Barney Wragg, a former executive at Universal Music Group and EMI in the early days of digital distribution, is extending his entertainment resume with the newly created position of managing director at The Really Useful Group (RUG), the company that manages the intellectual property of theatrical-music composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Wragg, who takes up his new post Dec. 1, will be responsible for developing the copyright of Lloyd Webber's brands in music, film, TV, music publishing, licensing, theatrical production, merchandise and digital services.
Wragg will also manage the licensing for first-class stage productions for Broadway and its London equivalent the West End, productions for regional shows and tours, and those for schools and other amateur productions.
Starting in the early 2000s -- as the international music industry grappled with the implications of digital distribution and the iPod, and long before the social-media networks went mass market -- Wragg played key roles at Universal Music Group and EMI Music. He was senior VP of digital at UMG from 2001 until 2006, when he joined EMI as head of its global digital business. He left EMI in 2007, after its sale to U.K. private-equity firm Terra Firma, to start Barney Wragg Associates (BWA).
BWA -- which will be shut down before Wragg begins his new appointment -- worked with clients such as artist Robbie Williams, concert promoter AEG, and the BRIT Awards (the U.K. equivalent of the Grammy Awards). Wragg introduced the concept of licensing artists' performances at the BRIT Awards ceremony so fans could download and buy copies online, in real time. In 2010, the 'Live from the BRITS' series saw a one-off performance by Florence and the Machine and Dizzee Rascal become available for iTunes purchase within minutes; in 2011, Adele's BRIT performance of "Someone Like You" (XL) reached No. 1 on the U.K.'s official OCC sales charts.
"While at the record labels, the key thing about digital for me was how it dovetails with traditional media and how it will transform the recording business," Wragg tells Billboard.biz. "I want to use that knowledge at RUG to enhance what's already there and take things forward."
Lloyd Webber said in a statement: "We are delighted that Barney has agreed to join us. He is one of the entertainment industry's most exciting innovators and an expert in digital media. He has repeatedly demonstrated how new ideas can be combined with traditional forms of entertainment to the benefit of both customers and businesses."
Lloyd Webber's portfolio includes his compositions for the hit musicals "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Cats," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Starlight Express," "The Phantom of the Opera" and its sequel "Love Never Dies." He is also a prolific producer and co-producer of musicals based on other artists' works, such as "The Wizard of Oz." Album recordings of his musicals have sold more than 30 million units, and his musical "Evita" was made into a movie starring Madonna in 1996.
Additionally, Lloyd Webber has hosted a series of TV contests to discover new talent for his stage productions - most recently, the BBC's "Over the Rainbow" last year for the role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz." Earlier, the U.K. public-broadcast TV network BBC One aired "How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?" in 2006 for "The Sound of Music," and "Any Dream Will Do" for "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in 2007.
"Andrew Lloyd Webber has a phenomenal body of work to develop and do new things with; it is a true 360-degree business, which has got everything on an extensive scale," Wragg says. "The quality of the songwriting stands the test of time and remains relevant across multiple formats and generations."
Future RUG projects include a new version of "Jesus Christ Superstar," directed by Des McAnuff, on Broadway next year; a Michael Grandage production of "Evita" on Broadway in 2012 as well; the CD and DVD recordings of the celebration of "The Phantom of The Opera"'s 25th anniversary at London's Royal Albert Hall, which will be released next month (November); and plans for an Australian film production of "Love Never Dies."
RUG's activities are separate from those of its sister company Really Useful Theatres (RUT), which owns, operates, maintains and promotes Lloyd Webber's theater venues in the West End, the accompanying real estates, and related services such as the box offices and bars.
RUG and Really Useful Theatres are part of Really Useful Investments, which is being split into the two companies.