuck’s title will be chairman/CEO — while that information is not confirmed, it does raise a rather glaring question of what Corson’s title will be. A possible arrangement could be similar to the ones in place at both Atlantic and currently RCA, where one of the two strong top execs is more A&R oriented (Kallman and RCA CEO Edge, respectively) and the other is more marketing/COO (Greenwald and Corson at RCA).
Bay-Schuck’s biggest claim to fame was signing Bruno Mars to Atlantic when both he and Interscope chairman John Janick were with the company; he’s since had success with Gwen Stefani and Daya and signed YouTube star Alex Aiono. (While he often receives credit for signing and overseeing Selena Gomez’s work on the label, sources stress that Janick has been firmly in charge of that project.) Such a scenario would play to both of the incoming WBR execs’ strengths.
But the question remains: When? Will it really be a year before WBR’s new leadership can even get started? Sources say that Strang will take a new role within WMG, but it’s unclear whether that’s a vote of confidence or finishing out his contract. Either way, changes are afoot for the label as it heads to its shiny new offices in downtown L.A. next year.