Warner Music Group has tapped its Asia chief, Simon Robson, to oversee the label’s international recorded music operations outside the U.S. and the U.K.
Robson the president of Warner Music Asia since 2015, will become the president of international, Recorded Music, effectively assuming Stu Bergen’s responsibilities for international recorded music. Bergen, CEO, international and global commercial services, is scheduled to retire at the end of January. Last week Warner appointed Comcast executive Maria Weaver president of WEA, Warner’s global artist and label services network. Bergen’s role effectively covered both areas.
A 49-year-old Brit, Robson will be based in London and report to Max Lousada, Warner’s Global CEO of Recorded Music. (Weaver also will report to Lousada.)
Robson has worked for Warner for over two decades. He joined the company in 1998 as Director of Finance for the Asia Pacific Region. Then in 2004, following a stint at Warner Music Japan, he took the post of vp of Operations and Finance for Europe. In 2007, the label appointed him COO and CFO of Warner Music UK, a post he held for seven years.
Most recently Robson was based in Hong Kong, where as head of Warner Music Asia he oversaw markets including China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, and in April opened its first office in Vietnam. He helped oversee the launch of new labels in the region, such as dance music imprint Spinnin’ Records Asia and Japanese urban label +809.
Robson guided Warner Asia at a tumultuous time. Street protests in Hong Kong that went on for months increased tensions with Beijing and made it difficult, at times, to conduct business. And when the pandemic struck Wuhan in January, quickly spreading throughout China, Robson had to scramble to ensure the health and safety of his team of almost 600 people across Asia, about 60 of which work in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, Robson has been in the middle of a pitted competition in Asia among the top labels to develop more local artists and potential global superstars. Universal Music Group kicked it off when it opened a new base of operations for Southeast Asia in Singapore in September 2019. The move included establishing imprints of Astralwerks and Def Jam in Southeast Asia. “It’s a bit of an arms race,” Robson told Billboard in February.
But during Robson’s tenure Warner has, at times, been playing catch-up to UMG, with Spinnin’ Asia launching two months after Astralwerks. There were also some notable defections, including Calvin Wong, who left Warner Music in May 2019 to become UMG’s CEO for Southeast Asia and svp Asia. At Warner, Wong had been president, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Korea, and evp for Marketing.
While in Asia, Robson worked closely with many of Asia’s leading superstars, including Jam Hsiao, TWICE, JJ Lin and Tia Ray. During his tenure, Robson recruited a new, diverse generation of senior executives, many from outside the music world, Warner says in a statement. Lousada, in a statement, said Robson “has an impressive track record of curating a roster of local artists with global potential, cultivating new audiences for our worldwide superstars, and fostering a culture of collaboration, openness, and creativity.”
For his part, Robson previously told Billboard that “Asia is the future of the music business.” K-pop global successes such as “Blackpink and BTS are the beginnings of many, many more,” he said.
In his new role, Robson will also work closely with Eric Wong, President and Chief Marketing Officer, Recorded Music, and Maria Weaver, the recently appointed President of WEA. Robson will continue in his role in Hong Kong until the end of January. Warner says it has yet to decide who will succeed him in Asia.