A year after the acquisition was completed, Sony Music’s $430 million deal to acquire AWAL and its neighboring rights business from Kobalt has been “provisionally” cleared by the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority. Among other concerns, the authority had questioned to the transition of AWAL from the independent (Kobalt) to the major-label sector (Sony), as well as Sony’s existing label-services division, the Orchard, and what it all might mean for competition in the U.K. music market.

However, it concluded that “Provisionally…the deal does not substantially reduce competition in the U.K.”; that “over recent years, SME has improved the terms it has offered to its artists in terms of improved average royalty rates”; that “AWAL is still a relatively small player when it comes to signing artists who require higher levels of support and investment”; and “despite trying to expand its offering, AWAL was expected to continue to compete with Sony only on a limited basis.”

In a statement, Sony “welcomes the CMA’s provisional determination that its acquisition of AWAL raises no competition concerns and, in doing so, its recognition of the competitive and dynamic nature of the UK music market. Our investment in AWAL will deliver real benefits for artists and consumers, amidst intense competition at every level of the music industry. We look forward to continuing to work with the CMA throughout the final stages of their review.”

However, Paul Pacifico, CEO of the U.K.’s Association of Independent Music, said: “Whilst the CMA has ruled that AWAL’s acquisition is not enough to substantially reduce competition by itself, it is part of a pattern that threatens to gradually erode competition and diversity in U.K. music if independent entrepreneurs continue without much-needed access to capital. Sony arguing that even a hugely successful independent like AWAL would have struggled to maintain its position alone highlights the sector’s need for better support to scale-up. Without pathways for growth for independent entrepreneurs, we can expect to see a gradual erosion of competition across the sector, damaging innovation, diversity and leading to less favorable conditions for artists.”

+ 10K Projects has named Homemade Projects founders Zach Friedman and Tony Talamo co-presidents of the label, which has released music by Trippie Redd, Internet Money, Iann Dior, Tekashi 6ix9ine and others.  Friedman and Talamo will oversee the day-to-day operations of the label, including A&R, marketing, publicity and creative, and will report directly to founder Elliot Grainge; under the terms of the deal Grainge has acquired the Homemade Projects label. The deal also includes an investment by Grainge into Homemade Projects’ other verticals, including its influencer/talent management agency, merchandise operation and its digital marketing agency. Homemade Projects’ roster includes Coin, Salem Ilese, WizTheMc and Peach Tree Rascals; 10K Projects is distributed via Universal Music Group’s independent distribution division, Virgin Music.

“Zach and Tony have built Homemade Projects into an independent powerhouse in an incredibly short period of time,” said Grainge. “In just two years they have an impressive track record of identifying and nurturing talent and they’ve played a major role in our successes at 10K via their digital marketing expertise. Having them run the day-to-day operations of 10K is something that will help us continue to grow the label without breaking stride.”

+ Quality Control Music has named Brandra Ringo and Wayno Clark executive VP of A&R and VP of A&R, respectively. Ringo previous held posts at Def Jam and Motown Records as well as Warner Chappell and Universal Music publishing. In the latter role, she worked for seven years under Ethiopia Habtemariam, CEO of Motown, which distributed QC. Clark got his start interning for Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records and later worked as an assistant in the A&R department; he later founded Triangle Offense management, working with Dave East, and later held roles at Warner Music’s Asylum Records before joining QC. He also works with Habtemariam at Motown, where he holds the title of senior director of A&R.

+ Sony Music Publishing has named Roberto Razzini managing director, Italy, effective March 1. He will work closely with GM Roberto Curti and will report to Sony’s president of international, Guy Henderson. He was previously with Warner Chappell Music Italiana for more than 30 years, most recently CEO, a position he held since 2002.

Henderson said, “It is such a pleasure to welcome Roberto to Sony Music Publishing. Roberto is a natural leader and brings his wealth of experience to our company, both in managing publishing companies and by playing a major role in the Italian music industry over many years.”

Monday, Feb 7. 

After seeing her song “Fingers Crossed” become a TikTok smash, Vancouver Island singer/songwriter Lauren Spencer-Smith has partnered with Universal Music Group’s Island Records and Republic Records. According to the announcement, “The innovative partnership, structured with manager and business partner David Ehrlich (pictured above, right, with UMG chief Lucian Grainge, left, and Spencer-Smith), allows Lauren Spencer-Smith to keep her independent spirit via her own imprint while tapping into premium services from both labels.”

After breaking through on TikTok, “Fingers Crossed” garnered over 100 million streams hitting the Top 50 on Spotify in 23 countries and peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100. She is currently in the studio working on her debut project.

+ Julie Swidler, Sony Music Entertainment‘s EVP of business affairs and general counsel, will receive the Presidential Award at the 2022 Music Biz Conference, to be held May 9 to 12 in Nashville. She’ll be recognized at the inaugural Bizzy Awards, scheduled for May 11 at the JW Marriott.

At Sony, Swidler advises the company’s labels and operating units on all legal matters as well as public policy initiatives. She’s also heavily involved in negotiating strategic partnerships, artist contracts, litigation, transactions and joint ventures. In 2016, she was the first woman to be awarded the Grammy Foundation’s ELI (Entertainment Law Initiative) Service Award.

+ Universal Music Publishing has signed veteran British electronic artist-producer Kieran Hebden — a.k.a. Four Tet — to an exclusive global publishing agreement. He has released 11 studio albums over his two-decade career and is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential artists of recent history.

UMPG director of A&R Pete Simmons, apparently overestimating the global familiarity of the term “GCSE revision,” said, “Four Tet has soundtracked my life from GCSE revision to dancefloors at university and now I get the pleasure to work with him. I’m honored to represent a catalog that means so much to not just me but the whole of UMPG. Special thanks to Amy Samson for making the initial introduction.”

+ Independent music company the Saban Music Group has officially launched Saban Music Latin, naming Alejandro Reglero as executive VP and general manager of the division. According to the announcement, Reglero will spearhead A&R, marketing, and operations for the Latin division in the newly created role. Reglero spent the past decade at Sony Music U.S. Latin, most recently as VP of A&R, working with Enrique Iglesias, Mau & Ricky, Camilo, Jennifer Lopez,  Prince Royce, Becky G,  Rauw Alejandro, Gloria Estefan and others.

+ Warner Chappell Music publishing has expanded Rich Christina’s role to senior VP of A&R and venture partners. According to the announcement, “This new focus provides added structure, organization, purpose and strategy for the department’s growing repertoire of venture partners and their songwriters.”

Christina’s oversight will include the recently announced venture with Tim & Danny Music (Sam Smith), along with several deals that he orchestrated, including Mykah Music, Song Battle, Therapy and Bad Habit. Through these partnerships, Christina has signed deals with Nate Rhoads (Mykah Music); Dylan Brady of 100 Gecs (Song Battle); and Ralph Castelli (Therapy). He also has inked deals with Grimes, Masked Wolf and Stephen Kirk (co-writer of BTS’ smash “Butter”). He began his career in 1991 at Atlantic Records before moving into publishing at Sony/ATV in 2004, where over the years he worked with Lady Gaga cowriter RedOne, Alessia Cara, Stargate, Charlie XCX and others. He joined Warner Chappell in 2019 and has signed Jenna Andrews, X Ambassadors, Cashmere Cat and others.

Ryan Press, WC’s president, North America, said: “Rich is an expert dealmaker with creative instincts who has had an illustrious career, and this new role sets him up to better connect our writers with our venture partners’ rosters through songwriting camps, strategic sessions and more. This position will focus on helping our partners grow, and with Rich’s deep understanding of songwriters at all levels of their careers, he’s the perfect person for the job.”

+ Columbia Records has named Stefan Max senior VP of A&R, the label’s chairman and CEO Ron Perry has announced. He is based in Los Angeles and starts at the company on February 8. Previously, Max was a senior VP of A&R at Warner Music Group, where he signed and worked closely with Bella Poarch, Sub Urban, Vance Joy, Zach Bryan, Young the Giant, Icona Pop and others; he has also produced tracks for Bella Poarch and Vance Joy.

+ Stem, the distribution and payments platform for independent musicians and labels, has expanded its artist & label strategy team. Seth Faber, who joined in 2020 as head of East Coast, will expand his responsibilities as VP of artist & label strategy, where he will work to expand Stem’s artist development services. The company also named Vivian Yohannes as director of artist & label strategy, hip-hop and R&B; promoted Kylie Everitt to artist & label strategy manager and Natalie Sellers continues to lead the editorial and playlisting efforts as manager, artist & label commerce and partnerships

Yohannes began her career at Motown Records, moved over to Epic as manager of A&R and most recently was GM of the indie Hardpink Records; Sellers and Everitt both joined Stem in 2018.

+ BMG has named Allegra Willis Knerr to lead its global synch licensing team. Previously serving as Los Angeles-based SVP of synch licensing, she will now be responsible for overseeing and supporting BMG’s global synch licensing business, driving and optimizing the workflows and output of the synch licensing team in BMG’s territories around the world. She will report directly to BMG EVP Dominique Casimir and continue to work alongside SVP Jonathan Palmer.

+ UTA has named Irene Agbontaen director of artist brand strategy on the company’s Music Brand Partnerships (MBP) team, a newly created role. She will be based in London. Over her decade in the industry, Agbontaen has consulted with such brands as Apple, Nike and YouTube Music. Additionally, she is the founder of accessible style brand TTYA London.

“Throughout her career, Irene has always been at the center of culture, design, and fashion,” said Toni Wallace, co-head of global music brand partnerships. “She is a tastemaker and entrepreneur who has continuously helped leading brands redefine how they connect with younger audiences and talent in music and the arts.”

+ Steve Oberman has been named executive VP and head of music for See Tickets North America. The company is a ticketing partner for U.S. festivals including Pitchfork Music Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Afropunk, LA Pride Fest, Ubbi Dubbi and others. Before joining See, Oberman was with Irving Azoff’s Frontline Management group.