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Music Industry Moves: Andre Torres Trades Spotify for WMG; Corey Berkowitz Joins Saban as Head of Pop, Urban A&R

Music industry moves
Courtesy of Saban Music Group; Warner Music Group

+ Andre Torres (pictured above, at right) has traded Spotify for Warner Music Group (WMG) where he’ll serve as senior vice president, catalog development and marketing. The Los Angeles-based Torres will report to Kevin Gore, president, global catalog, recorded music for WMG. At Spotify, Torres held the position of head of catalog, artist and label partnerships, North America. Prior to that, he spent three years as VP of urban catalog at Universal Music Enterprises (UMe).

Torres has editorial experience as well, spending 15 years as the founder, editor and publisher of quarterly music magazine Wax Poetics, and serving as executive editor for Genius, the popular lyrics website.

Said Gore: “We’re thrilled to have someone with Andre’s extensive streaming, label, and entrepreneurial experience joining our Global Catalog team. This is a role where being an expert in building narratives rooted in both deep knowledge of music history and the current cultural landscape is a must. Andre is that and more. He’s seen all sides of the business, and that experience will be vital as we continue to craft world-class, one-of-a-kind campaigns and projects that help our artists reach even more music fans around the world.”

“During my time at Spotify, Genius, and, of course, Wax Poetics, I’ve been lucky to work with Warner labels and get an up-close look at what an amazing job they’re doing for their artists,” added Torres. “The Warner Music Global Catalog team is the top in the business, and they keep finding even more innovative and exciting ways to market their artists and their music, tell their stories, and build their global fanbases. I can’t overstate how excited I am to join the Warner Music family.”

+ Corey Berkowitz (pictured at left) has joined Saban Music Group as head of pop and urban A&R. SMG’s roster includes Static & Ben El, Mergui, Nakkia Gold, Don Omar and Chesca. Formerly with the songwriting collective Rock Mafia, and later the production and songwriting team of Tim James and Antonina Armato, where he developed electronic and alternative phenomenon Elohim, Berkowitz is himself a songwriter signed to Downtown Music Publishing (now Concord). His credits include Bahari’s “Ways of Love” and Quin XCII’s “Holding Hands” feat. Elohim.

“For me, it’s important to be a part of every step of the process,” said Berkowitz, a native of Detroit. “I’m not just an A&R who’s looking for talent; I’m part of the song’s creation. I understand how to take a song from zero to a hundred. There’s nothing better than helping artists bring their most authentic visions to life. … I want to be a part of songs that are undeniable. Those songs that don’t require a million opinions, they just hit you right in the face. It starts with making the right connections and leveraging a deep, emotional understanding of who to introduce to whom.”

Thursday, Oct. 7

Built to Spill, the Boise-based band that has been releasing records since 1993 and been on the Warner label since 1997, has embraced its Northwest roots in signing with the renowned Seattle label Sub Pop Records.

“Sub Pop has (FINALLY!) signed the beloved Pacific Northwest rock band Built to Spill for the entire known universe, to release music for the label in 2022 and beyond,” Sub Pop wrote in a statement. “Over the course of eight studio albums, a compilation, a live record and consistently legendary live shows, Doug Martsch and his band have created some of our favorite music of the last few decades. We’re feeling pretty pleased with ourselves on this one.”

The group’s last album of original material, “Untethered Moon,” came out on Warner in 2015. They subsequently independently released an album of Daniel Johnston covers last year. ““I feel like Warner Bros. really did a nice job of giving us complete creative control and letting us guide our career as we pleased,” band leader Doug Martsch said in a 2018 article. “But I felt like there was a cost and … I felt like we kind of slipped through the cracks a little bit.”

Ironically or otherwise, Martsch had discussed in earlier interviews how Built to Spill’s goal when the band was first starting in the early 1990s was to get signed to Sub Pop.

+ Peloton‘s latest artist series, which arrives to the home fitness platform today (Oct. 7), features Usher in a season’s worth of dance cardio classes. Joined by Peloton instructors Ally Love and Emma Lovewell, the R&B-pop star’s catalog of hit songs is used to soundtrack the seven class episodes, which total 140 minutes of exercise content, choreographed by Jamaica Craft, who’s known for her work with Usher.

Instructors Cody Rigsby (also a current contestant on “Dancing With The Stars”), Jess King, Callie Gullickson and Hannah Corbin also participate in the dance cardio program.

“Dance has the power to energize, ignite and bring people together in a fun celebration of movement and music, “ said Usher. “I’m thrilled to lend my personal style to this new season of Peloton Dance Cardio. As a Peloton member myself, I can’t wait to move together as one community.”

Added Peloton’s head of music, Gwen Bethel Riley: “We developed this content so that anyone who takes these classes will feel like they are a center stage performer.”

+ Charlene Thomas has been promoted to vice president of marketing at Def Jam Recordings. Her credits in recent years include helping break Fredo Bang, marketing the “Coming 2 America” soundtrack, and guiding comeback campaigns for Fabolous and Jadakiss as well as the roll-out of DMX’s posthumous album, “Exodus.” She’s currently developing marketing strategies for Kanye West, Big Sean, Hit-Boy, LL Cool J, 2Chainz, Jeezy and more. She previously served as an executive at Loud Records where she worked with such legends as the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Big Pun, Lil Flip and signed and developed Oscar-winning group Three 6 Mafia.

+ Nepali producer and artist Sagun has launched Arden Records, a lo-fi label in collaboration with Platoon (a subsidiary of Apple), Jordan Smith (S+ MGMT) and Andrew Kwan (Romantic Music Group). The label’s first release is a six-track compilation called “Arden” featuring such producers as Clay House, Pecna, Slow-Key, Trankilo, Wrongnumber and Sagun himself.

Wednesday, Oct. 6

+ Mike Sherwood has been named Capitol Music Group’s executive VP of global commercial marketing and strategy, CMG announced Wednesday. The exec comes to the company from a long stint at Warner Records, where, as senior VP of streaming and revenue, he was seen as key in breaking such artists as Dua Lipa, Mac Miller and Bebe Rexha and worked on projects by Jason Derulo, Green Day, Michael Bublé and Warner’s other hitmakers.

In his new Capitol Tower-based role, Sherwood will be in charge of CMG’s commercial and direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing strategies. He’ll interact with all of CMG’s digital and physical partners on frontline releases, and work with Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) on catalog releases.

He’ll report to Capitol Records GM and CMG EVP Larry Mattera, who said in a statement, “Mike possesses that rare skill set that allows him to balance his unwavering support of artistry and passion for music with the keen ability to maximize commerce in a global music economy.  He’ll be an integral and driving force behind many of our new and developing artist campaigns, as well as those for our established and superstar artists.”

Said Sherwood, “As our industry has been reinvigorated in recent years, it has created tremendous opportunities for artists on a global scale. … I want to sincerely thank [CMG Chairman & CEO] Jeff [Vaughn], [CMG President & COO] Michelle [Jubelirer] and Larry for this amazing opportunity.”

+ Deezer, the France-based music streaming service, has named Agnes Bliah as its new business development director. She will be charged with building the company’s global strategic relationships and developing new business lines internationally.

Prior to joining Deezer, Bliah was the business development and strategic partnerships director at Midem, managing APAC and Americas activations. Her other roles in product placement, advertising and various music business startups over the last 18 years have taken her to Japan, the U.S. and Switzerland as well as France.

+ Sony Music Publishing has promoted Michael Abitbol to senior vice president, head of U.S. digital. The New York-based executive reports to SMP’s president, global digital, Antony Bebawi. In his new position, Abitbol manages and oversees all aspects of SMP’s U.S. digital business, including engaging with digital services, negotiating and drafting digital agreements, implementing digital strategy, and liaising with SMP’s digital teams across the globe.

Tuesday, Oct. 5

+ Leading digital distributor Ingrooves will begin delivering music created in Dolby Atmos to DSPs, the company has announced. “We have worked closely with Apple, Amazon Music and TIDAL to develop an easy-to-use system that enables us to deliver Dolby Atmos tracks on behalf of hundreds of Ingrooves-distributed independent labels and artists,” said head of product Elliot Swan. “Labels can now deliver their tracks in Dolby Atmos to DSPs right from the Ingrooves client portal. The new audio experience gives music fans a new level of depth and texture to their listening experience.”

The artist Yungeen Ace is the first to release a single via Dolby Atmos with “Giving Up/Hardaway” on Friday. Appropriately issued through Cinematic Music Group, the label’s head of digital sales and revenue Tish Taylor-Searcy remarked: “Here at Cinematic our mission is for our roster’s fans to see a motion picture through music. Being that Dolby Atmos gives the listener an experience that puts them inside the song, the Cinematic Team is ecstatic to know Ingrooves can power the delivery of this new high-fidelity format for all of Yungeen Ace’s fans.”

+ Range Media Partners has named Blaike Ford senior vice president of streaming and artist development. She’ll focus on spearheading DSP relationships for Range’s artist management roster, which includes Mariah Carey, Jack Harlow, Justin Tranter, Wale, PartyNextDoor, MAX, WondaGurl, Midland, D Smoke, Sean Douglas and Nova Wav, among others. She arrives from an eight-year run at Spotify, where her efforts in marketing and editorial strategy yielded such features as Spotify Clips, Promo Cards, Playlist Pitch Tool, Enhanced Playlists and the Spotify Singles program.

Founded in late 2020, the Range music division includes managing partners Matt Graham, Jack Minihan, Tyler Henry, Melissa Ruderman, Chris Thomas and Evan Winiker, as well as partners Michele Harrison, Greg Johnson and Rachel Douglas.

+ Rosanne Cash will join NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development as the 2021-22 NYU/Americana Artist-in-Residence, the first artist residency developed in partnership with the Americana Music Association Foundation. Cash will present, curate, and moderate lectures, discussions, workshops, performances, and classroom visits throughout the academic year, including a lyric workshop. Said the four-time Grammy-winner: “In light of my long-standing connections to both New York University and the Americana Music Association, I’m honored to launch this exciting project. This is a golden opportunity to work with NYU students and to explore and spread the word about the roots music that informs so much of what I do and who I am.”

“Rosanne Cash has defined the role of the artist in the Americana community,” added Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association Foundation. “She is a brilliant songwriter and performer, as well as a righteous advocate for the arts, who uses her position as a cultural leader to speak truth-to-power and make the world a better place.”

“With her multifaceted career and unique impact on America’s musical culture, Rosanne embodies the spirit and ethos of the Steinhardt School: one that embraces innovation, collaboration and the powerful role of the arts in shaping culture and reflecting the human condition,” commented Jack H. Knott, Dean, Gale and Ira Drukier Chair of NYU Steinhardt.

Monday, Oct. 4

+ ASCAP will become the first U.S. PRO to offer telemedicine services to its 825,000-strong membership of songwriters and composers. In conjunction with Doc On The Go, the offering launches later in October, which happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month. ASCAP members will be able to access medical consultations (provided by Teladoc, a leading telehealth service provider).

The cost for a long-term plan for ASCAP music creators can be less than $10 per month, according to an announcement which notes that ASCAP is prioritizing “a holistic approach to members’ all-around health.” It’s needed, as a recent survey undertaken by the PRO proves. Conducted in April/May 2021, nearly 40% of music creators say they feel worse about their physical health compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Said Nicholas Lehman, ASCAP chief strategy and digital officer: “Our program with Doc On The Go is meeting a critical need. Members have told us how important their physical health is in order to practice their craft and reach their full creative potential. As we navigate the global pandemic, ASCAP is here with resources that can help our community be productive and thrive, so they can keep on creating the music that the world loves.”