Taking a cue from television networks, who’ve hosted elaborate “Upfronts” to potential advertisers for decades, and Apple, whose annual conferences draw fan-like cheers from staffers, partners and gawkers alike, Capitol Music Group held its third Capitol Congress on Aug. 5, inviting employees and industry insiders to a presentation of recent successes and near-future plans.
The label group pulled out all the stops, inviting such artists as Katy Perry, Disclosure, Don Henley and Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz of Beastie Boys to appear onstage at Hollywood’s Arclight Theatre on Thursday, where much of the pep rally took place. The event was curated by CMG chairman Steve Barnett who programmed interviews (Apple/Beats 1 Zane Lowe with the surviving Beasties, on what would have marked the 51st birthday of Adam Yauch; KCRW’s Jason Bentley with Disclosure; Middle Tennessee State University Dept. of Recording Industry chair Beverly Keel with Henley) in between presentations by various arms of the company.
With loads of data at the ready, the Congress offered a 360-degree view of its artist roster, outlining priorities for the coming years, milestones achieved and big picture plans. Proven successes like Perry, who’ll release a DVD of her recent Prismatic concert movie in October, and Sam Smith got equal billing alongside such newcomers as Troye Sivan and Tori Kelly. Upcoming projects featuring iconic artists like Frank Sinatra (a TV tribute is on deck for December) and Neil Diamond also received nods in a variety of video packages presented for the event.
Executives like UMG chairman Lucian Grainge had turns in front of the camera as well in the form of amusing clips executed by Capitol svp of creative Danny Lockwood and his team (Grainge’s featured late-night host James Corden). Others used their time on stage in a more muted manner, like Blue Note chairman Don Was who let the music of the 75-year-old jazz label do the talking, to great effect.
Following the day-long conference, attendees and invited guests wandered over to the Capitol Records tower, on top of which a Beastie Boys flag flew for the first time since 1989, the year the group’s classic Paul’s Boutique was released. Hundreds of industry movers and shakers crowded the parking lot, including UMG evp of U.S. Recorded Music Michele Anthony, CMG COO Michelle Jubelirer; Universal Music Publishing Group chairman and CEO Jody Gerson; Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam, Harvest Records general managers Piero Giramonti and Jacqueline Saturn, Capitol Records U.K. president Nick Raphael, CMG evp Scott Greer, UMG Nashville head Mike Dungan, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and manager Scooter Braun, among many others.
Not surprisingly, it was an idolized Capitol artist that had the music business schmoozers craning their necks. No, not Elton John nor was a member of the Beatles in the house -- it was Ryan Adams, whose Grammy-nominated album earned the label’s new management much-needed cred when it was released in 2014. Mission: accomplished.