Tom Corson is leaving RCA Records for Warner Bros. Records, multiple sources tell Variety, although it remains unclear exactly what his title will be. Current chairman and CEO Cameron Strang is expected to stay on in some capacity.
Corson was most recently president and COO of RCA Records, where he worked closely with CEO Peter Edge on an impressively deep roster that spans pop (Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Zayn Malik, Pentatonix), rock (Foo Fighters, Dave Mathews Band), hip-hop and R&B (A$AP Rocky and the A$AP Mob, Usher, D’Angelo, Miguel), and Latin (Prince Royce, Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias). He got his start as an intern at IRS Records in the early 1980s before joining A&M, where he was heavily involved in launching Soundgarden. Stints at Capitol, Columbia, Arista and J followed; he and Edge took the reins at RCA in 2011.
With a robust catalog that includes Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and dozens of other greats, Warner is one of the most storied labels in music-business history, yet it has struggled for both market share and a solid identity for the better part of two decades, since the company’s legendary leaders Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker stepped down after a corporate battle within Warner Music in 1994. While the company has seen a resurgence in the past couple of years — 10 of the label’s artists have had Top 10 albums in the past 12 months, including Michael Buble, Fleet Foxes, Gorillaz, The Head & the Heart, Mac Miller, and Mastodon — the company has largely relied on legacy: the remainder of those Top albums came from veteran or legacy artists Prince, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and Linkin Park.
The company’s performance under Strang, an indie-label and publishing veteran who took the helm of the label in 2012, has been uneven and rumors of his departure ramped up as the October start date of Warner Music Group’s new CEO of recorded music, Max Lousada, approaches. The departure of popular label president Dan McCarroll late in July did not enhance the situation.
Corson, it’s worth noting, will be joining a staff that includes several RCA alums, among them: Warner Bros. Records EVP Peter Gray and SVP Andrew Berkowitz.
While a number of promising new acts — including Lukas Graham, Andra Day, Dua Lipa and The Head & the Heart — came into the company under Strang and McCarroll’s watch, a fair percentage of its 2016 bump in market share was also due to the deaths of Prince and David Bowie, whose most successful albums are under the label’s umbrella. Warner Bros. was stricken in July by the suicide of Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, one of the label’s biggest acts of the past 20 years.