Music Industry Moves: Country Music Hall of Fame Ups Michael Gray and Four More; Brooke Primero Exits ACM

nashville executive move
Courtesy Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville has promoted five executives to senior positions, including Michael Gray (pictured above), who, after 19 years with the museum, assumes the role of executive senior director of editorial and interpretation. In his new function, Gray will head up the editorial team and direct major exhibitions, recorded music releases and other special initiatives.

Gray became a Grammy winner during his time at the museum, having won in 2005 for best historical album as co-producer of “Night Train to Nashville,” an album that accompanied the exhibit of the same name about the city’s country/R&B crossover. Besides curating major exhibitions, Gray has been one of the museum’s public faces, as he’s moderated the “Poets and Prophets” live interview series with key musicians and songwriters.

Receiving senior director stripes: Ben Hall, a 12-year veteran of the museum, promoted to senior director of development, which will have him overseeing fundraising initiatives; Tori Tarvin, who joined in 2017, now elevated to senior director of marketing; Johnny Cunningham, moving up to become senior director of information and technology operations after joining three years ago; and Kaley Daeger, on staff with the museum since 2012, newly boosted to become senior director of information and technology business solutions.

+ In west coast country news, Brooke Primero, SVP of marketing for the Academy of Country Music in Los Angeles, is leaving the org that presents the ACM Awards after 14 years. She came over in the mid-2000s from previous gigs with the publicity firm PMK-BNC (where she led the events department) and Paramount Pictures (where she handled talent relations). Today (May 28) marks her last day with the ACM. After spending the summer taking a break with family, she’ll be launching a marketing consultancy come fall, Left Coast Nash — and, as the firm’s name suggests, she’ll continue to work with country clients from L.A., with what’s described as a “Hollywood meets Nashville” strategy.

Thursday, May 27

+ Prince Royce has signed with WK Entertainment, helmed by Walter Kolm and management home to Maluma, Carlos Vives, Wisin and CNCO, for worldwide representation. The bachata music star’s longtime associate Gaby Herrera will remain part of the artist’s management team, working alongside Kolm and co.

+ HITCO, the label whose roster includes Jennifer Lopez and Saint Jhn, has partnered with music-tech startup Corite, which enables fans to actively support their favorite artists and share the revenues generated as the music streams. The alignment is being touted as a first between a fan-funding platform in the U.S. and a music company, and also includes a scouting program to identify up-and-coming artists.

Corite launched in Sweden in 2019 and has since expanded to Europe via its website and app. More than 100 campaigns have yielded millions of streams on Spotify, says the company, with over 200 releases to date. Artist collaborations include Danny Saucedo, Sabina Ddumba, Kid Travis, King Charles.

+ Concord Music Publishing has signed British band Everything Everything to a multi-year global deal. The agreement covers all new music going forward. Formed in Manchester in 2007, the band was nominated twice for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize as well as five Ivor Novello awards.

Wednesday, May 26

+ Warner Chappell Music has entered into a co-publishing agreement with rising hip-hop artist 42 Dugg, who is signed to both Yo Gotti’s CMG label and Lil Baby’s 4PF imprint as part of a joint venture.

The announcement comes on the heels of the release of the Detroit native’s new project, “Free Dem Boyz,” and last year, he was featured on Lil Baby’s double-platinum single, “We Paid,” which he also performed with Baby on the BET Awards.

Warner Chappell Music President of A&R, U.S., Ryan Press said: “This is 42 Dugg’s moment. His performance on ‘We Paid’ has earned praise from fans, fellow artists, and critics alike, and I believe he’s well on his way to becoming one of the industry’s next big stars.”

42 Dugg added: “Ryan and the whole Warner Chappell crew are connected to some of the best artists and producers in the game and I have a lot of respect for their work. I look forward to collaborating with their team and taking my music to the next level.” (Pictured above, L to R: Rex Zamor, Collective Music Group; Yo Gotti, artist and founder, Collective Music Group; 42 Dugg; Ryan Press.)

+ Legendary rapper Nas’ Mass Appeal Records has formed a strategic partnership with the Sony-owned indie label and artist services company the Orchard. According to the announcement, through the partnership, Mass Appeal Records will sign and develop artists directly, utilizing the Orchard’s suite of services while Mass Appeal’s artist roster will have access to the Orchard’s label and artist services, which include full-service marketing, sync licensing, video services, transparent data analysis, advertising, rights management, radio and more. Additionally, Nas will release new music through the venture. Mass Appeal’s roster includes Dave East, and DJ Shadow along with successful album releases like Run The Jewels’s “RTJ2” and Nas’ “Nasir,” “The Lost Tapes 2” and “King’s Disease.”

“This is a full circle moment for me,” said Nas. “To come back to Sony Music with my own label is a major milestone. We see this multi-phase initiative as an opportunity to continue to push the culture forward, educate, and inspire.”

“Nas, Peter [Bittenbender, Mass Appeal CEO] and the Mass Appeal team have built an invaluable community that supports and cultivates artist creativity,” said Brad Navin, CEO, The Orchard. “As a company and strategic partner, The Orchard will continue to empower and reinforce their creative vision, and help all artists under the partnership expand their global reach.”

+ RCA Records announced that Lori Giamela and Kevin Valentini have been promoted to senior VPs of promotion. The two will continue to run the label’s Rhythm format team, with Giamela based on the West Coast and Valentini in New York. Both previously held the role of VP of rhythm promotion, where they have led the team for the last five years, playing a major role in the success of artists like Miguel, Doja Cat, G-Eazy, Khalid and more.

+ Music creation platform Splice has hired producer Kehinde Hassan, the co-founder of hip-hop/electronic duo Christian Rich, as director of global music culture. In this newly created position, Hassan is tasked with identifying and curating new partnership opportunities with music companies, producers and brands. Hassan will report to Splice’s chief music officer Maria Egan and VP of A&R Jen Mozenter. Hassan’s production credits include Drake’s “Pound Cake” featuring Jay Z, J. Cole’s “Sparks Will Fly” and Childish Gambino’s Grammy-nominated “Because The Internet.”

+ Radio promotion veteran John Boulos is leaving his position as executive VP of promotion for Arista Records, effective June 4, RAMP reports. “We built a great new company and I have accomplished what I set out to do,” said Boulos, who joined the relaunched Arista in late 2018 after an 11-year stint at Roadrunner and Atlantic Records, where he was EVP of promotion. He says he will be taking the summer off and will announce his future plans this fall.

Tuesday, May 25

The Warner Music Group / Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund has today announced Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Overtown Youth Center and the Africa Center as its next grant recipients. According to the announcement, the investments “further the Fund’s mission of supporting organizations that build more equitable communities and create real change in the lives of historically underserved and marginalized populations – with heightened attention to Black communities.”

“Over the past year, we’ve been developing a targeted grantmaking strategy focused on three key pillars – education, criminal justice reform, and arts and culture – in order to optimize our impact and reach,” said Paul Henderson, WMG/BFF SJF Board member and Executive Director at the San Francisco Department of Police Accountability. “This next set of grants is all about the intersection of community, culture, and commerce, and we’re very proud to support organizations at the forefront of addressing racial disparities with robust programming tied to the arts and education.”

+ Attorney Jodie Shihadeh, a ten-year veteran of Doug Davis’ Davis Firm, has officially announced the founding of Shihadeh Law P.C., a boutique transactional entertainment law firm with offices in New York and Los Angeles. Clients include producers/songwriters J White Did It (Megan Thee Stallion “Savage”, Cardi B “I Like It”, 21 Savage “A Lot”), Roy Lenzo (Lil Nas X “Rodeo” & “Montero”), Paul Phamous (Dua Lipa, Nick Jonas) and El Guincho (Rosalia), along with Irish group Eden and American singer/songwriter Audrey Mika.

“After ten years of practice in the entertainment industry, and personally coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, I am thrilled to announce the launch of Shihadeh Law, P.C.,” Shihadeh says. “As a female-founded firm that was launched during a global pandemic, we have unique insight on how to effectively advise clients to navigate unforeseen obstacles and market changes to pursue their professional endeavors without interruption.”

+ UTA has signed veteran country singer-songwriter Billy Ray Cyrus for worldwide representation in all areas. In addition to multi-platinum country music hits during the 1990s, Cyrus also enjoyed a successful career as an actor in the series “Doc” and “Still the King,” as well as the hit Disney Channel series “Hannah Montana” with his daughter Miley. And as evidenced by his presence on the remix of Lil Nas X’s Grammy-winning 2019 smash “Old Town Road,” Cyrus says of his approach to music, “My philosophy to making music is no limitations. No rules, no limits, no preconceived notions. Don’t try to think inside the box or outside the box, just think like there is no box.”

Monday, May 24

Sony Music Entertainment announced a pair of big promotions on Monday, elevating Melissa Thomas to executive VP of International Marketing, U.S. Repertoire and Monica Cornia to Senior VP of Sales, Commercial Music Group.

Thomas (pictured above left), who was previously SVP, will continue to report to Sony Music Group Chairman Rob Stringer. According to the announcement, highlights of her sting include spearheading global marketing campaigns for Lil Nas X, Camila Cabello, Harry Styles, DJ Khaled, Travis Scott, AC/DC, the Kid Laroi, Rosalía and Giveon. She began her career with SME at Sony Music U.K. in 2005; she had previously held roles at Universal Motown Records in New York and then Universal Music in her native Canada.

In making the announcement, Stringer said, “Melissa knows how to harness the global power of our Company to help break our U.S. artists around the world. Her teams, in conjunction with our U.S. Record Labels, have created unique marketing campaigns that resonate with audiences and push our artists to success.”

Cornia (pictured, above right) will oversee all U.S. sales strategies for the company’s catalog. Cornia takes on this role after three years serving as co-head of the International Marketing department for U.S. repertoire, where she developed SME’s new and established U.S.-signed artists across global markets. She previously was VP of International Marketing for RCA Records from 2014 to 2018; before that role, she managed Kesha at Vector Management.

In making the announcement, Darren Stupak, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Sales, SME said, “From the very start of Monica’s career at Sony Music, she has always embodied our artist-first approach, showing fantastic insight, expertise and a strong track record in bringing our U.S. artists to new audiences.”

+ Universal Music Enterprises (UMe), the global catalog division of Universal Music Group, has named Grammy-winning producer Dennis Wolfe vice president of A&R. In this newly created role, Wolfe will work closely with the company’s senior management team and the senior leadership at UMG’s labels, as well as artists, managers and estates, to develop strategic initiatives across UMG’s vast catalog. Additionally, Wolfe will develop multi-media projects that drive value for UMG’s artists, fans and stakeholders. He will be based in Los Angeles and report to Jane Gowen, Executive Vice President, Marketing and A&R, UMe.

As a consultant to UMe, Wolfe led UMG’s HD Remastering Initiative in partnership with YouTube, which brought more than 1,000 classic music videos from the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s to HD and high-quality audio for the first time. Wolfe previously served as Head of Catalog A&R for Capitol Records prior to UMG’s acquisition. In that role, he worked closely with major artists including The Beach Boys, co-producing “The Smile Sessions,” which won the Grammy for Best Historical Album. While at Capitol, Wolfe also worked with The Smashing Pumpkins, REM, Megadeth, Lenny Kravitz, A Perfect Circle, Bob Seger and more.

In making the announcement, Gowen said, “Dennis’ involvement with numerous artists and managers, as well as being a former recording artist himself, are key to his collaborative, long term relationships with artists spanning UMG’s labels. Additionally, his background in branding and content strategy will help us build core activations beyond the traditional releases.”

+ Rockstar Games has partnered with Ibiza’s iconic CircoLoco to launch Rockstar and CL’s first ever label, CircoLoco Records. Signifying the latest crossover in music and gaming music, CircoLoco Records will debut with a series of EPs featuring tracks from a forthcoming compilation album, “Monday Dreamin.’” Featured artists include new releases from Carl Craig, Luciano, Seth Troxler, Moodymann and Rampa, Sama’ Abdulhadi, Lost Souls of Saturn & TOKiMONSTA and Red Axes, among others. The first EP, Monday Dreamin’ Blue EP, is scheduled for release on June 4.

+ Publicist Nina Lee is joining the Oriel, the firm established by Carleen Donovan, Chloe Walsh and Jen Appel last year, and will be starting in June. She is joining after six years at Shore Fire Media and will be director of communications based in Oriel’s New York office.

+ Sony Music Publishing UK has signed Del Amitri to a worldwide deal. The agreement covers the band’s catalog, which includes the songs “Roll To Me,” “Nothing Ever Happens,” and “Always The Last To Know,” as well as future works.

Said frontman Justin Currie: “The Dels are delighted to have found such a powerful and proactive home for our catalogue of sometimes maudlin but often effervescent tunes at Sony Publishing. With a new album imminent the timing feels perfect and the team at Sony have been refreshingly engaged straight off the bat.”

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Pictured above, from left: Justin Currie (Del Amitri), Alex Sheridan (Catalogue SMP UK), Andy Presvezer (Manager), Iain Harvie (Del Amitri), Tim Major (Co-MD SMP UK), Sarah Pickering (VP, Creative Sync SMP UK), William Booth (EVP, Chief Operating Officer SMP UK), Martin Hall (Manager).