Producer/songwriter Salaam Remi has established his own label imprint group, Louder Than Life, with Sony Music, Billboard has learned exclusively. It’s the latest move by a high-profile producer/songwriter to help drive major-label A&R strategy.
In addition to releasing projects under the Louder Than Life banner, Remi will issue projects through two subimprints: RemiFa Music and Flying Buddha Records.
“[Sony chairman/CEO] Doug Morris has given me a great opportunity to incubate and market artists,” Remi says of Louder Than Life.
Remi, whose extensive list of credits includes Amy Winehouse, Usher, Alicia Keys and Miguel, describes Louder Than Life as an artist development-focused imprint targeting youth and urban culture through multiple genres ranging from pop, hip-hop and R&B to jazz, blues and reggae.
The Grammy Award-nominated producer is among a growing group of hit songwriter/producers who have migrated to major labels’ A&R executive ranks within the last several years. Those ranks include Def Jam executive VPs of A&R No I.D. and The-Dream and Motown senior VP of A&R Ne-Yo. Another such convert, Christopher “Tricky” Stewart, recently resigned from his post as Epic president of A&R after nearly two years, citing his desire to get back into the studio.
Lack of A&R development has long been a bone of contention among artists and producers. Remi’s double roles as executive VP of A&R at Sony Music and now at the helm of his own artist development-focused label group underscores the majors’ renewed commitment to A&R in the last couple of years.
One of the more high-profile A&R appointments occurred in July 2012 when Mike Caren—former executive VP of A&R for Atlantic and co-president of Elektra—was made president of worldwide A&R for Warner Music Group. Republic Records expanded its urban A&R department last year with two new VPs of A&R: Tab Nkhereanye and Naim Ali McNair. In May, Michael “Sha Moey XL” Clervoix was named executive VP of urban A&R for Epic. More recently, former Atlantic VP of A&R Darrale Jones segued to Def Jam Recordings as executive VP, reporting directly to Karen Kwak, executive VP/head of A&R for Island Def Jam.
The strategy hopes to give promising artists the chance and tools to develop and nurture their talent with an ear toward creating careers versus one-hit wonders. More focus on artist development can also translate into boosting the ranks of sustainable artists whose music is more substantive instead of formulaic. And that connection also means a better return on investment in terms of building fan bases, touring, catalog and other revenue-generating ventures.
Remi’s rollout begins with two initial releases. Up first is Mack Wilds, the R&B/hip-hop alter ego of actor Tristan Wilds (“The Wire,” “90210”). Wilds’ debut album, New York: A Love Story (RemiFa/Louder Than Life), is due in September. First single “Own It” is now available, written and produced by Ne-Yo and Remi. Flying Buddha’s first project, due in July, will be from Australian four-piece “future soul” band Hiatus Kaiyote.
Remi declined to reveal financial terms or details about the length of his imprint group’s initial contract with Sony. He will, however, continue in his role as executive VP of A&R and production at Sony Music Entertainment. In that position he has been involved in production work with artists across the Sony labels, including Jazmine Sullivan, Jennifer Hudson, Katherine McPhee, Jordin Sparks, Treasure Davis, Mali Music, James Arthur and Ella Henderson.
“From RCA, Epic and Syco to Kemosabe and Columbia, I sit down with the heads of those labels to help with any artists they want me to look at,” Remi says.