Exclusive: Zayn Malik Manager Sarah Stennett, Access Industries Formally Announce Joint Venture
Sarah Stennett, the CEO and founder of music management company Turn First Artists, and Access Industries, run by billionaire Len Blavatnik, today formally announced the formation of a joint venture entitled First Access Entertainment. Turn First's clients include former One Direction member Zayn Malik, Iggy Azalea, Ellie Goulding, Charles Hamilton and Rita Ora; the privately held Access Industries is the parent company of the Warner Music Group and also has holdings in media, telecommunications, technology and E-commerce concerns.
"First Access is an expansion of the company I've been building over the last 10 years," Stennett told Billboard. "What I'm creating with Len is an entertainment company that not only encompasses music but will also incorporate fashion, film, TV and technology that enables us to develop talent and brands in a way that is synergistic with music at its core."
“Sarah has successfully launched the careers of many renowned artists and brings extensive experience in talent discovery and artistic management,” Blavatnik said.
While some estimated the value of the new JV in the tens of millions of dollars, Stennett declined to put a dollar amount on the new entity. "What I can say is that we are very well funded, we'll invest comprehensively, competently and once we commit to a project whatever it is we will see it through."
The news, which Billboard first reported last month, came as something of a surprise because of Turn First's longstanding relationship with Universal Music Group where many of her star clients are signed, including Azalea (Def Jam), Goulding (Cherrytree/Interscope) and Charles Hamilton (Republic). Ora, however, is signed with Roc Nation/Columbia while Malik is with RCA.
Stennett, for her part, says she has plans to move beyond record labels. "It's a much broader base than just a music company," she says. "We're living in a very different and fast moving, culturally diverse space. Artists who are now in their late-teens and early 20s live in that space where they digest music, fashion and film much in the same way they want to express themselves. In order to get investment beyond just a pure record company investment in those other areas you have to have resources both financial and human available to allow your talent to explore those interests and that's what this joint venture enables us to do."
While Turn First Artists currently has 38 employees and offices in London, New York and Los Angeles, First Access Entertainment is expected to increase both its staffing and clients. Stennett indicated she is already working with artists beyond music and plans several key hires both from within the music industry and beyond -- all of which will soon be announced.
Stennett explained she first met with Blavatnik in March and since then has consulted with several key Warner Music Group executives, including CEO Stephen Cooper, Atlantic Records CEO Craig Kallman, Warner Bros. CEO Cameron Strang and ADA president Eliah Seton. Artists that are signed and developed by First Access Entertainment will be distributed or released through Warner Music Group.
When asked about the term of the joint venture, Stennett declined to put an expiration date. "This is the future for as far as I can see for the future of my business," she said. "It's not something we're getting out of. We're building a company together that is going to be significant and there's no term -- the term is long term."