Music Industry Moves: Live Nation CFO Kathy Willard to Retire; Range Media Partners Adds Music Execs

Kathy Willard Live Nation
Courtesy Live Nation

Longtime Live Nation CFO Kathy Willard is retiring effective June 30, CEO Michael Rapino announced during the company’s earnings call on Thursday. The company is planning for Joe Berchtold, who currently serves as Live Nation’s president, to assume the role of president and CFO. Willard, who has been with the company for 25 years, will consult on the transition and remain with the company as an advisor to the management team. Live Nation is the world’s largest live-entertainment company.

“Kathy has been here since day one of Live Nation, and on behalf of the entire team, I want to thank her for her remarkable dedication and enormous contributions to our company,” said Rapino. “Kathy’s leadership, vision and financial expertise have driven more than two decades of growth and will forever be part of Live Nation’s journey.

“Joe has always been intricately involved in our financial planning process and we’re happy to have someone who already knows our business so well stepping into this role,” he added. “Over the past year we’ve been obsessed with improving our business however we can and we’re heading into the return of shows as we have deepened our executive team to provide more leadership on strategy, operations, and innovation than ever before. This will allow Joe to take on our CFO role and together, we will continue to focus on maintaining a strong financial position while ensuring that Live Nation is ready to resume live shows as soon as possible.”

Willard said, “It has been an honor to have worked for this innovative and exciting company for so many years. I am truly grateful to my Live Nation colleagues for their partnership, knowledge and friendship. I am proud of the work we have done to position the company for future financial success, and as we return to live shows, I know Joe will do an excellent job leading the company’s finances during one of the most important times in the company’s history.” 

Willard oversaw ten consecutive record years of growth at Live Nation Entertainment from 2010 to 2019. She was appointed CFO in September 2007 following nine years at the company in various roles including Executive Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer. Berchtold has served as President of Live Nation since 2017 after joining the company in 2011.

+ Range Media Partners, a management company founded in September of last year that represents such clients as Tom Hardy, Anna Kendrick and Michael Fassbender, is in the process of announcing hires for a music division to work in tandem with its film and TV departments.

Among the first of the music execs to come aboard is Cameron Lutz, who’ll serve as SVP of strategic marketing and content innovation, coming in after five years as a strategic partner and manager at Facebook and Instagram.

Leah Bublis has joined as VP of sync and soundtrack, coming over from positions at Roc Nation, where she was their first-ever sync employee, and Artist Partner Group. Most recently she’d been part of the in-house music supervision team at ViacomCBS.

Also joining after a stint at Roc Nation — where she’d worked with current Range Music Managing Partner Melissa Ruderman — is Tania Cruz, who’s been appointed as project manager. Cruz has also worked at Dick Clark, UMPG and CAA.

+ Beggars Group has announced a partnership in Colourbox Music, a new music supervision, licensing and composition company founded by Ben Turner and Simon Astall, two of the partners behind the music supervision company Earworm Music.

Colourbox Music will be based in London and Los Angeles, specializing in music for Film, TV, Advertising and Gaming. It will launch a joint publishing venture focused around writers in bespoke composition and scoring; and will work closely with the Beggars Group (4AD, Matador, Rough Trade, XL Recordings and Young), its licensing teams and the Beggars Music publishing arm to provide new opportunities in composing to their artists, writers and composers. Turner and Astall have worked with such directors as Andrea Arnold, Baz Luhrmann, Danny Boyle and David Lynch, and have supervised film & TV projects for A24 Films (“American Honey”), HBO (“Big Little Lies,” “S2,” and “Run”), Netflix (“White Lines”), and FX (“Trust”).

Beggars Group CEO Paul Redding said: “As our artists and songwriters have become increasingly involved in projects across film, television, advertising and video games, music supervision has been something we have been exploring for a while now. When Ben and Simon approached us to develop a new company that was much more than a traditional supervision company, it was an easy decision.”

+ Motown chairman & CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam, LVRN cofounder Tunde Balogun and Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Opal Tometi are among the honorees at Africon, a three-day virtual event hosted by Amplify Africa and the Africa Channel taking place May 21-23. According to the announcement, the event “will showcase the excellence, culture, talent and innovation from the continent and within the diaspora”; Amplify Africa is a U.S.-based entertainment and media company. whose mission is to amplify Africa and the African Diaspora through global community, storytelling, and digital innovation.

Other honorees include: Benny Bonsu (Director, Daily Content Olympic Channel); Claude Kameni (Founder, LavieCK); Crystal Evuleocha (Founder and CEO, Kiira Health; Eche Emole (CEO, Afropolitan Group; Everette Taylor (Chief Marketing Officer, Artsy), Fisayo Longe (Founder, Kai Collective), Henri Pierre-Jacque (Managing Partner, Harlem Capital);  Jessica Nabongo (Founder, This is the Catch); Kudzi Chikumbu (Director, Creator Community at Tik Tok); Massah David and Miatta Johnson (Director and Founders,  MVD Inc); Sharon Chuter (Founder and CEO, Uoma Beauty);  and Yodit Tewolde (Attorney).

Wednesday, May 5

Hipgnosis Songs has acquired yet another catalog, this one from Andrew Watt, who recently was named 2021 Grammy Producer of the Year for his work with Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa, Post Malone and Ozzy Osbourne. Watt has co-written such massive hits as “Señorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, “Havana” by Camila Cabello, “Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake featuring Justin Bieber, “Eastside” by Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid, “Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer and many more. Watt (pictured above, left, with Mercuriades) was represented by manager Scooter Braun (pictured above, across the pool) and attorney Doug Mark. Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis said, “It is amazing to be welcoming Watt to the Hipgnosis family. He is arguably the most important writer and producer in the world today and I don’t use those words lightly. Watt and Scooter are an incredibly important part of our future.”

Watt said, “Joining the Hipgnosis family was a no brainer for me. Merck is one of the most passionate people about music I have ever met…every conversation we have ever had starts with 30 minutes on The Ramones or The Clash…and then we meet at the record store to dig through the crates and talk shop…he is in the process of changing the game for songwriters. He leads his company by putting the creators first.”

Braun added, “Andrew is one of the most groundbreaking producers and songwriters of our time, and I’ve had the honor to have a front row seat to so many of his record-breaking achievements in the industry. His talent and creative process is unparalleled and we look forward to what the future holds in this new partnership with Merck.”

Hipgnosis, of course, has been on a catalog-acquisition binge that is unparalleled in music industry history and has driven up the price of song catalogs exponentially. In just two weeks early this year it acquired half of Neil Young’s catalog, as well as those of Fleetwood Mac veteran Lindsey Buckingham, producer/executive Jimmy Iovine amd Shakira. In just under three years, Hipgnosis has acquired catalogs by such hitmakers as Timbaland, Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde, Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, Blondie, Barry Manilow, Jeff Bhasker and many more.

Primary Wave Music has acquired the music publishing catalog of veteran songwriters-producers Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers, as well as a share of the duo’s master royalty income stream on the first seven albums by Rihanna, whose early career the pair played a huge role in developing. The multi-million-dollar deal encompasses master income for Rihanna’s biggest hits including “We Found Love,” “Umbrella,” “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Disturbia,” “Stay,” “Rude Boy,” and “What’s My Name,” as well as the duo’s share of publishing on “Shut Up and Drive”, as well as her debut single, “Pon De Replay,” which was included on the demo tape that led to her contract with Def Jam. Other hits in the deal include Kelly Clarkson’s “The Trouble With Love Is,” ‘Nsync’s “(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You,” 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Teeth” and more.

“We feel that Primary Wave will be fantastic caretakers of our catalog and will keep our songs alive for generations to come,” the pair said. “Sturken and Rogers career spans decades of creating top hits and when they discovered and signed Rihanna in 2005 it solidified their place in pop music history as she has proven be one of the world’s biggest stars,” says Justin Shukat, President at Primary Wave Music.

Warner Chappell Music has named Michael LoBiondo head of business development. According to the announcement, he will identify and execute strategic acquisitions and partnerships for the publisher’s frontline songwriters and iconic repertoire of songs. Based in Los Angeles, he will report to Guy Moot, Co-Chair and CEO, and David Woirhaye, EVP and Global CFO.

Moot, along with Warner Chappell Music Co-Chair and COO, Carianne Marshall, said: “Michael brings with him a wealth of experience in music and business development from both the recorded and publishing sides of the business. With music becoming increasingly more global, his wide-ranging expertise will be instrumental in helping us execute big picture deals such as catalog acquisitions and partnerships with emerging technology companies.”

LoBiondo most recently worked at the artist-development and marketing company Mtheory, and previously held posts at Warner Records and Warner Music Group. He began his career in New York as an analyst at Goldman Sachs and went on to serve as Associate Director of Finance for the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation.

Venice Distribution, Troy Carter and Suzy Ryoo’s music and technology platform, has named Sophia Bacuros VP of Digital Marketing and Deryck Vanderbilt-Nicholson Head of US Audience and Culture; the are based in Los Angeles and New York, respectively. Bacuros, who previously held marketing posts at HitCo Entertainment and Warner Records, while Vanderbilt-Nicholson joins from Island Records/4th&B’way.

“Sophia and Deryck bring a combination of skill and taste that independent artists and labels appreciate. They have impeccable track records for breaking artists in innovative ways and will be welcome additions to the Venice team,” Carter said.

+ SoundExchange, the digital royalty-collection service for sound recordings and music publishing, has named Linda Bloss-Baum as Vice President, Government Relations and Public Affairs. According to the announcement, in this new role, Bloss-Baum will head up a revamped public affairs department driving a strategy centered on industry-shaping advocacy efforts in favor of the fair treatment of music creators in the digital age. Bloss-Baum will report to Esther-Mireya Tejeda, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, SoundExchange.

“We are at a critical juncture of transformation that will challenge the ways in which the music industry is organized and the policies we need to ensure its long-term health,” said Tejeda. “Linda’s expertise and background spanning the creator community, Capitol Hill and other policymakers is a perfect fit as SoundExchange seeks to address the industry’s challenges.”

Prior to her appointment, Bloss-Baum spent eight years serving as a liaison between SoundExchange and artists and industry leaders, most recently in the role of Senior Director, Artist and Industry Relations.

“The next five years will reshape the music industry, from where and how music is created and distributed, to the systems that make the business side easier, to how we create a just and equitable ecosystem that reflects the value of artists, labels, and other creators,” said Bloss- Baum. “With a member community of over 245,000, SoundExchange is the only organization that respects the totality of the industry, giving us an important responsibility at the intersection of the technology and music ecosystems. ”

Bloss-Baum previously worked as a consultant and ran the Warner Music Group office in Washington, D.C. and served as Vice President, Public Policy/Government Relations at Universal Music Group/NBC Universal and Time Warner, Inc.

Tuesday, May 4

Solomon Sounds, ne Solomon Sobande, the former manager of the late rapper and songwriter XXXTentacion, has joined Capitol Records as senior vice president of A&R, reporting to Capitol Music Group (CMG) chairman and CEO Jeff Vaughn. Sounds is tasked with signing and develop artists for the company’s flagship label. He’ll be based out of New York.

Sounds has spent the last decade representing artists, most notably the controversial and influential XXXTentacion who was killed in 2018. XXX has sold 61 million albums and singles in the United States, per the RIAA. Since the artist’s death at 20 years old, Sounds has supervised the release of two posthumous albums: 2018’s “Skins” and 2019’s “Bad Vibes Forever.”

Speaking to Variety in 2018, Sounds recalled advice he was given soon after XXX’s death: “Somebody was, like, ‘Yo, pay attention to the Tupac estate and watch what they did,’” he said. “And I learned that’s it’s about not doing everything at once, but being able to spread things out. It’s about balancing and patience.”

Additional Sounds management clients include StaySolidRocky.

Said Vaughn: “Solomon’s proven instinct for identifying impactful artists and his ability to nurture their creativity aligns perfectly with our mission at Capitol. His successes to date reflect our shared commitment to artists from all corners of the pop music landscape, which is more dynamic and diverse than ever.”

“I’m truly excited to build upon the rich history of Capitol Records, and help usher in a new era filled with artists who are pushing the boundaries of creativity and new ways of accomplishing their dreams and goal,” added Sounds. “Jeff Vaughn is assembling a powerhouse team, and I’m grateful to him for believing in my talents and trusting me to help the label grow in the years to come.”

+ Sandbox Entertainment has announced Sandbox Succession, the company’s newly formed division providing estate management services in all areas focusing on name and likeness. The division will be led by Josh Matas, who joined the company in 2015. Matas, working with Sandbox Entertainment President/CEO Jason Owen, plans to cultivate a business that works across artist management, legacy preservation and development of creative artistic opportunities.

Succession counts the estates of Johnny Cash, June Carter and the Carter Family, as well as NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty, the most decorated driver in the history of NASCAR, as clients.

“I’m thrilled to announce the creation of Sandbox Succession which is a natural extension of the artist-first mentality that drives all of our businesses,” says Owen. “It’s an honor and a privilege to work with the Estates of these icons. We look forward to preserving and furthering their enduring legacies.”

“Jason and I both come from branding backgrounds, and I got a unique opportunity early on in my time at Sandbox to work with Johnny Cash’s estate.” Matas adds. “The depth of this work emphasized the importance of managing these critical brands.”

+ The Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) is partnering with the Recording Academy on a series of upcoming webinars with the Academy’s Chapters and its new Songwriters & Composers Wing aimed at educating the creative membership of each chapter on The MLC’s work.

Each of the webinars will be locally tailored and hosted by representatives of The MLC, who will brief participants on the history behind mechanical licensing, why The MLC was created, how the organization fulfills its mission, the benefits of MLC Membership and more, with ample time for questions and answers. A songwriter from each Academy Chapter will also be involved in each session to provide webinar participants with the unique perspective of the types of creators The MLC serves and take additional questions.

“We are thrilled to work with the Academy on this webinar series, which builds on our ongoing efforts to reach as many potential MLC Members as possible, provide them with the information they need to join our organization and help position themselves to receive the digital audio mechanical royalties they have earned and deserve,” noted Kris Ahrend, CEO of The MLC.

“Academy members were so active in passage of the Music Modernization Act, they should now benefit from The MLC that the Act created. We’re pleased to partner with The MLC to reach our membership of creators far and wide and ultimately get royalties into their hands,” said Daryl P. Friedman, Chief Advocacy Officer of the Recording Academy.

Academy Chapter members will receive an invitation with a registration link in advance of the date of their respective webinar. The full schedule for the series is as follows*:

Nashville Chapter
May 17, 2 p.m. CT

Chicago Chapter
May 25, 11:30 a.m. CT

San Francisco Chapter
May 25, 5:30 p.m. PT

Philadelphia Chapter
May 26, 4 p.m. ET

New York Chapter
June 8, 12:30 p.m. ET

Pacific Northwest Chapter
June 15, 3 p.m. PT

Texas Chapter
June 16, 3:30 p.m. CT

Los Angeles Chapter
June 16, TIME TBD

Florida Chapter
June 23, 12:30 p.m. ET

Atlanta Chapter
July 29, 2 p.m. ET

*An additional webinar is tentatively planned with the Washington, D.C. Chapter, the date and time for which will be announced once they are confirmed.