Newly minted Warner Music Group CEO of recorded music Max Lousada wasted no time asserting his vision for the company: rejuvenation.
Up first: an executive overhaul at Warner Bros. Records, with chairman/CEO Cameron Strang stepping down at the end of the year and Interscope’s Aaron Bay-Schuck and RCA’s Tom Corson set to take over as co-chairmen and, respectively, CEO and COO. The moves, announced a day after Lousada started on Oct. 2, represent a new era for the label, and leave WMG’s major-label rivals with holes to fill in their own ranks.
At 44, Lousada is over a decade younger than the leaders of Sony Music Entertainment (Rob Stringer, 55) and Universal Music Group (Lucian Grainge, 57), and his installment of Bay-Schuck, 37, in the top role at Warner underscores his belief in the power of youth. Lousada, who launched an “innovation center” and recording studio called the Firepit at WMG’s U.K. headquarters in 2016, is focused on competing with social media for fans’ attention. He was also behind Ed Sheeran’s double release of “Shape of You” and “Castle on the Hill” this year, aiming to capitalize on streaming’s speed, say sources. The gamble worked: “Shape of You” led the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 weeks and broke the record for most weeks in the top 10 (33) in the chart’s history.
UMG indicated in a staff memo that Bay-Schuck would stay until his contract expires in September 2018, but he could start discussions with potential signees and push them to Warner before he starts, say sources. But that would violate his Interscope contract, and a representative for Bay-Schuck tells Billboard he would never engage in such behavior.
Securing Corson is a coup as well, with several label executives and managers surprised he would leave the label group he has been with since 2000. He’s widely seen as a firm but fair businessman; United Talent Agency music agent Mike Guirguis, who managed Chris Brown, calls Corson “one of the smartest, most innovative executives I’ve worked with.”
The moves also underscore the power of Atlantic chairman/COO Julie Greenwald, a champion of both Lousada and Bay-Schuck, the latter of whom worked for Greenwald at Atlantic for a decade. With Greenwald and chairman/CEO Craig Kallman leading Atlantic’s latest run of success, Lousada will have forward-thinking leaders at both of his flagship labels.
“He has a brilliant, creative, strategic mind,” says Machine Management’s Iain Watt, who reps Clean Bandit, a group Lousada signed at Atlantic U.K. “As chairman of the company he was still listening to mixes, getting his hands dirty. It has paid dividends.”