EMI Music Executive VP, Marketing Europe/Rest of the World, Bart Cools is head of the newly-formed EMI Dance Network - the label's international, label-wide A&R and marketing network dedicated exclusively to dance artists and records.
In a conversation with Billboard.biz, Cools, who has formerly held posts at EMI U.K., Belgium, Switzerland and Netherlands, and worked on global campaigns for Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, the Spice Girls and David Guetta, discusses how the globally-focused initiative will operate and how EMI aims to become a bigger player in the thriving electronic dance music (EDM) sector. "We want to work [on] dance faster, more efficiently and more globally than what we were doing before," says Cools, who divides his time between London and Amsterdam and reports to David Kassler, CEO, EMI Europe and Rest of World.
Billboard.biz: What is the idea behind the EMI Dance Network?
Bart Cools: The idea is to use what we already, to a certain degree, have, better. [That] means that for both our marketing and A&R side, I need to get people that are relevant for dance music within EMI in one place more often. It's basically an effort at co-ordinating all these pockets of activity that we have worldwide and making sure that we enhance what we are doing. Rather than sometimes possibly working on a similar thing in Australia and the U.S., which doesn't really make any sense.
How does the new set-up differ from what existed previously?
It differs because it deals with what I think is one of the main differences between dance music and, say, rock music. Whatever you do in dance music, whichever artist you have, wherever they come from, it's global from the minute these people start playing or putting things online. So it needs heavier international coordination that the traditional [model of] we sell whatever comes out of the U.K. and the U.S. Dance is a lot more global, a lot faster and needs a smaller network of people that can actually decide things without having to go backwards and forwards for months on end. Because then you are too late.
How is that implemented in practical terms?
It's very regular, quicker meetings, creating more informal networks where it's a lot easier to pick up the phone and say: 'Guys, I've got this artist that I'm looking at. What do you think?' Rather than actually signing something and then going to other countries and asking: 'What do you think? Do you want to work it?' Because in dance, that doesn't work.
What size is the EMI Dance Network at launch?
On the marketing side, a maximum of about 10 people. On the A&R side, probably not more than 15. Plus, we will be adding to that non-EMI people on a case-by-case basis. Producers, label heads, managers or people that organise events - we want to work with them and get their input as to what they need and what we can do better. An important [point] is that the artists signed to Virgin U.K. or Virgin U.S. or to EMI Germany stay where they are. They don't all move into one big dance label because that doesn't work. [The EMI Dance Network] is purely to make sure that we work dance faster, more efficiently and more globally than what we were doing before.
Nervo, the Australian DJ duo signed to EMI Music U.K. and Virgin U.S.
What are some of your priority EDM projects for 2012?
Of the new ones, [London-based, Swedish DJ/producer] Eric Prydz, who is signed to EMI Music U.K. Nervo [Australian DJ duo Mim and Liv Nervo, signed to Virgin U.S.]. And then there are some new signings from across the world, Netherlands [Goldfish, comprising of South African-born duo Dominic Peters and David Poole, signed to EMI Music Netherlands] and Sweden [DJ/producer Sebjak], for instance. So we will be gradually moving them into a global release plot. We will also strengthen the U.K and European international departments to make sure that we've got enough power there. Ensuring that for David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5, Eric Prydz, all those big releases that need to come from the U.K. and Europe into the rest of the world, we have enough man power.
Does this initiative mark a concerted effort to grow EMI's share of the global dance market?
We all think that the explosion of dance, in particular in the U.S., is going to be there for a few years to come. We already are a big player in dance. We want to stay that big player and possibly become bigger and make sure that we punch above our weight. That we keep our advantage and stay the number one major dance label.
Historically dance music deals were done on a license basis. What kind of deals is EMI signing with EDM artists today?
They vary. There are very little traditional just license the record deals anymore. There is always some element of non-record income in there. But within those deals, depending on the status of the artist or whatever deals they already have in place, you just try and make the deal as tailor-made as possible to that artist. To a certain degree they are all in-between 4% to 5% and 360% deals.
EMI's Swedish House Mafia
EMI has a long history of breaking EDM acts. Are there any plans to leverage that back catalog?
We're planning a huge electro campaign going from June for the rest of the year, which is called Electrospective. That's driven by the U.K. campaign team and [VP, Global Campaign, EMI Music] Dave Rowe. That will be a global campaign that we are rolling specifically to emphasise our credentials in dance, going from Kraftwerk to Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, to modern day.
Swedish House Mafia is one of the label's biggest dance acts. Are we any closer to setting a release date for its first studio album?
We don't have a fixed date for that to happen yet. We know that we've got a massive single coming out over the summer and then we will look at where the boys are with recording and we'll take it from there.