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Executive Turntable: Metallica’s Vinyl Plant Appoints New CEO; Atlantic Legal Legend Takes Warner Route; Messina’s VP Trio

Mr. Nimbus | 02/16/2024

It’s time for another quick spindle around the Executive Turntable, Billboard’s comprehensive(ish) compendium of promotions, hirings, exits and firings — and all things in between — across music. When you’re done with that, get a readout of the most powerful people in the music biz with the latest Power 100 list.

Time marches on at Furnace Record Pressing as the Metallica-backed vinyl manufacturing plant welcomes Ali Miller as new CEO beginning March 1. Miller, who has rocked the COO role since 2018, will take over the top job from FRP’s founder and minority owner Eric Astor, who transitions to a strategic advisor at the plant he founded in 1996. He’ll remain a trusted member of the board. Miller’s rise makes her the first female CEO of a domestic pressing plant. The CEO switch arrives nearly a year after Metallica and their investment arm Black Squirrel Partners purchased a majority stake in the Northern Virginia facility — already the band’s trusted vinyl presser for over a decade. At the time, Miller affirmed her company’s commitment to quality over quantity in comments to Billboard, explaining, “We’d rather throw out some bad records than make as many as we can.”

“Since the day Ali joined Furnace, I knew she possessed the exceptional talent, dedication, and passion to thrive in this industry,” Astor said of Miller, who has over 16 years at Furnace. “She has been instrumental in shaping Furnace into the respected force it is today. I am confident that with Ali at the helm, Furnace will continue to deliver the highest quality vinyl records and remain a trusted partner to artists and labels for years to come.”

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Michael Kushner

Michael Kushner

Jimmy Fontaine

Just shy of his 25th anniversary at Atlantic Records, veteran legal executive Michael Kushner is shifting over to parent company Warner Music Group to be the label giant’s new senior vp, deputy general counsel of business and legal affairs. The promotion is right on the heels of Kushner being honored with the 2024 Entertainment Law Initiative (ELI) Service Award, given each year to an attorney who has shown their stripes in supporting the music community through service. The NYC-based Kushner reports to evp & general counsel Paul Robinson,” who called the respected exec “one of the sharpest legal minds in the business.” Kush, as he’s called, launched his music biz career at PolyGram Records in 1987. Stints at Philips Media, Crave Records (the Mariah Carey/Sony Music joint) and Sony Wonder followed over the next 10 years before a gig as head of business & legal affairs at Island Def Jam to close out the 20th century. In 2001, he joined Atlantic under the title he’s kept the entire time: evp, business & legal affairs and general counsel.

“It’s been a pleasure and an honor to count Kush as a trusted partner and close friend for the past 25 years,” said Atlantic Music Group chairman & CEO Julie Greenwald. “He’s guided countless deals, modernized our contracts, mentored our amazing BA department, and been there for me, Craig, and our Atlantic team morning, noon, and night. Artists and managers love him, because he not only has a brilliant business brain, but a creative brain that allows him to see their point of view. Atlantic wouldn’t be the company it is today without him, and it’s fantastic to see him graduate to this brand-new role.”

Meanwhile …

Messina Touring Group upped three to vice president. Lauren Cairerises rises from director of finance to vp of finance, Keena Cheatham from promoter rep to vp of touring, and LeeAnn Rotondo from director of ticketing to vp of ticketing. Cheatham joined MTG in 2013 as a promoter rep on Taylor Swift’s Red Tour and has gone on to have a hand in over half of the company’s roster. Caire and Rotondo both joined up in 2015 as senior accountant and ticket manager, respectively. Caire is coming off a busy 2023, managing the finances for blockbuster tours by Swift, Ed Sheeran and George Strait, and more. Under Rotondo’s leadership, MTG’s formerly fragmented ticketing strategy has become more centralized and streamlined. “It thrills me to see our MTG team grow – these individuals are just another example of the incredible MTG team,” said CEO Louis Messina. You can reach Caire lauren@messinatouring.com, Cheatham keena@messinatouring.com and Rotondo leeann@messinatouring.com.

Credit: Neil Patel

RCA Records promoted label veteran Kunal “KJ” Jadav to senior vp of A&R and marketing, effective immediately. The Atlanta-based exec reports directly to RCA president Mark Pitts. Jadav got his start at RCA in 2015 in the promotions department, but as the label puts it, “an incredible prowess for discovering and developing talent” eventually delivered him to A&R, where since 2017 he has scouted, signed and developed hip-hop acts including Young Nudy, BabyDrill and Kenny Mason. KJ is also credited with managing “Gassed Up” MC Nebu Kiniza and producer Coupe, who has worked with Young Nudy, 21 Savage and others.

Radio host, executive and music supervisor Jason Bentley is the new president of licensing and soundtracks at Thrive Music. In his new role, Bentley will pursue business development opportunities for sync services across the film, TV, advertising and video game spaces. He’ll also team up with Virgin Music Group, Thrive’s distributor, to acquire and boost soundtrack properties with insightful music solutions. Bentley previously served as music director at KCRW, where he did double duty as music director and host of “Morning Becomes Eclectic” for more than a decade. In the record business, he has worked in A&R at both Island and Maverick, and as a supe for film, he produced the soundtrack for a little thing called The Matrix, and served as consultant on the latest Top Gun flick. “Thrive is on the frontlines of dance music culture, and I’m thrilled to join Ricardo [Vinas, founder] and the Thrive team as they continue to build a global force in dance music,” Bentley said.

Decorated music business manager Bruce Kolbrenner has joined Adeptus Advisors as the managing partner in the firm’s Los Angeles office. Kolbrenner, formerly of Prager Metis, brings along a team of three to Adeptus: business managers Tyler Kizu and Ghilhaine Georges Montoya, and royalty specialist Troy Schreck. Kolbrenner’s over four decades of experience includes his work advising artists of all stripes and offering testimony at high-profile entertainment cases, plus a memorable stint as the accountant for the historic Moscow Music Peace Festival in 1989. He is a regular fixture in Billboard’s annual lists of top business managers. “We are thrilled to welcome Bruce Kolbrenner and his outstanding team,” said Howard Krant, CEO of Adeptus Advisors. “Bruce’s extraordinary talent for nurturing emerging artists aligns seamlessly with our vision for creating unparalleled personal service to our clients.”

Transgressive Records hired former Atlantic Records exec Jack Hedges to fill the newly created position of general manager of North America, effective immediately. In the role, Hedges will oversee the UK label’s expansion across the pond, including signing and developing new acts and widening the playing field for their existing roster artists. Hedges comes bearing gifts in the form of Canvasback Music, the boutique imprint he ran under Atlantic that’ll now live within Transgressive. “With his impeccable taste, a reputation for being universally revered by artists and colleagues alike, not to mention a glorious penchant for underground music, Jack is most definitely the right person to guide Transgressive Records and its roster through to new heights in the world’s biggest music territory,” said Transgressive directors Toby L, Tim Dellow and Lilas Bourboulon.

Operation Song, a non-profit that teams veterans, active-duty military and their families with professional songwriters to share their stories through song, has announced the appointment of Army veteran Jon Foti as CEO. In the newly-created role, Foti will oversee fundraising development and the expansion of partnerships within the music industry and veterans organizations. Foti is also currently leading the non-profit’s search for new office space in Nashville, Tennessee, to accommodate the organization’s growth. Operation Song’s Board of Directors includes leaders in Nashville’s music, healthcare, and technology sectors. In addition to board president Bob Leonard, the board is comprised of Dennis Buchanan, Kevin M. Doherty, Joe Forte, Danielle Lauber, songwriter Cindy Morgan, Debbie Respess, Jeff Rice, Jason Rose, Andy Sale, ASCAP’s Mike Sistad, and radio personality Storme Warren. –Jessica Nicholson

Oak View Group promoted Katee LaPoff to chief technology officer and Josh Pell to president of premium experiences and global strategy. In her new role, LaPoff will lead OVG’s tech team and continue reporting to Steve Collins, president of global venue development, Ade Patton, CFO, and Chris Granger, the president of OVG360. Over the last three years, she has served as svp of project management and technology — focusing on venue technology. Prior to OVG, LaPoff spent 10 years as svp of technology at Madison Square Garden Companies. In his elevated role, Pell will oversee the company’s e-commerce platform and continue to manage OVG’s hospitality and food/beverage design initiatives. He’ll continue to report to Steve Collins as well as to Francesca Bodie, COO.

All in the Family: Billboard president Mike Van welcomed a lengthy string of promotions this week. They include Edward Stepankovsky (regional vice president of brand partnerships), Andrea Guevara-Gresh (senior account manager), Kristen Wisneski (account manager), Gary Trust (managing director, charts & data operations), Alex Vitoulis (director, charts & data production), Ciara Zimring (McVey) (director of strategy and production), Emily Fuentes (senior manager content and production), Stefanie Tanaka (senior manager content and strategy), Meghan Mahar (branded producer and social manager), Lyndsey Havens (deputy editor), Kristin Robinson (senior writer), Rebecca Milzoff (executive editor, magazine), Griselda Flores (senior editor), Hannah Johnson (staff writer), Danielle Pascual (social media manager), Rania Aniftos (associate editor) and Josh Glicksman (associate editor).

Spirit Music Group promoted Tamar Wax to vice president of film & TV music, creative. Previously a senior director, Wax is based out of Los Angeles and reports to svp of creative services Amy Hartman. Since joining SMG in 2019, Wax’s handiwork has helped place several songs by Spirit artists in movie and TV trailers, most notably a remix of Daddy Yankee’s classic hit “Gasolina” in the Fast X spot. Prior to joining Spirit, Wax served as vp of creative at Vibrant Ground Music. “Tamar has proven herself to be an exceptional creative sync licensing executive, having landed multiple high-profile sync licenses for our Spirit Music Group roster across trailers, promo campaigns, TV shows and films,” said Hartman. “We couldn’t be happier to acknowledge her dedication to our songwriters and our music supervisor community with this well-deserved promotion.”

NASHVILLE NOTES: The Academy of Country Music hired Ben Carter as vp of live events and production; Matt Brum-Taylor as director of digital marketing; Lexi Cothran as senior manager of communications and strategic initiatives; Kendra Williams is the new coordinator of finance; Brooke Boyd is assistant, ACM Lifting Lives; and Heather Howard was hired as an assistant in the marketing department … The organization also announced that Raj Kapoor is returning as executive producer of this year’s ACM Awards .. Vroom vroom, Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta will now oversee operations for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix, an annual NTT IndyCar Series race held in Nashville.

REFORM Alliance debuted Wallace “Wallo267” Peeples to lead the criminal justice reform organization’s marketing efforts as chief marketing officer. REFORM was formed by Meek Mill, Jay-Z and Fanatics chief Michael Rubin in wake of the #FreeMeek movement and since 2019 has helped pass 18 pieces of bipartisan legislation across 11 states as it strives to get people out of the justice system and into wellness and work. “Wallo267 is a son of Philadelphia, the city where REFORM Alliance was born,” said REFORM CEO Robert Rooks. “Through hard experience, he developed a life philosophy rooted in accountability, second chances, and never giving up. Today, he carries that message of hope to his millions of social media followers.”

Rothenberg, Mohr & Binder LLP, a bi-coastal music and entertainment law firm, promoted Lisa Lester to partner with the firm. Since 2020, Lester’s work at RM&B has included representing Top Dawg Entertainment, Marshmello and Big Time Rush, among other clients. The Los Angeles-based partner also works with a wide slate of producers and songwriters, including Rob Kinelski, Noah Goldstein, BUNT. And others. Founding partners Paul Rothenberg, Jeremy Mohr and Josh Binder said “Lisa’s dedication to clients and work on behalf of the firm is second to none – and this promotion is well deserved. Her prior years of experience across the industry and high level work here at the firm since 2020 have given her unique insight and expertise that few others share.”

The Oriel Company promoted Nina Lee to vp of communications at the Carleen Donovan/Chloë Walsh/Jen Appel-founded PR agency. Lee joined The Oriel in June 2021 and has already executed media campaigns for a roster that includes Maxwell, Daniel Caesar, UMI, Hannibal Buress, No ID, d4vd, James Fauntleroy, Sickamore, and Betty Who, as well as corprorate clients including Amazon Music, Live Nation and 88rising. She is based in The Oriel Company’s New York office.

There’s a new player in artist management with the launch of What’s Good Projects. The Nashville company is a partnership between industry veterans Ryan Kroon and Jacob Knight, who between them have 20 years of experience managing the day-to-day careers of artists including ERNEST, Sam Hunt, Maddie and Tae, Tyler Farr and Mason Ramsey, among others. Kroon got his start at HOMESTEAD/RedLight Management and later joined Sony Music Nashville and then Project 615. Knight began his career at CAA before joining 377/RedLight and most recently KPEntertainment. WGP’s inaugural client roster includes Troy Cartwright, Clayton Mullen, Palmer Anthony, Austin Burke and Ollie Joseph. “Jacob and I moved to Nashville around the same time to pursue careers in this industry and have had an immense mutual respect for one another,” Kroon explains. “We’ve chatted over the years about partnering up, so with the continued growth of What’s Good over the last year, the time seemed right.”

Raphael Saadiq’s music production company, My Kind of Music/My Kind of Movies, tapped Yancey Richardson to oversee music supervision for the firm’s film and TV projects, including the upcoming film Freaky Tales. Richardson is an 18-year veteran at Atlantic Records, where he rose to director of marketing promotion, and he started his own productions company, Toler Heights Music.

Round Room Live, producer and promoter of family shows like Blippi, Sesame Street Live! and the national tour of Shrek the Musical, has hired Dale Shaughnessy as vp of marketing. In her new position, Shaughnessy will be responsible for driving revenue and marketing opportunities, including on the corporate side, and overseeing global touring projects and user-building initiatives. Shaughnessy joins the company following more than 15 years of professional experience in the field at a range of industry leaders like Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Live Nation and Feld Entertainment.

ICYMI:


Jessica Rivera

Cumulus Media marked May 31 as the last day for vp of country Charlie Cook, a member of the Country Radio Hall of Fame … Hooray for ex-SoundCloud exec Jessica Rivera (pictured), who joined Issa Rae’s HOORAE as president of its Radio division … and Sony Music Publishing hired Anghami veteran Dounia Chaaban to lead its new office in Dubai.

Last Week’s Turntable: Merlin Swarms Its Data Team With New Hires

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Written by Mr. Nimbus




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