While 360 deals are almost standard for new artists, independent label partnerships have largely remained within the realm of marketing and distribution deals. However, Zomba has taken a page from Live Nation's playbook and inked an all-inclusive, multiyear joint-venture deal with Jive VP of A&R Mickey "MeMpHiTz" Wright and his Hitz Committee Entertainment.

Formed in 2003, Hitz will now encompass a record label, music production, music publishing, artist and producer management, and TV and film projects.

"It was one of the easier decisions to make," BMG Label Group COO Ivan Gavin says. Wright "is very talented. He wants to build a brand in a broad entertainment sense and didn't want to be pigeonholed. It came down to, 'Do we believe in him and back him or do we let him go elsewhere?' So, we went back to him with [a] 360 type [of deal]."

Zomba will retain approximately 50% of any profits Hitz accrued as well as shop any film or TV ideas the company hatches. Hitz is obligated to release three artists per year; its 2009 schedule will feature projects from Huey, Trai'd, Chip Tha Ripper and singer Asia Cruise.

"This is like a Jay-Z/Live Nation type of deal," Wright says. "Last time, I had to let Jive hear any artist I found first, but now I can sign them to Jive or to Hitz. This is a full partnership with Jive."

Wright will maintain his position within Jive's A&R department and continue to work specifically with T-Pain, whom he signed in 2005. The artist's third album, "Thr33 Ringz," is due Nov. 11 via Konvict/Jive. First single "Can't Believe It" is No. 2 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this week.

"This deal is great because Zomba hasn't done a joint-venture deal with an A&R before and it really shows their level of commitment," Hitz president/COO Glen Delgado says. "It's also probably the new direction of the music business. Independent companies are going to have to partner with labels for ancillary rights like publishing."

A veteran A&R exec at another major adds, "You're going to see a lot more of these deals. It's an easy way to have an A&R source without having to pay a lot for it."

Delgado, who met Wright while the Jive executive was interning at Arista Records, says the company's main goal is to release artists in a timely fashion. "We are also going to staff and now have three positions open in marketing, creative and mixshow promotion," Delgado says.

Wright says that while Hitz' current artists are primarily from the South, the Memphis native is open to artists from diverse backgrounds. "From my success with T-Pain, I've learned that if the music is there, eventually the public will listen," Wright says.

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