Verve Label Group Chief Danny Bennett Departing as Universal Music Restructures Classics & Jazz Operations

Courtesy of UMG
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Universal Classics and Jazz president and CEO Dickon Stainer will take on direct responsibility for Verve Label Group.

Universal Music Group (UMG) announced on Thursday (March 21) Verve Label Group president and CEO Danny Bennett is leaving the company amid a reorganization of classical and jazz operations in response to worldwide growth in the genres' consumption. 

As part of the the changeups, Universal Classics and Jazz president and CEO Dickon Stainer will take on direct responsibility for Verve Label Group, leading with a new global focus and managing international artist development and marketing strategy under a unified management structure. Stainer will maintain his existing responsibilities overseeing the division including Deutsche Grammophon and the Decca Label Group. He will split his time between New York and London. Universal Music Classics U.S. president Graham Parker will report directly to Stainer.

"Dickon is an extraordinarily creative leader with an open-minded approach to identifying artists and then marketing them in groundbreaking ways," said UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge in a statement. "I've personally witnessed his success for two decades, dating to our work together to ensure classics and jazz were highly present in contemporary music. Most recently he has placed our classics and jazz artists and composers at the center of the streaming revolution. I look forward to accelerating our efforts by unifying these teams under a single global strategy so we can deliver the greatest possible success for our artists."

Grainge added, "I’d like to thank Danny for helping to revitalize Verve and bringing some extraordinary artists into the UMG family. We look forward to working with him in the future."

Bennett joined Verve in 2016 as UMG realigned some of its most prestigious jazz and classical imprints under the Verve Label Group moniker. He will continue to run his artist management and strategic marketing company RPM Productions. He said in a statement, "Being the CEO and president of Verve Label Group has been a remarkable experience and an incredible opportunity. I’m proud to be able to say that the company is now the leading Jazz and Classical label in the U.S. It has been an honor to work with Sir Lucian Grainge and Michele Anthony, along with the whole UMG family, and I’m thankful for the privilege of being able to build an amazing roster of new artists as well as a talented team of creative professionals who share my passion for the music." 

Verve Label Group comprises the Verve and Impulse labels and is the U.S. home to Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and ECM. Its roster and catalogues include Diana Krall, John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as contemporary acts Yuna, John Batiste, Cynthia Erivo, T Bone Burnett, Blake Mills, Tank and the Bangas, Shabaka Hutchings and his bands The Comet Is Coming and Sons of Kemet, J.S. Ondara, Ezinma and City of the Sun. Some of this year's releases include pianist Lang Lang and composer Ludovico Einaudi, who the label boasts as the most-streamed classical artist. 

Under Bennett's direction, Verve Label Group had a number of notable successes last year. Among those are jazz icon John Coltrane' first top 40 album on the Billboard 200 last July, 51 years after his death, with the newly discovered set Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (Impulse!/Verve Label Group). And then in November, Andrea Bocelli scored his first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with his 26th charting album, Si (Sugar/Decca Records/VLG), his first in 14 years. The crossover classical album, which featured duets with Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa and others, marked Decca's first chart-topper since 2008.

"Classical and jazz are amongst the musical wonders of the world," said Stainer in a statement. "Streaming has opened a flood of discovery and has further enabled us to ensure our artists have a global reach. The developing international success of Max Richter, Gregory Porter, Lang Lang, Jacob Collier and Sheku Kanneh-Mason, among others, has demonstrated that we need to work with a seamlessly coordinated global approach achieves the greatest results possible on behalf of our exceptional artists."

The restructuring comes as French media conglomerate Vivendi prepares to sell up to half of UMG, a process it announced in June 2018 with top management's decision to rule out a long-discussed initial public offering.