Music

Executive Turntable: ‘Taboo’ Violinist Joins Havas; Warner Chappell’s China Lead; Tunedly Turns Up New CEO

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.

Global advertising and communications company Havas appointed Damien Escobar as its first-ever global chief music officer, effective immediately. Based in New York City, Escobar’s role is to provide insights into strategy and production in support of brands looking to enhance their storytelling with music. His agency experience includes serving as svp of music and culture at Havas unit Arnold Worldwide, though Escobar is perhaps best known in music circles as an accomplished — and chart-topping — violinist. Just last year, his song “Taboo” spent two weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Airplay chart, and he scored a No. 1 on both Classical Albums and Classical Crossover Albums charts with 2017’s Boundless. Escobar’s pre-solo group Nuttin’ But Stringz placed third in the 2008 season of America’s Got Talent and the “hip-hop violinist” and former child prodigy was later profiled on NBC’s TODAY show. At his new gig, Escobar reports to Donna Murphy, global CEO of Havas Creative Network and Havas Health & You.

“Damien is a creative and innovative force in the industry—and we’ve seen how his multifaceted talents have already shaped and elevated campaigns for some of our biggest brands,” said Murphy. “He is at the heart of contextualizing the sound with the visuals; amplifying the story the brand wants to tell through music. This role will allow him to help continue creating these stories for all our Havas clients.”

Meanwhile…

Warner Chappell Music appointed Lisa Li as managing director of China. Based in Beijing and reporting to Arica Ng, president of Asia Pacific, Li will be responsible for leading all of WCM’s operations in China, while also collaborating with other teams across Asia to strengthen the Warner brand in the region. Having Li’s back will be Mar Ma, who has been appointed director of A&R at the publisher. Prior to joining WCM, Li served as head of business development at Warner Bros. Discovery in China. She’s also held senior roles at HBO China, Disney Interactive and others. Ma’s CV includes a decade of experience that includes stops at both Warner Music China and Universal Music Publishing China. “Lisa’s strategic mindset, leadership skills, and passion for the entertainment industry make her the ideal person to capitalize on the tremendous growth opportunities in China,” said Ng.

UMG Nashville named David Friedman to the newly-created role of vp of national promotion and strategy. Friedman oversees all strategic elements of UMG Nashville’s promotion operation. Friedman most recently led the MCA Nashville promotion team. “Over the past year, the UMGN promotion department has evolved, and having someone with David’s vast experience running point on our overall radio strategy makes the department stronger,” UMG Nashville evp/COO Mike Harris said in a statement. “Having his expertise at the center is a natural fit, and I’m really excited for David and to see where he can take this new role.” –Jessica Nicholson

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Warner Records promoted Josh Reich to senior vp of Top 40 promotion. The Chicago-based radio veteran, who reports to evp of promotion and commerce Mike Chester, will lead the label’s pop promotion department in efforts to promote Warner singles across 170 pop radio reporters. Reich has been with Warner since 2011 and was most recently vp of Top 40 promotion & digital strategy. He had past stops at WXRT/Chicago, A&M Records and RCA Records. “Josh is a well respected promotion executive who brings outstanding depth and knowledge to his position. “[Reich’s] reputation and results are first-class, matched only by his ability to close,” said Chester. “He truly embodies our culture of artist development and I’m thrilled to have him leading our pop efforts at this exciting time in our label’s history.”

Online recording studio and music publishing platform Tunedly made two major changes at the top. Co-founders Chris Erhardt and Mylene Besancon are no longer chief executive officer and chief creative officer, respectively, replaced with Ben Jackson and Katja Glieson in the key roles. “This change at the top promises to inject new energy into Tunedly, leveraging Jackson’s extensive industry experience and Glieson’s creative prowess to drive the platform forward,” the company said. Launched in 2015, Tunedly connects songwriters and other music creators with session musicians for professional music production and music publishing services. Jackson is a music producer with “deep industry knowledge” while Glieson comes bearing a track record of success as a social media content creator. While no longer CEO, Erhardt will remain a member of the board and focus on launching TunedCoin. Besancon, meanwhile, has already taken the reins as CEO of song personalization platform Bring My Song To Life.

Dina Marto joined UTA as an executive in the global agency’s music division. She is based in Atlanta and will report directly to partner and co-head of UTA Atlanta Rob Gibbs. Prior to UTA, Marto founded and ran Twelve Music & Studios, where her client list over the course of a decade included Theron Thomas and Polow Da Don, as well as labels including Atlantic Records and Maybach Music Group. She also previously worked with L.A. Reid at Island Def Jam, where she A&R’d albums by the likes of Young Jeezy, Nas, Rick Ross, Janet Jackson, LL Cool J and more. She also co-founded C & D The Agency in 2020, a women-led marketing agency dedicated to empowering minority women. Gibbs commented that Marto’s “deep connections in the city’s music scene will undoubtedly open doors and create new opportunities for our clients.”

The Grand Ole Opry promoted three executives in its ranks. Nicole Judd has been elevated to associate producer, show development, contributing to the development/production of all Opry shows in addition to serving as a programming liaison for various internal and external teams. Judd has been with the company 17 years, most recently serving as Opry marketing manager. Gina Keltner has been promoted to associate producer, talent. Keltner, who marks her 25th year with the Opry, will book more than 200 Opry shows per year, as well as other events and initiatives. Audrey McGrady, who has been with the Opry since 2017, has been promoted to talent manager, managing all talent-related show advancement for Opry shows and contributing to various aspects of show production and programming strategy with the Opry programming and artist relations team. –Jessica Nicholson

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Nettwerk Music Group welcomed Talia Rubino as vp of global sync, a role where she’ll spearhead creative strategies to maximize sync opportunities for Nettwerk artists, writers and labels. Rubino has racked up 16 years of experience in sync licensing, first with Warner Music on the label side before a highly accomplished 10-yeare run in publishing at Warner Chappell Music. “Her extensive experience in artist development and facilitating licensing opportunities makes her an invaluable asset to our leadership team,” noted Nettwerk president and COO Simon Mortimer-Lamb. “Nettwerk’s ethos is artist-first, career forward, and Talia’s skills align perfectly with that promise.”

Diversified Production Services, the live entertainment event producer behind such shows as the Global Citizens Festival, iHeartRadio Music Festival and the Roots Picnic, hired live events veteran Darren Pfeffer as president. The New York City-based exec is coming off more than six years at MSG Entertainment, where he rose to evp of MSG Live. Prior to that, put in a mere 21 years at iHearMedia, where as svp of music and entertainment marketing he led the company’s live entertainment division. According to RAMP, DPS also announced that co-CEO Dave Meyers will transition to a senior advisor role at the company.

NASHVILLE NOTES: Go West Creative promoted Eileen Valois (pictured) to president and CEO of the full-service creative and events agency. Valois joined GWC three years ago as president and chief operating officer following a lengthy and accomplished career in experiential brand building being an all-around “intuitive disruptor,” the company said. Congratulate her at eileen@gwcg.com … SMACKSongs promoted Carly Sater to creative manager. Sater joined the company in 2019. Her day-to-day responsibilities include signing and developing songwriters, booking writing sessions and creating opportunities for writers … Boutique artist services label Twelve6 Entertainment promoted Travis Myatt to president and general manager, and also elevated Willow Belenski to project manager and Alaina Maggart to the new role of creative manager, Twelve6 Publishing … Black River Entertainment svp of promotion Mike Wilson has left the company after more than a decade, telling Music Row “it’s now time to move on to a new challenge.”

Position Music added industry veteran Jay Moore to its executive team as vice president and head of investments, reporting to president and CEO Tyler Bacon out of Position’s Los Angeles offices. As vp and hoi, Moore will lend an analytic hand around label and publishing signings and catalog acquisitions. Prior to joining Position, Moore was chief investment officer at Ditto Music. He has also worked in a senior director capacity at Kobalt Music. “The ability to quickly analyze and price deals is a crucial piece of ultimately closing them,” said Bacon. “We are immediately seeing the benefit of his work in the current pipeline, along with the work he did on our recent Gesaffelstein acquisition.”

The Syndicate scooped up BMG veteran Alina Akhmadullina as director of label services in its quickly-expanding label services/project management department. The year-old division already works closely with Round Hill Records, Rhino, Loosegroove Records, Dine Alone and Vydia, among others. At BMG, Akhmadullina rose to senior marketing manager during a five-year stretch in which she worked on campaigns for Slash, Billy Idol, Karen O, Godsmack, Hollywood Undead and Run The Jewels. “Alina brings a depth of knowledge, unparalleled enthusiasm, and a loaded range of skills to The Syndicate,” said Rob Gross, svp of label services. “As we build out the Label Services/Project Management division and offerings, Alina will be a pivotal force behind our upward build and growth.” The LA-based Akhmadullina can be reached alina@thesyn.com.

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740 Project, the marketing firm and record label fresh off wins for its work with Killer Mike and Ye, elevated Nancy Liu to partner and Jacolyn Carrasco to vp of marketing. Liu has spent the past two years as president of the marketing firm and, as partner, joins co-founders Jesse “Punch” Edwards, Rahim Wright and Charley Greenberg with that title. 740 is fast approaching its 10th year and currently boasts a tight relationship with Quality Control artists Lil Baby, Migos and Lil Yachty, as well as Megan Thee Stallion, J Balvin and Travis Scott.

RADIO, RADIO: MCA Nashville elevated UMG veteran Miranda McDonald to vp of promotion, leading all radio initiative for the label’s roster. She arrives from UMG Nashville, where she was vp of national promotion and worked across multiple teams, including at MCA, Capitol and Mercury … Shari Roth joined Big Loud Records as vp of multi-format radio, effective immediately. She most recently served as national director of radio accounts at Warner Music Nashville for eight years … Speaking of, Warner Music Nashville expanded senior vp of radio Kristen Williams’ role, making her vp of radio and commercial partnerships.

Tixr appointed Stéphane McGarry to the role of vp of partnerships and country manager as the ticketing platform looks to expand its “already robust roster of partners” across Canada. McGarry arrives from AudienceView, where he was vp of sales. Prior to that, he was Crowtorch’s president of Canadian operations. Tixr already has a robust portfolio in the Great White North, including deals with Sonic Concerts, Cowboys Music Festival, Game Con Canada and more. Robert Davari, co-founder and CEO of Tixr, said McGarry has “consistently added value to every organization he’s touched, and collaborating with him has been on my agenda for years.”

BOARD SHORTS: Music tech platform Hook announced its inaugural group of outside advisors: DJ/producer KSHMR; SNAP head of music partnerships Manny Adler; venture capitalist Abe Burns; Downtown Music Holdings founder & chairman Justin Kalifowitz; Hundred Days founder & co-president Ben Klein; and Reed Smith managing partner Gregor PryorSOLID, aka the Society of Leaders in Development, announced its 2024 board of directors, led by president Rio Van Risseghem (The Orchard), vp Zach Green (Green P&M), secretary Melissa Flaxman (Black Box) and treasurer Lizzy Stone (Wiles + Taylor & Co). See a full list here.

ICYMI:


Willie Prophet Stiggers
Steve Berman is vice chairman, Annie Lee is COO and Geoff Harris is CFO at the newly conjured Interscope Capitol Labels Group, encompassing Interscope, Geffen, A&M, Capitol, Blue Note, Priority, Verve and Motown … The Ivors Academy named Roberto Neri as its new CEO … Black Music Action Coalition co-founder Willie “Prophet” Stiggers (pictured) joined the founders board of the Neil Lasher Music Fund at Caron Treatment Centers … and Capitol Music Group co-president Arjun Pulijal stepped down after 11 years at the company.

Last Week’s Turntable: Luminate Focuses on Indie Retail

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