Music Industry Moves: Recording Academy Names Ryan Butler VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Def Jam Teams With Kendrick Lamar, Dave Free to Sign Tanna Leone

Ryan Butler Recording Academy
Courtesy Recording Academy

The Recording Academy has announced the appointment of Ryan Butler as vice president of diversity, equity & inclusion, effective immediately. He fills a role previously occupied by Valeisha Butterfield Jones, who was promoted to co-president last year, and to whom Butler will report.

Butler leads diversity, equity and inclusion internally and externally for the Recording Academy and its affiliates. He is responsible for enterprise-wide diversity and inclusion efforts and ensuring the Academy’s core value of diversity, equity and inclusion remains embedded throughout all aspects of the organization, including internal staff culture, Membership, Awards, Advocacy, and related programs. He also sets national and Chapter goals to accelerate outcomes for underrepresented communities and creators.

“We are so proud to have Ryan as our Vice President of DEI,” said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “His passion and leadership have been instrumental to the huge strides in diversity, equity and inclusion we’ve accomplished over the past two years and we’re excited to see how he’ll continue to enhance our commitment to the music community.”

Butler joined the Academy in 2019 as a key member of the advocacy and public policy team and later served as director then senior advisor of the diversity, equity & inclusion department. According to the announcement, within DEI, he’s led various efforts including the launch of the Academy’s first-ever Black Music Collective and the podcast of the same name, the Women in the Mix Study alongside Berklee College of Music and Arizona State University, and the implementation of an inclusion rider for the 64th annual Grammy Awards. Butler also was instrumental in launching a series of partnerships including Color of Change and GLAAD. During his tenure as senior advisor, Butler simultaneously served as the founding executive director of the Warner Music/Blavatnik Center for Music Business at Howard University.

He previously held roles at Scripps Howard School of Journalism & Communication at Hampton University, 3EE Consulting, Atlantic Records, the RIAA, Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman, LLP, and District of Columbia Superior Courts in Washington, D.C.

+ Def Jam has signed Tanna Leone, a Los Angeles-based artist on Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free’s pgLang imprint, and premiered the signing with two tracks, “With the Villains” and “Lucky.” Leone follows Baby Keem as the second artist to partner with pgLang, and joins Keem on the second leg of his “Melodic Blue” tour, beginning tonight (March 10) in Pittsburgh.

“We’re excited to welcome Tanna Leone and pgLang to the Def Jam family as valued partners,” said Def Jam chairman/CEO Tunji Balogun. “I’m lucky to have been able to connect with Kendrick and Dave during the early stages of my career as friends and collaborators, and I’m thrilled to be able to extend that relationship here at Def Jam. Tanna is a dynamic and multi-talented new voice and we’re honored to be a part of his development and success.”

“Tanna is a rare opportunity to disrupt. We’re excited to partner with my young n***a,” said Free.

+ Downtown Music Holdings has established a fund to invest over $200 million to support independent artists and entrepreneurial business owners. The fund, supported by a new credit facility with Bank of America, will be utilized across Downtown’s distribution, publishing administration and artist and label services operations.

The fund effectively allows Downtown to pay advances to its clients — artists, labels, distribution clients, publishing administration clients, etc.) without taking any rights. Over the past couple of years Downtown has refocused its business on services rather than publishing or rights-holding. It currently manages more than 23 million music assets on behalf of over 1 million artists and enterprise clients hailing from 145 countries from a catalog that spans 100 years of popular music.

“Downtown Music Holdings has built a company that is well positioned to serve the fast-growing independent sector of the music industry,” said Randy Hua, head of the Entertainment Industries Group at Bank of America. “Downtown’s new fund is a powerful resource, empowering music creators all over the world. Bank of America is pleased to help finance this innovative sector of the artistic economy.”

Downtown also appointed two new members to its board of directors: Alison Moore, CEO of Comic Relief USA, and Kelli Turner, CFO of Sun Capital Partners, to its Board of Directors. Moore previously held senior posts at Conde Nast, SoundCloud, NBC Universal and HBO. Turner was previously SESAC’s president and COO and held senior roles at RSL Management Corporation, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Time Warner and New Line Cinema.

“Alison and Kelli have been true leaders and trailblazers in their respective fields,” said Downtown Founder & Executive Chairman, Justin Kalifowitz. “Alison’s wealth of experience driving innovation in support of creativity and Kelli’s impressive financial and operational background make them both powerful new additions to our board.”

+ Warner Chappell Music has renewed its global publishing deal with songwriter Nicolle Galyon, in partnership with Influence Media and Songs & Daughters Publishing. Galyon has been with WCM for 15 years and her hits and credits include “I Quit Drinking” by Kelsea Ballerini and Lany, “Minimum Wage” by Blake Shelton, “Gone” by Dierks Bentley, “Half of My Hometown” by Kelsea Ballerini ft. Kenny Chesney, Camila Cabello’s “Consequences,” Maranda Lambert’s “Automatic,” Keith Urban’s “We Were Us” and Dan + Shay’s “Tequila.”

Warner Chappell also named Luca Gentili to the new role of vice president, operations & industry relations at Warner Chappell Music Italy. In this new role, Gentili will continue to be based in Milan and report directly to Santiago Menéndez-Pidal, WCM’s president of Southern Europe. Gentili joined Warner Chappell Music in 2008, serving as first administrative director and then finance director, covering the company’s operations in Italy and Greece.

+ Reservoir has struck a new deal with hit songwriter, Ali Tamposi, who has been represented by the company since 2017. Her many hits include credits on “Havana” by Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug, “Señorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello, “Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer, “It Ain’t Me” by Kygo with Selena Gomez, “Wolves” by Selena Gomez and Marshmello, “Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake and Justin Bieber and “Break My Heart” by Dua Lipa.

Sarah Jones has been promoted to general manager of concert discovery service Songkick. Based in the company’s London headquarter, Jones will report to Benjamin Blank, president of parent company Warner Music’s media business. She replaces Bill Ashton, who will be leaving the company at the end of the month after ten years at WMG. Prior to joining Songkick in 2018, she worked at the BBC for 14 years, where she headed up its global partnership strategy across its video and podcast portfolio.

+ The Beggars Group of Labels has announced several promotions: Brandon Becker is now global head of streaming, managing the department worldwide, directing strategy in collaboration with the labels and maintaining primary relationships with our global streaming partners. He is based in New York.
Matthew Gawryche joins as U.S. streaming director, after serving as global head of marketing strategy for FUGA. He is based in Los Angeles and will report to Becker.
Marissa Esposito has been promoted to U.S. junior streaming account manager, and in the U.K., Shaun Delaney assumes sole oversight of all U.K. streaming activity as senior streaming lead, while Molly McIntyre shifts from the U.K. radio department into the role of U.K junior streaming account manager.

+ iHeartRadio’s “Elvis Duran Show” marketing president Steven Levine will bring his experience as a media strategist to Bevel, a Los Angeles-based strategic communications firm in fintech, venture capital, consumer brands and technology. Bevel was founded in 2017 by CEO Jessica Schaefer and works with a client base that includes Public.com, Acorns, Torch Capital, and Titan — which have investors including the Chainsmokers, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith and Jared Leto.

Levine’s hire is part of Bevel’s launch of its first executive brand profiling division, led by partner Morgan Borer. Levine, who assisted in the syndication/market expansion of Elvis Duran and the Morning Show (from 40 to 80 markets), will source new clients in support of Bevel’s division launch.

+ Artist Growth, a collaboration platform for labels, artist managers, and creative teams, has hired Rob Weitzner as executive VP of revenue & growth. He previously held roles at eMusic, TVT Records, A2IM and IODA, and spent the last 13 years serving as head of business development, strategy & partnerships for the state51 Music Group’s digital supply chain company Consolidated Independent.