"My current work is all music-driven, and all of it requires classics or new music artists," says Luhrmann, 52, whose stage version of Strictly Ballroom opened in Australia on Jan. 17. "I'm going to try to build a home that has a great foundation, and I hope it has longevity. I would feel useful if just one or two artists found their creative road through the home we're about to build."
Soundtracks for Luhrmann films, released on Interscope since 2000 and Capitol prior to then, have sold exceptionally well. In the U.S., 2014's Gatsby sold 610,000 units; Moulin Rouge! (2001) moved 3.2 million and included the Grammy-winning Hot 100 chart-topper "Lady Marmalade" by Christina Aguilera, P!nk, Lil' Kim and Mya; and 1999's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet sold 3.3 million, according to Nielsen Music.
The RCA deal sprung from label chiefs Tom Corson and Peter Edge expressing interest in another Sony property, Sony Pictures Television-produced series The Get Down, Luhrmann's music-centered drama series set in New York in the late 1970s, which Netflix will stream in 2016. That conversation led to a meeting in London with Luhrmann's lawyer, and eventually a sit-down with the director in his native Australia.
Diane Warren, David Foster, Sia Among Collaborator's for Baz Luhrmann's 'Strictly Ballroom' Musical
"It was presented to us as, 'Baz is looking for a home for his ideas,' and the label was an outgrowth of that," says Corson. "He makes everything contemporary, and that really appeals to myself and Peter. Part of the culture around RCA is making sure we have these kinds of visionaries in our midst." Adds Edge, "When it became clear he might look for a new home for music, we were at the front of the line with our hand in the air."
Baz has a music hit to his own name. He scored a No. 1 single in the U.K. back in 1999 with the spoken word piece "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)," which was released through EMI. The track was based on a essay written by Mary Schmich, and published in a June 1997 Chicago Tribune column.
A version of this article first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of Billboard.