Music Industry Moves: PARTYNEXTDOOR Collabs With Black Music Action Coalition; EMPIRE Opens West Asia-North Africa Division

Daniel Prakopcyk

Friday, Feb. 19

OVO Artist and producer PARTYNEXTDOOR (pictured above) has aligned with Vans and Levi’s to support the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC). The collaboration will feature Vans shoes painted by 15 emerging Black artists and signed by PARTYNEXTDOOR in a partnership with the NTWRK app. Net proceeds from sale of the auctioned items will benefit BMAC initiatives, which include funds for COVID-relief, emerging artists, executive training and mentorship programs, and mental and physical health services.

In other music industry news…

Thursday, Feb. 18

+ Independent label, distributor and publisher EMPIRE has opened a division in the US to help grow the local scene in West Asia and North Africa and its diaspora. To head up the territory, EMPIRE has hired Suhel Nafar (pictured below) as Vice President of Strategy & Market Development. Nafar will be based in San Francisco at EMPIRE’s headquarters and joins the global team as the label continues its overseas expansion. Most recently, Nafar worked at Spotify as the Global Lead of Arab Music & Culture helping to build and launch in West Asia and North Africa, including an initiative of international curation for the largest cultures in the world. Nafar also built Spotify’s Arab Culture Hub and its international programming strategy.

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+ The Recording Academy announced the hire of Ray Starck to Vice President of Digital Strategy. In his role, Starck will lead the Editorial, Digital Media Production and the Product teams and will be responsible for content strategy and website management. Starck will report directly to Chief Operating Officer, Branden Chapman, focusing heavily on web content and consumer interaction. “We’re in the midst of an incredibly transformative time at the Academy and the addition of Ray will keep us nimble as we move into a new era,” Chapman said.

Wednesday, Feb. 17

+ Warner Chappell Music announced a publishing partnership with label Love Renaissance (LVRN). Founded by Tunde Balogun and Justice Baiden in 2012 (along with Carlon Ramong, Junia Abaidoo and Sean McNichol), LVRN’s roster includes Atlanta newcomer BRS Kash, whose “Throat Baby (Go Baby)” is currently No. 1 on Urban radio, Cruel Santino (fka Santi), GMK and Genio Bambino, in addition to 6lack, Shelley (fka DRAM), ​OMB Bloodbath, Eli Derby, and Young Rog, among others. Warner Chappell also extended its deal with LVRN artist and songwriter Summer Walker.

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Pictured (from left): McNichol, LVRN head of marketing and brand partnership; Balogun, LVRN president; Ryan Press, president of U.S. A&R, WCM; Summer Walker; Wallace Joseph, senior director of A&R, WCM; Baiden, LVRN head of A&R)

+ Royalty Exchange has launched an expansion of its online marketplace. Called The eXchange, it allows the 27,000-plus registered investors to access the Secondary Market, where investors relist catalogs acquired on Royalty Exchange to investors, and a feature called Direct Listings, where rightsholders can publicly list their catalogs at a price they set rather than holding an auction.

Tuesday, Feb. 16

Spotify announced that Mona Sutphen (pictured below) will join its board of directors in April, subject to shareholder approval.

Sutphen is a private equity advisor and a co-founder/advisor for several technology start-ups, and was a senior White House official during the Obama Administration. She is currently a Senior Advisor at The Vistria Group, a Chicago-based private equity firm, and is a venture advisor and co-founder of several technology start-ups. From 2009 to 2011, she served as White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy for President Barack Obama, advancing the administration’s policy and regulatory agenda including on technology policy, and served on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board from 2013-2016.

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“Mona has built a career in both the private and public sectors advising leaders on international and U.S. domestic policy, technology, macroeconomics and trade, and human rights…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Daniel Ek, Spotify Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board. “Mona will bring a new and highly valuable perspective to the Board as we focus on driving our strategy forward during this time of exceptional change around the world.”

“I’m very much looking forward to joining the Spotify Board of Directors,” said Ms. Sutphen. “Spotify has been a revolutionary force and impressive innovator in the audio industry, transforming the content landscape globally. I’m excited to be a part of its continued evolution and expansion.”

+ Charlie Adler has joined the new company Brooklyn Made as head of booking for the company. A native of the east coast, Adler returns to New York after beginning his career with Bowery Presents back in 2012. After a six-year stint there he joined Live Nation on the west coast in 2018.

+ Various Artists Management, whose roster of clients include Ashnikko, Tom Grennan, Supergrass, Loyle Carner & La Roux among others, has promoted Rebecca Dixon to head of marketing and promotions. Dixon has been with the company for five years and has helped oversee artist careers for such clients as Charli XCX and The Libertines. She reports directly to CEO David Bianchi and will work between the company’s London and Los Angeles offices once travel restrictions are lifted.

+ Jason Mraz, via his Foundation, has committed to funding 25 grants of $2,000 each to non-profits within the US that align themselves with the organization’s mission: “To shine for inclusive arts education and the advancement of equality.” Prospective grant recipients can apply through March 31 at the Foundation’s website.

+ Jimmy Harney has been named head of PR at Better Noise Music, home to Escape the Fate, Papa Roach, All Good Things, Awolnation, Hyro The Hero, Cory Marks, Tommy Lee and Mötley Crüe. He arrives from Sunshine Sachs, where he worked as part of the PR team for Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Nickelback and Justin Timberlake, among others.