Music

Executive Turntable: Sphere Gets Creative; PushaRod Joins Hallwood; Wasserman Orchestrates Division

It’s time for another spindle around the Executive Turntable, Billboard’s comprehensive(ish) compendium of promotions, hirings, exits and firings — and all things in between — across music. 

Sphere Entertainment is placing the creative and brand strategy for its Las Vegas orb in the capable hands of Ned McNeilage, who joins the company as chief creative officer. A creative leader with 30-plus years of experience under his belt, McNeilage will oversee all things creative, including Sphere’s in-house creative design studio and brand teams, as well as the cool task of programming the digital canvas that is the venue’s LED exterior — or Exosphere. Since opening last year, the Exosphere has dazzled/boggled onlookers with fireworks displays, a gigantic eyeball, the moon, Earth and other planets, terrifyingly vivid basketballs, one of those metal climbing geo-domes you probably fell off of as a kid (pictured) and what looked like a ball of rubber bands, among other artist choices. Prior to joining Sphere Entertainment, McNeilage served as CCO at a number of companies, including VML and Swift, as well as BBH USA, the global agency where he worked with brands like Samsung, American Express and Activision. Earlier in his career McNeilage served as group creative director for TBWAMedia Arts Lab, where he worked on projects for Apple Music, and he also created award-winning work during an eight-year run as a creative director at CAA.

“I am pleased to welcome Ned to Sphere Entertainment,” said Jennifer Koester, president of Sphere Business Operations. “Sphere is redefining immersive experiences, including through the Exosphere, which is an unparalleled digital canvas for public art and brand storytelling. Ned has worked with premier brands to spearhead memorable campaigns, and he will bring that expertise to not only support our partners in creating impactful brand moments at Sphere, but also continue to build the Sphere brand.”

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Meanwhile …

Hallwood Media, a Los Angeles-based label and agency that represents songwriters and producers, hired Roderick “PushaRod” Bullock as vice president of A&R/Management. PushaRod’s pedigree includes an extremely productive seven and a half year run as A&R of urban music at Interscope Geffen A&M, where his roster included Rich The Kid, Moneybagg Yo, Kamaiyah, Ian Connor, Neechie, Arin Ray, Mitch and Co Cash. As vp, PushaRod will continue to build Hallwood’s roster of talent and work closely with the agency’s existing artists, producers and writers, including Soundwave, David Stewart, Beach Noise and Yung Dza, among others. Hallwood is the brainchild of former Geffen president Neil Jacobson, who noted he “had the chance to watch Pusha discover and develop some of the most important artists at Interscope for the years we worked together. He pushes the envelope, he’s fearless outgoing and has one of the best Rolodexes in the game (Gen Z-ers please look up Rolodex).”

DEAG founder and CEO Peter Schwenkow marked his 70th birthday this week with the announcement that he’ll hand over management of the German concert promoter to his co-CEO Detlef Kornett, starting April 1. “The captain is leaving the bridge, but not the ship,” said Schwenkow. “I will continue to be part of the journey as an advisor to the company and – together with my son Moritz – as a major private shareholder in DEAG, in order to make my contribution to the company’s continued growth in the interests of all shareholders.” Over the course of 46 years, Schwenkow has seen DEAG grow to 600 employees across seven European countries, with continuous annual sales of over 300 million euros, he said. “You can be proud of your life’s work,” said supervisory board chairman Wolf Gramatke, “and we are sure that with your continued support, we can look forward to an exciting and prosperous future.”

Jeremy Skaller, Co-President of 3AM Entertainment; Nat Pastor, Co-CEO of Virgin Music Group; Jay Sean, Jacqueline Saturn, President of North America and EVP of Global Artist Relations of Virgin Music Group; Jared Cotter, Co-President of 3AM Entertainment and Manager/VP of Music at Range Media Partners. Photo by Cory Grimes. High Resolution Photo HERE.
Jeremy Skaller, Nat Pastor, Jay Sean, Jacqueline Saturn and Jared Cotter

Wake up, it’s 3AM Entertainment — a new indie label founded by Jay Sean, Jeremy Skaller and Jared Cotter, in partnership with Virgin Music Group. The label’s first project is “Heartless,” a new single from Sean, featuring Ikky and out next week (April 5). “Today’s music business is truly global, and 3AM Entertainment will focus on supporting artists from the South Asian diaspora on their journey to becoming global stars,” explained Sean. Skaller, co-founder of The Heavy Group, and Cotter, a vp of A&R at Range Media Partners, will serve as co-presidents of 3AM. Additional early risers are Jay Sean’s longtime manager, Thara Natalie, who’s been named chief operations manager; Madison Bickel, general manager; and Mahima Sharma as A&R who will be based in New Delhi. Jay Sean’s co-manager Aayushman Sinha will consult on A&R and strategy out of Mumbai. “No single artist has done more to bring South Asian music and culture to a global audience than Jay Sean,” said Nat Pastor, Co-CEO of Virgin Music Group. “Jeremy and Jared have been with Jay on that journey, and together the three executives have a strong track record in supporting and nurturing South Asian artists in their native countries and beyond.”

Island Records promoted recent Women in Music honoree Natasha Kilibarda to vice president of marketing and creative strategy. The NYC-based executive reports up to Jay Schumer, evp and head of marketing and business development, and will stay the course on spearheading campaigns for the surging Sabrina Carpenter and Chappell Roan, along with Brittany Howard and other prized Island-ers. “Natasha is one of the most passionate and creative marketers in music, the relationships she has with her artists and managers speak for themselves.” said Schumer “Her promotion couldn’t be more deserved.” Prior to joining Island in early 2022, Kilibarda spent six years at Warner Music, rising to director of marketing and artist relations in an LA-based role. Earlier in her career, she held roles at ATM Artists and Talenthouse.

Wasserman Music has promoted nine staffers to agent and touring roles across departments, in addition to a new, first-of-its-kind orchestral division. Newly promoted Team Wass members across the agency’s expanding global business include Alex Christie (agent), Annie Cole (manager, touring), Anna Kathryn Groom (manager,  brand partnerships), Owen Hynes (manager, tour marketing), Kara Klein (manager, brand partnerships), Brittany Miller (director, festivals), Noah Plotnicki (agent), Lindsay Roblesi (agent)  and Holly Rowland (agent). The new Orchestral division will be led by vice president Emily Threlfall Yoon; the new division represents IP-driven symphonic properties like SQEX’s Final Fantasy VII REBIRTH World Orchestra Tour and more than three dozen titles produced by Disney Concerts, including Marvel Studios’ The Infinity Saga Concert Experience, as well as a diverse group of world-class conductors, orchestrators, and arrangers. The division will also partner with artists across Wasserman Music’s client roster, such as John Legend, Melissa Etheridge, Laufey, and Zedd, to conceive and produce new programming symphonic projects. –Jessica Nicholson

Splash, a generative AI startup based in Australia, appointed music tech veteran Tracy Chan as its new CEO. Chan’s new gig follows a nearly two-year stint at SoundCloud, where he quickly rose from senior vp to chief content officer. Chan, who is based in San Francisco, remains a strategic advisor to the audio platform. He was previously vp and head of music at Twitch and earlier in his career spent several years as a product director at Spotify. Backed by Khosla Ventures, King River, Alexa Fund and Mawson, among others, Splash creates “music for the digital generation, excelling in genres like hyperpop, EDM, Glitch, Phonk, Trap, Lo-Fi, Hiphop & others” and developed its own Roblox game, also called Splash. “Across my career, I’ve seen that the best way to help artists make a sustainable living is by engaging and co-creating with fans,” he said in a statement. “Bringing that strategy together with Splash’s talent, tech and audience is an unbelievably exciting opportunity.”

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Universal Music Publishing Group promoted Adriana Ramos to managing director of UMPG Brazil, immediately replacing longtime MD Marcelo Falcao in the role. Based in Rio de Janeiro, Ramos reports to Alexandra Lioutikoff, president of Latin America & US Latin for the publishing giant. A UMPGer since 2013, Ramos most recently served as head of creative (A&R and sync) and over the years has overseen licensing opportunities for UMPG’s writers across advertising, film, TV and games, including for Riot Games’ Valorant. Prior to joining UMPG, Ramos held positions at Brazillian indie label Deck, Warner Music and BMG, among others.“With tremendous vision and dedication, Adriana has been instrumental to the success of UMPG Brazil and her promotion is much-deserved,” glowed Lioutikoff, who also recognized outgoing MD Falcao for “solidifying our credibility in the market, building a great team of executive talent, and identifying, nurturing and supporting artists and songwriters” over the past three decades.

Primary Wave Music welcomed Julianne Wilson as senior director of creative sync, a role where she’ll use her experience in advertising and music supervision to maximize sync opportunities for Primary Wave artists and writers. The company also promoted Peter Kurczaba to the same title as Wilson and Derek Pierce to director of creative sync. The NYC-based Wilson joins PWM following roles at Walker and SixtyFour Music, and says she’s already been “doing some digital crate digging” for ways to champion the company’s artists. Kurczaba, who is based in Los Angeles, joined Primary Wave eight years ago as an intern and rose to a director role, working on covers, remixes and sync placements on shows like Welcome to Wrexham and Yellowjackets. Pierce, who moved from NYC to LA to join PWM in 2020, is responsible for syncs in Winning Time, Cocaine Bear and more. Al three report to Marty Silverstone, who oversees the department as president of global sync.

Regina Carter, a multi-Grammy nominated violinist and former MacArthur fellow, will join the faculty of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music later this year. Carter, who has taught at the New Jersey City University and the Manhattan School of Music, will be teaching courses in jazz history and performance, and urban musical culture. “I hope to inspire creative transformations within young musicians,” Carter said.

The NMPA SONGS Foundation, which supports up-and-coming writers, has a new board of directors. Songwriters include Justin Paul & Benj Pasek (Kobalt), Dan Wilson (UMPG), Lauren Christy (Reservoir), Allison Russell (Concord), Jordan Reynolds (Warner Chappell), Gaby Moreno (peermusic) and CAM (Sony Music Publishing). Industry director include Jon Platt (Sony Music Publishing), Carianne Marshall (Warner Chappell), Golnar Khosrowshahi (Reservoir), Kathy Spanberger (peermusic), Keith Hauprich (BMG), Jim Selby (Cocord), Alison Donald (Kobalt) and Jennifer Knoepfle (UMPG). Holdovers on the board in include Jewel Kilcher and NMPA execs David Israelite, Danielle Aguirre and Charlotte Sellmyer.

Avex USA Publishing hired Brennen Bryant as its new director of A&R. He’ll oversee Avex USA’s publishing division, including signings and implementing strategies across all deals and sessions. His first order of business was to help sign hip-hop/Jersey club producer DJ Smallz 732, following the success of co-creating “Everybody” by Nick Minaj and Lil Uzi Vert. “We are thrilled to welcome our new A&R Director to the Avex family to help us discover and develop the next generation of talented artists, writers and producers,” said Lou Al-Chamaa, Avex USA’s svp and head of A&R, publishing. “With his expertise and passion for music, we are confident that he will bring a fresh perspective to our A&R team.”

New Zealand-Australian singer Jordan Rakei is the first-ever “Artist In Residence” at the iconic Abbey Road Studios. Perks include full access to the entire building, including the same studios where The Beatles recorded, plus all the classic studio instruments and gear he can get his hands on. As AIR, Rakei will participate in Abbey Road-related outreach programs, including writing camps, mentoring sessions and he’ll help the studio test out potential audio equipment. “Jordan’s exceptional talent and unique approach to music embodies the spirit of innovation that Abbey Road Studios has always championed,” said Sally Davies, managing director. “I’m excited to see how this role unfolds, enhancing the creative legacy of Abbey Road Studios and setting new benchmarks for musical innovation and collaboration for years to come.”

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Transgressive Records welcomed esteemed artist manager Moriah Berger for the hybrid role of A&R and marketing manager for North America. In the role, out of Transgressive’s New York office, Berger will work with roster artists on the end-to-end process of making and marketing albums and other creative projects. During her career in management, which has included stretches at Paradigm, Mick Management and Other Operation, Berger has worked with Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, MUNA and Of Monsters & Men, among others. “From the first moment we met Moriah, we knew our tastes, values and approach were all aligned, whilst her revered background within the complex tapestry of artist management was an appealing prospect,” said Transgressive company directors Toby L, Tim Dellow and Lilas Bourboulon. “We cannot wait to watch her continue to thrive as a vital new force in Transgressive’s present and future.”

Artist Publishing Group promoted Matt MacFarlane and Olly Sheppard to senior vps of A&R. Together, MacFarlane and Sheppard will continue to oversee the publishing company while mentoring and developing the A&R team. Both execs have roughly nine years or more at APG, with MacFarlane’s client roster including Tax Taylor and Rio Leyva and Sheppard clocking wins including The Fast X Soundtrack and securing a placement for writers FAANGS and JBACH on the Barbie Soundtrack.

UK-based label and publisher Ostero hired Andy Griffin as campaign manager for Asia and Danny McNamara as an A&R and digital manager. Based in Thailand, Griffin’s focus will be on artist campaigns across Southeast Asia. Previously at Cr2 Records and UMG, McNamara will be responsible for artist recruitment and managing digital artist campaigns in Ostereo’s recordings department. “We are continuing to see huge growth and success within emerging markets, enabling us to develop strong, long-standing relationships within these territories,” said Nick Kirkby, CFO of Ostereo.

Metro Public Relations promoted Emily Hessel to vp of consumer communications and audio. Since joining Metro in 2018, Hessel has been instrumental in expanding the company’s podcast, audio and books strategic consumer communications services. The company’s audio digital clients include Lemonada Media and iHeartPodcasts, with its networks the include Will Ferrell’s Big Money Players Network.

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SM Entertainment
Concord named veteran exec Stephanie Hudacek — founder of Soundly Music — president of its Rounder RecordsSM Entertainment, home to such K-pop stars as aespa and RIIZE, promoted Tak Young-jun to co-CEO alongside existing CEO Jang Cheol-hyuk. Tak was also named executive director of the company’s board.

Last Week’s Turntable: Tyler Hubbard’s New Publishing Shingle Names GM

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