With the appointment of veteran A&R executive Peter Edge as CEO of RCA Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment's leadership team under new chairman/CEO Doug Morris is coming into greater focus.
Edge, who was previously president of A&R at RCA, has been with the label group since the launch of J Records, where he signed Alicia Keys, Dido, Mario and Jamie Foxx. More recently, he has worked with Pitbull, Mike Posner, Jazmine Sullivan and former Floetry member Marsha Ambrosius.
Year to date, RCA Music Group's share of U.S. sales of albums and track-equivalent albums (where 10 digital tracks equals an album) totaled 7.7% through July 31, up slightly from 7.3% during the corresponding period last year.
Edge's promotion was announced in conjunction with that of Tom Corson, who has been appointed president/COO of RCA Music Group, where he had previously served as GM and executive VP.
Billboard.biz spoke with both executives to see what the future holds for the label.
Billboard.biz: What should we be calling the company now?
Peter Edge: RCA. We still have the Jive, J and Arista imprints and they are not going to go away. But we will be focusing on the RCA brand. It's like Columbia Records, one of the longest standing names in the recorded music business. We want to up the ante for RCA and rebrand it.
.Biz: What are your plans for staffing?
Edge: We are in the throes of merging labels; not everything is worked out. I can you that Joe Riccitelli is running promotion on the pop side and Geo Bivins is running the urban side.
Our A&R staff already has a few people currently who we will be relying on. We have Mark Pitts, who is the president of urban music. [senior VP of A&R] Keith Naftaly is a longstanding RCA staffer. We have Rani Hancock who signed Ke$ha; and David Wolter who is handing the rock A&R side of things. We have Wayne Williams who is a longstanding Jive executive who signed R. Kelly, and we are adding a few others.
.Biz: How big is the roster?
Edge: We are still working on our newly combined roster. But when we get done, it will have about 70-80 acts, which is a good, manageable number. It will include a lot of superstars like Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, R. Kelly, Ke$ha, Daughtry, Christina [Aguilera], Kelly Clarkson, Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake.
.Biz: How would you describe the label's mandate going forward?
Edge: As the business changes, it makes for an interesting time. There is a quiet revolution going on and what we are really talking about is not a record label but becoming a music company.
I have not been in promotion or management. I am coming at it from the music side, so I will put the focus on A&R. We will replenish the music we have and find a few significant signings. Doug Morris is really clear he wants to focus on A&R and building a roster.
We will be in diverse areas of the business. We will do co-publishing deals with Sony/ATV, where it is appropriate. We will look at the various interests of the artist. We may not be as deep as [Warner Music Group] into the 360 model, but we intend to be there where it make sense. That is where the conventional labels are morphing into and that is where the business is going.
There is a lot of talk about how artists could do it on their own. But we think the labels still will play a role. We offer marketing and promotion across all platforms, not just the conventional ones. We are a very necessary ingredient in the mix. We still offer one of the best packages in terms of finding talent, helping them to develop and achieve their potential in terms of recording and then promoting and marketing the records.
.Biz: How is the label weighted genre-wise?
Edge: We are market leaders in R&B and we want to up the ante on hip-hop. We just hired J Grand, who is one of the key players at Asylum. He will be working to bring more hip-hop here. We have Bryan Leach, who signed Pitbull and is working on other plays. So there is a definite plan to expand our dominance in R&B and grow hip-hop. A few significant signings in hip-hop will round out what we are doing in the urban area.
.Biz: And in pop?
Edge: We have a long list of artists including Ke$ha, Kelly Clarkson and Britney Spears. But still we want to grow here as we want to grow in urban. The other area I really want to grow is our rock roster. We already have artists like the Kings Of Leon, the Foo Fighters, the Dave Matthews Band, the Strokes and Ray LaMontagne, to name a few. But our focus is to build the next generation of rock artists. We have an act called Walk the Moon that I am excited about. We have a lot of people here who know about rock and alternative music. I am a fan of it and have a passion for it. Hopefully, we can encourage everyone to work more on those kinds of acts. Overall, I want to underline we are going to be a great music company, with music being the top of our focus.
Billboard.biz: How would you describe the label's mandate going forward?
Tom Corson: It's very clear, we need to be artist-centric, supporting our established acts and finding and breaking new acts and maximizing the opportunities that are out there.
We will have more circular conversations in that with some artists, we will have [360 deals], and in other instances we will have to support an artist's overall branding initiative.
.Biz: Some artist managers feel the need to do their own marketing because they think label staffs are over burdened. How will RCA be structured?
Corson: We will be one label and we will restructure to reflect that. Since we have a full spectrum of artists on the roster, our staff will reflect that with urban, pop and rhythmic promotion. There will be some specialists in genres, but outside of [radio] promotion, we don't want to restrict any one staffer to one genre. Although they may be a specialist in one area, they are all music people and can contribute ideas in all music areas. We will continue to have resources for licensing, international and in general be a full-service label. Digital, social media, branding, licensing and general partnership marketing -- we can handle it all. We respect the points of view of artists' management wanting to augment what we do. But in most cases, we feel we can accommodate all the artists needs.
.Biz: How will you allocate resources for staffing? Will you put more emphasis on new social media marketing vehicles?
Corson: To me, it's all the same. All of the digital and social media has become conventional and it is a standard part of our marketing menu.
.Biz: Going forward, RCA will be the flagship. Yet you have releases that will come out on the Jive, Arista and J imprints. Will that dilute your branding efforts for RCA?
Corson: We will worry less about label branding. That is more a business-to-business thing. The overall brand is RCA but just like most major labels, we have many variations and imprints under that umbrella. Now we have one more label name in Jive, but we will manage the label names in the way we have been doing all along.
.Biz: Going forward, will we see a tilt toward more digital releases or more singles versus album releases?
Corson: Right now, we are about 55% digital and 45% physical. We are in both markets. We have an album-selling act like Kings of Leon who can occasionally sell a lot of singles. And we have acts like Pitbull who can sell a lot of singles and also sell some albums. And then we have Ke$ha, who does both.
What release strategy we use will be done on an artist-by-artist basis and we will look at where the artist fits in the marketplace. You can't take a general view. If we have an artist that is mainly selling singles, we will be just as excited about them as we are about an artist who sell a lot of albums. The best-case scenario is to have artist who sell a lot of both.
In the streaming model, it will be interesting to see how those dynamics play out. But this is the state of the business today and we will just go where the opportunities and revenue are.
This is an exciting time and change provides opportunities, even if it's not always without pain. It's a brave new world and we are out there to grab the opportunity.