RCA’s leadership changes announced earlier Thursday (Jan. 14) reflect the label’s decision to “lean further in on hip-hop and R&B,” RCA chairman and CEO Peter Edge tells Billboard.
Mark Pitts rises from RCA’s president of urban music to RCA Records president, while John Fleckenstein — who has served as co-president with Joe Riccitelli since 2018 — has been upped to chief operating officer. (Riccitelli is exiting the company.)
Pitts has had a pivotal role in signing, developing and advancing the careers of many R&B and hip-hop artists throughout his more than 25 years in the industry, including The Notorious B.I.G., Usher, Miguel, J.Cole and Chris Brown, and has led the label’s efforts to usher in a new generation.
“We’ve been one of the leaders in R&B for quite a few years, that’s not new territory for us,” says Edge, citing SZA, H.E.R., Bryson Tiller, Khalid, and Jazmine Sullivan’s resurgence. “We’ve been in the middle of that and we’re going to be building more of a hip-hop roster.” RCA is already experiencing break-out moments with female rappers Flo Milli and Mulatto, both of whose debut projects spawned gold certified singles.
Edge stresses that despite the lean in, RCA, home to acts like Foo Fighters, P!nk and Alicia Keys, will continue to sign acts of all stripes, heralding burgeoning singer-songwriter Tate McRea and her success with “you broke me first.” “If an artist is great, I don’t get stuck on genre,” he says.
Other moves in the restructuring included the departure of Riccitelli, who was well regarded as a top radio promotion executive. RCA will continue to work with Riccitelli as a consultant.
Many labels find themselves rethinking their radio promotion strategy as the largest terrestrial radio programmer, iHeartRadio switches to more centralized programming and, more importantly, streaming becomes a bigger part of the listening experience.
“We have to approach promotion in a broader fashion,” says Edge of the evolution that has been progressing over the last several years. “The truth about how records are breaking is it’s not just radio, radio plays a part, but it’s social media, DSPs, TikTok. It used to be go to radio and get your record played and have a hit. Now there’s many different ways to get a hit. We have to evolve and put resources into digital marketing and promotion in addition to radio and have a broader view.”
Edge declined to address if any other specific changes were coming in the radio promotion division, saying, “we’re still in radio promotion, but we’ve diversified in all aspects. We’re taking a few different tacks instead of focusing so heavily on radio alone. It’s about getting your audience.” He also notes the importance of terrestrial radio in strong hip-hop and R&B communities like Atlanta and New York, where “there is a strong culture around the mix shows and morning shows.”
In an earlier, previously announced change, executive vp/GM Geo Bivins left the company in December. Edge says his position will be filled from within and expects to make an announcement next week.
RCA’s overall market share in 2020 was 4.66%, compared with 5.18% in 2019, according to MRC Data, while current market share dipped to 3.57% in 2020 from 4.38%.
Grammy best new artist nominee Doja Cat provided RCA with its top-selling album last year. Her Hot Pink album moved 845,000 album consumption units in 2020, according to MRC Data.