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Inside Track: Music Biz Gets Back-to-School With Exec Moves, Deals for Ice Spice, Blondshell, d4vd & More

Summer is officially over, folks.

After music’s summer slowdown, the business is back. And largely in person, too. Those lunches you were pushing back or canceling altogether are back on, major concerts have been rolling through town, and with most major music companies now back in the office for real this time (except Capitol, of course), there’s a renewed sense of action afloat.

Whether this renewed enthusiasm is born simply from a couple months of summer R&R, or two-and-a-half years in a pandemic — both have been suggested — things are finally happening and those conversations that were just “talks” during the summer are now becoming deals.


That includes some of the biggest executive moves we’ve seen all year, in rapid-fire succession at that. Robert Kyncl is headed from YouTube to Warner, Larry Jackson‘s out at Apple Music, Amy Thomson is leaving Hipgnosis to run her own rights management company, Jeff Vaughn‘s got a new gig launching a label under Columbia, Jennifer Knoepfle split with Sony Music Publishing for UMPG after more than a decade, and Capitol Records wooed Orlando Wharton away from Atlantic to relaunch Priority Records, to name only a sliver of the many announcements that have come through since Labor Day.

(Side note: As one executive put it, watch for the ebb and flow — more execs coming in now, means more headed out in the new year.)

Now deep into the third quarter, signings are getting done, too. Among those announced: Channel Tres with RCA/Godmode, Chris Janson with Big Machine Label Group Records, Dove Cameron with Sony Music Publishing, Lauren Spencer-Smith with Warner Chappell and producer ATL Jacob with Republic Records. But also, others that haven’t been publicized:

Ice Spice – the Bronx rapper whose single “Munch” has blown up over the past month and a half and now has 18.41 million on-demand U.S. streams, according to Luminate — has signed with 10K projects, the label confirmed with Billboard. And while the company declined to comment further, sources have cited a payday nearing $3 million for the 22-year-old.

d4vd has inked a deal with Interscope/Darkroom on the heels of the release of his popular new track “Romantic Homicide.” The 17-year-old Houston-based artist wrote the melody for the hit song over an instrumental he leased for $100 from BeatStars, a marketplace for independent beat makers. After the viral success of “Romantic Homicide,” the label purchased the full rights to the track outright from Indonesian bedroom producer Dan DMWN for $5,000 and three points on master, according to a rep for Beatstars. Sources say the d4vd signing included a “multi-million” dollar advance. He was represented in the deal by manager Josh Marshall and lawyer Todd Rubenstein.

Blondshell has signed with Partisan Records, after being courted by Atlantic, Sub Pop, True Panther and Capitol, sources tell Billboard. The buzzy L.A.-based indie singer-songwriter has over 1 million U.S. on-demand streams this year on just three songs self-released so far. Blondshell just wrapped a tour with Porridge Radio and has upcoming ACL performance. She’s managed by Shira Knishkowy and Holly Cartwright at Another Management Company, repped for touring by Josh Mulder at TBA Agency in the U.S. and Alex Bruford and Sarah Joy at ATC Live outside the U.S., and repped by Jeff Koenig for legal, with PR from Grandstand.

Caroline Polachek has signed a publishing agreement with Sony Music Publishing. The popular indie pop artist and former Chairlift singer — who releases music on her Perpetual Novice imprint via Sony Music and The Orchard — says she’s “been with Sony on the recorded side for my entire career, and several of my closest collaborators including Danny L. Harle and Dan Nigro are published by SMP, so this already feels very much like home. The passion [A&R] Thomas Krottinger and [CEO] Jon Platt have shown for real artistry and the craft of songwriting made this a no-brainer, and I’m thrilled to start this next chapter with them.”

And, meanwhile, word has it everyone is trying to sign JVKE, whose track “golden hour” has become a TikTok smash, putting him at the center of a bidding war that sources say has reached upwards of $10 million, which would land him likely the year’s biggest deal. That is, if he takes it. Sources say JVKE’s staying indie with AWAL for the time being.

As one source who’s worked across practically all sectors of the business put it, the music business is back in session in September, much like the start of the new school year — only the calendar year’s almost over, too, and everyone’s trying to squeeze in their major moves before 2023.

Additional reporting by Elias Leight, Kristin Robinson and Lindsey Havens.