Universal Music Group (UMG) has named Dr. Menna Demessie as senior vp and executive director of the Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC) , the social justice group established in June 2020 by UMG chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge in the wake of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.
In the role, Dr. Demessie -- a political scientist and social justice advocate with a track record of civic and educational empowerment -- will manage the TFMC and its activities.
It was concurrently announced that the company’s executive vp, chief people and inclusion officer Eric Hutcherson will join Jeff Harleston (UMG general counsel and executive vp business & legal affairs/ Def Jam Records interim CEO) and Ethiopia Habtemariam (Motown Records president) as TFMC co-chair.
Dr. Demessie most recently served as senior vp of policy analysis and research and the Leadership Institute at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), where for nine years she spearheaded research and policy initiatives affecting African Americans and the global Black community in areas including education, criminal justice, economic opportunity, voting rights and public health. During her tenure at the CBCF, Dr. Demessie led partnerships with the White House and the U.S. Congress and piloted efforts to establish the National Racial Equity Initiative for Social Justice, among other achievements.
Additionally, Dr. Demessie is a published race and ethnic politics experts and was one of five U.S. scholars to receive the prestigious American Political Science Congressional Fellowship in 2010. She also served on U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee’s legislative staff, where she worked on federal unemployment legislation, antipoverty initiatives and foreign affairs. She additionally teaches courses on race and ethnic politics, Black Lives Matter and social movements, and public opinion and public policy as an adjunct professor at the University of California Washington Center.
“From the start, we’ve been energized by the commitment and passion of the TFMC – an organization powered by UMG executives from across the company who volunteer their time for this important work,” said Habtemariam in a statement. “We’re excited to welcome Dr. Demessie to the UMG family and to have the benefit of her experience in social justice work and as a leader at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, to help advance the ongoing efforts of the TFMC to drive meaningful, long-term change.”
Added Harleston, “Over the past year we have seen the best of humanity rise up to deal with the worst of ongoing racial and social injustices around the world. It was out of this need that the TFMC was created and we’re proud of what we have accomplished in our first seven months. Having Dr. Demessie join UMG and oversee the TFMC’s efforts is a further statement of our commitment to the fight for equality and social justice.”
In his own statement, Hutcherson noted that “Dr. Demessie has demonstrated over the course of her illustrious career her commitment to social justice and a studied understanding of diversity and inclusion, public policy and government, human rights and international relations. Her perspective will enhance the reach of what the TFMC can accomplish and we’re excited to have her join us in our efforts.”
“It’s been incredible watching what UMG’s TFMC has accomplished over the past seven months,” said Dr. Demessie. “From the voter initiatives, civic engagement and community support through charitable giving to new internal programs, UMG has demonstrated a commitment to real, lasting change and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of this organization. I want to thank Sir Lucian, Jeff, Eric and Ethiopia for this opportunity and their support as we continue the important work of the TFMC.”
Gary Spangler has been upped to executive vp, Republic Records. He was formerly executive vp, promotion, a role he’s held since 2016.
In the role, the New York-based Spangler will continue shepherding promotion for Republic and Island Records artists. He has orchestrated campaigns for Ariana Grande, Drake, Jonas Brothers, Nicki Minaj, Post Malone, Taylor Swift and The Weeknd. He was named to Billboard’s “40 Under 40” list in 2015.
“Gary’s leadership and recent accomplishments has been nothing short of historic,” said Republic founder & CEO Monte Lipman. “His overall passion for music, support of the artist community, and pursuit of excellence remains key ingredients to his success.”
Spangler joined the label in 2006 as vp, crossover promotion and steadily climbed the ranks from there. He started his career at KYLD Radio in San Francisco.
BMG is scaling up Carl Stubner’s Shelter Music Group, the artist management business it formed a partnership with in Dec. 2019, with a series of new executive appointments.
First up is Brian Harris Frank, who has been named Shelter COO. In the role, Frank will be responsible for the key service functions that contribute to the company’s continued development. Shelter’s roster currently includes 61 management clients overseen by 30 employees in Nashville and Los Angeles.
Frank was previously executive vp, marketing & strategy at Warner Bros. Records, where he played a role in successful releases by Tom Petty, Prince and The Black Keys. Prior to that, he worked at Beats Music, where, as executive vp and global head of content, he co-created the company's streaming service alongside Trent Reznor. He has also held positions at Interscope Records, where he was head of rock & alternative marketing, Atlantic Records and Ticketmaster.
The other new Shelter hires are Victoria Tsigonis as head of marketing & digital strategy and Clay Bush, who has been named head of brand partnerships & lifestyle marketing.
Tsignosis will be tasked with creating and executing marketing plans and digital strategy for artists. She started her career at Columbia Records before moving to Island Records UK. She later managed electro-pop duo Phantogram during the release of their fourth album Ceremony and served as vp, digital sales at BMG.
Bush will be responsible for non-traditional marketing opportunities for clients, “to connect them with larger cultural movements and partners,” according to a release. He previously consulted for brands, companies and artists including Monster Energy, Interscope Records, Hard Rock Café, Slipknot No 9 Whiskey and Zippo and served as vp of marketing, media and brand partnerships at Danny Wimmer Presents, where he was the company's first hire.
Concord has announced a raft of new promotions, upping a total of seven employees to vp, senior vp and executive vp roles. A total of 50 employees across the company were promoted at the beginning of the year.
New York-based Dan Hoffman has been promoted to executive vp, business & legal affairs. He joined Concord in 2015, having previously worked as executive vp at Razor & Tie, where he was key in building out the company’s publishing business and developing the KIDZ BOP brand. During his time at Concord, he has worked on major deals in recorded music and publishing, including the acquisitions of Imagem, Fania, Victory, Varése Sarabande and PULSE. He started his career in private practice at the Los Angeles firm Mitchell Silberberg and then Ziffren Brittenham Branca, where he was a partner. He later worked at BMG as senior vp/general counsel, at RCA Records as senior vp/head of business affairs and at Tommy Boy Music/Warner Music Group. He currently represents Concord on IFPI’s International Legal Committee.
Los Angeles-based Sophia Dilley is now senior vp, film & TV development and production. She joined Concord three years ago as vp, film & TV development and production, helping build out the division. Since her appointment, the TV and film division has linked Concord IP with partners including Skydance TV, Temple Hill, Skybound, Netflix, New Black Films and Paramount to produce projects in the scripted, unscripted and documentary arenas. Concord most recently executive produced the Billie Holiday documentary Billie, released in Dec. 2020.
New York-based Abbie Van Nostrand is now senior vp, client relations and community engagement at Concord Theatricals. She joined Concord when it acquired Samuel French, where she began working in 1984 and served in roles in professional licensing and, eventually, as an officer and trustee of the company. With Concord Theatricals now operating as a single entity, Van Nostrand will ensure its clients are “aware of and comfortable with” Concord’s services, according to a release.
New York-based Steven Lankenau has been upped to senior vp at Concord-owned classical music publisher Boosey & Hawkes. Lankenau, who was initially trained as a composer, joined Boosey & Hawkes ten years as ago as head of promotion for North and South America and later oversaw classical for the same market. He has signed and managed composers including Anna Clyne and David T. Little and played a key role in successful centennial celebrations of Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten and Alberto Ginastera.
New York-based Amy Rose Marsh has advanced to the role of vp, acquisitions and artistic development (North America) at Concord Theatricals. She joined the company two years ago after the company acquired Samuel French, where she began working as a literary intern in 2008. Marsh has signed over 400 new plays and musicals during her time at both companies, including works by Sarah Ruhl, Agatha Christie, Will Eno, Thornton Wilder, Suzan-Lori Parks, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori.
London-based Steven Greenhalgh has been boosted to vp, acquisitions and artistic development (Europe). Greenhalgh was hired at Concord subsidiary Samuel French in Apr. 2017 before joining Concord after it acquired the publisher in 2019. He will continue to acquire publishing and licensing rights to plays and musicals while also focusing his efforts on catalogue revitalization and developing new works along with potential film and TV projects. Greenalgh held roles at a number of different agencies over an 11-year span prior to his work at Samuel French.
Finally, Los Angeles-based Stephanie Hopson is now vp, project management at Concord’s Fantasy Records. Hopson joined the label in 2015 after Concord bought Vanguard Records, where was a longtime employee. While at Concord, she has led frontline album campaigns for projects including Tanya Tucker’s While I’m Livin’, James Taylor’s American Standard, Grace Potter’s Daylight and the upcoming release from Valerie June.
Warner Music UK (WMUK) has promoted Mike Watson to CFO, effective immediately. He replaces Peter Breeden, who departed the role last month.
In the new role, Watson will be responsible for financial planning, budgeting and reporting for WMUK labels and departments, reporting to CEO Tony Harlow. He also joins the WMUK leadership team to inform the business’ overall trajectory.
Watson, who joined WMUK as an intern nearly 20 years ago, came aboard the WMUK Royalties Department in 2004. His roles at the company have included finance analyst for Rhino UK, central financial manager, financial controller and, most recently, senior vp finance. Following WMUK’s acquisition of Parlophone Records, he played an instrumental part in integrating Parlophone’s financial operations. He has also overseen the development of streaming data insight tools and supported the company’s budgeting and planning functions.
Karen Schoenrock has been named CFO of global catalog, recorded music at Rhino Music, the catalog division of Warner Music Group.
Schoenrock has been with WMG for nearly 20 years, 13 of them with Warner Records, where she most recently served as vp of finance. She started in the company’s special products division before becoming TV campaign manager and royalty manager.
Based in Los Angeles, Schoenrock will report to Kevin Gore, president of global catalog, recorded music.
Sony/ATV has hired Liz Lewis as senior vp, catalogue development.
In the newly created role, Lewis will enact strategies to strengthen catalogue and songwriter relationships, negotiate admin deals and broker new catalogue signings. She will additionally work with departments including sync, business affairs, communications, administration and A&R to drive growth and expand the reach of catalogues to new audiences. Lewis is based in New York and will work closely with Sony/ATV president and chief marketing officer Brian Monaco.
Lewis previously spent two decades at Warner Records, where she was most recently vp, sync & brand partnerships. In that role, she oversaw sync for advertising and secured placements for artists including Dua Lipa, The Black Keys and Andra Day. Before that, she led Warner’s visual content marketing team, securing talent bookings and marketing content for Madonna, Green Day, My Chemical Romance and more.
Music and entertainment law firm Boyarski Fritz has hired attorneys Avi Dahan and Evan Zinaman to establish its very first West Coast office, based in Beverly Hills.
Dahan joins the firm after two years in private practice. Before that, he was an associate at Johnson & Johnson LLP, where he worked on high-profile transactional and litigation cases in music and film. Before attending USC’s Gould School of Law, he worked at WME, Roc Nation and Columbia Records and owned his own live events business. His roster includes songwriter-producer Johnny Goldstein, DJ-producer duo DVBBS and artists Dempsey Hope, Sebastian Javier and Slush Puppy. He also co-represents clients with Boyarski Fritz partner Jason Boyarski, including TikTok star and artist JVKE.
Zinaman most recently served as senior attorney at entertainment law firm Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, where his specialty was transactions and negotiations in music, film, television and corporate matters including financing, development, production, distribution and corporate structuring. A 2015 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, he started his career as an associate at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett in New York City.
Sony Music Masterworks has launched XXIM Records (pronounced “Twenty-One M”), a new imprint dedicated to developing progressive instrumental music on a global scale.
XXIM will be overseen by Sony Classical’s senior vp of international A&R and business opportunities Alexander Buhr, who will work closely with Sony Classical president and Sony Music Masterworks co-head Per Hauber. Buhr previously founded the post classical label Mercury KX and has worked with several leading acts in the progressive instrumental scene including Ólafur Arnalds, Anoushka Shankar, Lambert and Jean-Michel Blais.
“In a musical universe that has, for the most part, moved beyond the confinements of genre, it is expression and values which tie musicians together. With XXIM we are creating a place to bring together likeminded acts whose visions we share, to support them in their musical and visual adventures, and to help them connect with the biggest possible audience,” said Burh in a statement. “Our ambition is to create a strong, worldwide platform for highly individual, creative artists.”
Based in Berlin, XXIM will have additional A&R support in New York. Its debut roster includes newcomers Eydís Evensen, an Icelandic pianist and composer, as well as Franco-American composer, conductor, producer and arranger Uèle Lamore. Established acts on the imprint include Icelandic band Hugar and Berlin electro-acoustic duo Stimming X Lambert. Additional signing announcements will follow.
Downtown Music Publishing has named Sarah McCann to the role of senior vp of international creative, a newly-created position.
In the role, McCann will sign and work with songwriters, producers and artists on Downtown’s North American roster while collaborating with the company’s global creative team to help break local international talent in the U.S. market. She is based in Los Angeles and will report to Downtown Music Publishing global president Mike Smith.
McCann started her career at Los Angeles’ iconic Record Plant recording studio before joining the team of songwriter and vocal producer Kuk Harrell in 2011. In that role, she worked with artists including Frank Ocean, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber and Rihanna. In 2013, she joined Beka Tischker at Advanced Alternative Media (AAM), where she worked with songwriters and producers while liaising with labels and publishers. There, she played a key role in managing Bieber’s “Sorry,” which was co-written by client Julia Michaels.
After leaving AAM, McCann was hired in the A&R department at Primary Wave, where she signed DJ White Shadow and RVRB. She later reunited with Tischker as an A&R at Wide Eyed Entertainment, where she signed Tobi Lou.
Angelique Jones has been promoted to vp, streaming & sales at Atlantic Records.
Jones has been with Atlantic since 2019, when she was hired as director, streaming & sales. In her role, she has been tasked with liaising with streaming account editorial teams to boost exposure for artists including Cardi B, Jack Harlow, Roddy Ricch and Burna Boy. She develops playlist strategy for artist campaigns in tandem with the label sales team, manages track priorities across the hip-hop and R&B genres and collaborates with digital streaming platforms to create artist campaigns.
Jones reports to Atlantic executive vp streaming & sales Jack McMorrow.
Activist Artists Management has promoted Caitlin Stone to partner. She joins existing partners Bernie Cahill, Greg Suess, Matt Maher, Liz Norris and Tony Khan.
Based out of Nashville, Stone serves as Activist’s Head of Activism and has worked directly with the company’s leadership team for 11 years. She is the day-to-day manager for musician and humanitarian Michael Franti, serves as a co-chair of the Activist Foundation and is day-to-day management lead for the Activist Artists Fellowship, which helped raise millions of dollars in COVID-19-related relief.
In addition, Stone leads Activists’s health & wellness program and teaches a weekly “management crash course” for new manager and assistants at the company. She is also a Grammy U mentor for the class of 2021.
Nashville-based live entertainment promoter Outback Presents has hired Amy Helberg, who most recently served as vp of booking for Live Nation in Atlanta.
Helberg launched her career at Concert/Southern Promotions, where she was house manager at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre. She remained with the company for three decades through various mergers. She booked the Music Midtown Festival for its first ten years.