Abou “Bu” Thiam has been appointed executive vice president at Columbia Records. Reporting into chairman and CEO Ron Perry, Bu’s position will straddle A&R and strategic initiatives across all genres for the label that’s home to Lil Nas X, Harry Styles, Adele, the Kid Laroi and many others.
Thiam has been working closely with Perry and Columbia via a joint venture, Buvision, where he signed the artists KayCyy and Rican. “We all know breaking a new artist is very difficult, and to see the Columbia team be so committed in the early stages of KayCyy’s career — from marketing, strategic branding, his EP rollout etc. — was very impressive,” says Thiam. “Columbia’s culture is breaking New artists — like Fivio, Lil Nas X, Polo G, the Kid Laroi — and Ron is a true music man at heart, you don’t see that type of artist development anymore.”
Thiam is also known for managing Kanye West, with whom he will continue to work — “Always, that’s my brother,” says Thiam. His real-life brother is the singer Akon. When Akon was negotiating his first label deal, he insisted his younger sibling come on board as his A&R. As Akon became a multiplatinum R&B star, Thiam began branching out, playing a role in the early careers of Lady Gaga, Jeremih and T-Pain.
At 28, he was hired as vice president of A&R at Def Jam — the youngest person ever to hold that position — and from there he was introduced to West, when the label’s then CEO, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, brought him along to West’s Hawaii studio as he was recording “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
“It was a great experience; I was able to learn from one of the greatest music minds, L.A. Reid,” says Thiam, whose relationship with West continues through the Grammy Award-winning “DONDA” album. “L.A. threw me in the fire early on in my career by allowing me to A&R breakout albums such as Rihanna’s ‘Loud/Talk That Talk’ and Jay and Ye’s ‘Watch The Throne’ album. I oversaw multi-million-dollar recording budgets, marketing campaigns, and liaised with label personnel, producers and songwriters alike, to help ensure their success while mentoring a young cast of aspiring executives in the process.”
“I didn’t see myself inside a major label again,” Thiam continues. “But after working so closely with Ron and the Columbia team over the last few months, it was an opportunity I wanted to take on. Ron is one of the best leaders in the industry, we share a similar perspective on music and the business. … Columbia is forward-thinking and believes in the future of music. I am excited to join a winning and dedicated team to expand the company’s vision and introduce the world to tomorrow’s stars. I am looking forward to making an impactful contribution for years to come and I thank [Sony Music Group chairman] Rob Stringer and Ron Perry for giving my vision a home, at Columbia.”
Adds Perry: “Bu’s incredible musical instincts distinguish him as a great executive. His experience and success with some of the greatest artists of recent times make him a truly valuable addition to the Columbia team.”