All posts tagged Warner Bros.

In Through the Out Door: Rick Rubin & American Recordings done at Sony?

Among the many industry plot-lines running through the major record label sector at the moment, is the uncertain future of Rick Rubin as co-chairman of Columbia Records. To many observers it seems he’s had one foot out the door since first taking the post back in 2007, with his lack of presence and producer projects at the label being well-noted along the way. While there has been no official word from Columbia or Rubin as to his future with the label, his contract expires next year, and speculation about his departure has increased following Doug Morris‘ crowning as Sony Music CEO this year and the restructuring that has followed. Evidence of what lays ahead for Rubin and Sony may also be found with the news of changes afoot at his imprint label American Recordings. Word started filtering through at the tail end of last week about staff changes at the storied label, which Rubin brought with him to Sony from Warner Bros. in 2007. No information has been officially released, but insiders are signaling a departure of the imprint’s A&R staff, while for the moment at least, it seems label GM Dino Paredes will be staying on in some capacity. Are the changes a sign that the label – best known in more recent history for signing System of a Down, Johnny Cash, The Jayhawks and The Avett Brothers – is getting out of the new artist business? Speculation is abundant as to whether American will be sold off, shuttered altogether, or will just continue on with the current catalog, however with no A&R department it seems at a minimum there would be a moratorium on signings at the imprint. It’s also worth noting what the label’s uncertain fate might spell for The Avett Brothers – undoubtedly the crown jewel of the current roster, with a healthy sales base, the band would certainly be much sought after if they suddenly became free agents… Stay tuned.

Indie Dispatches: Wilco goes their own way with The Whole Love – will others follow?

Wilco releases The Whole Love on their new label dBpm

In the indie sector, this week qualifies for landmark status, as the much revered and critically acclaimed band Wilco officially turned their back on the major labels with the release of their new album The Whole Love. The Chicago combo had spent their entire career through Warner Music, firstly on Sire/Reprise, before controversially being dropped, and ironically re-signing to WMG via Nonesuch. In fact the new Wilco album constitutes band leader Jeff Tweedy‘s first indie release for almost 20 years, ranging back to when his prior group Uncle Tupelo left the Rockville label after their March 16-20 album and signed to Sire/Warners for their final record Anodyne in 1993. The Whole Love is the first release on the Wilco’s own imprint dBpm, distributed via Anti, part of Epitaph Records – not a small indie, but still a far cry from the WMG behemoth. And significantly, the early signs on the record show it is business as usual in the Wilco world, and they are not rueing their departure from the major label. In fact, to the casual observer there is no difference, with the obligatory NPR piece and album stream, a TV performance on Letterman, the glowing reviews, the slew of articles, and a general blitz in the media.

In the broader scheme of things, onlookers will also be curious to track the success of the album, as it could serve as the template for a number of other alternative and indie bands with a similar sales base and stature (such as Bright Eyes and Fleet Foxes, who have both reportedly fulfilled the terms of their recording agreements), looking for non-traditional release options in 2011 and beyond. Not only could more artists be looking to turn to the independent world and snubbing the majors and those dreaded 360 deal terms (though The Shins bucked the trend, signing to Columbia), but more could also be really choosing to take control of their own destiny, following the example of Wilco (and other artists like The Get Up Kids), and forming their own record labels.

- Cool Hand Luke

The Plot Thickens: Executive Reordering at Warner Music & EMI Leads to More Questions

News from Warner Bros. Records made industry waves yesterday as it was announced that Tom Whalley is exiting his post as Chairman and current Chief Creative Officer Rob Cavallo will be taking the reins, while Todd Moscowitz and Liva Tortella, will assume the roles of Co-President/CEO and Co-President/COO, respectively. A long time coming in the eyes of many industry insiders, it leaves to question the future of the current A&R staff at the bunny. Will the label’s headquarters be now based in New York, considering that’s the current home base for Moscowitz and Tortella? And it falls in line with Lyor Cohen’s M.O. to keep company headquarters under one roof in the same city. What then becomes of the fabled WB offices (aka the ski lodge) in Burbank, which has been considered a buzz-kill environment compared to the heyday of the Mo and Lenny years. We can probably expect more staff consolidation within the Warner labels so that the music group can share back-office functions, which seems to make sense to do so.

Meanwhile more questions surround the recent decree from new EMI Group head Roger Faxon that included exits by Ronn WerreNick Gatfield and Billy Mann. Lots of industry chatter with the exit of Werre due to the handsome salary compensation he was receiving. Insiders share that when Terra Firma’s Guy Hands took over the music group, he handed (no pun) Werre a substantial 7-figure per year salary in order for him to stay at EMI when Sony Music was courting him vigorously with a deal that was reportedly completed. Will Faxon tap any of his key publishing executives to oversee A&R functions on the record side? And with Gatfield’s departure, what will current Virgin Records Prexy Rob Stevenson’s role be at the music group?  We heard that Gatfield has been meeting with other labels, including Sony Music, but insiders share that Sony is no longer a play. Does that leave the obvious move for Gatfield to rejoin former boss Lucian Grainge at Universal? Moreover, the significant changes announced at two of the four major music groups within the last few weeks now leaves eyes turned toward Universal Music Group and Sony, where similar executive changeovers are expected to happen. Stay tuned…

Place Your Bets: The Shuffling Artist Deck at Majors and Indies

Weezer Going To An Indie For Next Release?

Who’s signing where, and what does it mean?  Indie acts going to majors, major label artists aligning with indies, and both systems vying to nab the same unsigned bands… Looking back at recent months there is a veritable mixed bag. There are artists with a history of at least a few successful indie releases under their belts, like Band of Horses and Iron & Wine, who have recently made the jump to major labels, Columbia and Warner Bros. respectively, while other acts like Spoon and Arcade Fire seem to continually be content on indies… Elsewhere new act Surfer Blood appears to have already made the move to a major; just 6-months following the Kanine Records release of the band’s debut album, the group had racked up enough sales and touring numbers to garner serious interest from multiple labels…  This while unsigned acts with no real sales or tour history like GroupLove and DOM, are currently being courted by both major labels and indies, seemingly so as to not miss out on what could be… What about the reverse trend? Not counting heritage acts, or the exhaustingly-debated pay-what-you-want path taken by Radiohead and NIN among others, one could point to recent examples in Interpol and Wilco as once major label artists now leaving for an indie (their own new label in the case of Wilco). But will there be more to come (or go, as it is)? Word on the street is that longtime Universal artist, Weezer, who released all seven of their previous studio albums on DGC and Geffen, are making a move to a big indie label for their next album. Hmmm… And finally where do the two now meet? A new project to watch unfold will be The Secret Sisters, who recently finished recording their debut with producers Dave Cobb and T-Bone Burnett.  A large buzz  is building with the news that the first single from the duo will be released via the Jack White helmed Third Man Records, with the full-length already slated to come out on Universal Republic this fall… Stay Tuned.

Out and About: Week in Review

Heavy Young Heathens @ El Cid Tuesday Night

The theme for this week was firsts… Monday night at Silverlake Lounge saw a smattering of industry and early-adopters out for the Pittsburgh band 1, 2, 3 who will see their second single released this month via Chess Club in the UK. The band’s debut single came out on Ooh La La Records earlier this year. Monday was the group’s first show ever. Warner Bros.‘s Matt Marshall and Lindsey Cook, who has recently taken up West Coast A&R reins for RCA Records, were on-hand for the indie-inaugural. Across town KCRW‘s School Night had another full house for Angela McCluskey – among fans in attendance was Joaquin Phoenix, thankfully he didn’t rap… Tapas and rock were on the menu for Tuesday night at El Cid, where we caught an early performance from locals Heavy Young Heathens, check out recent love for the band on MTV‘s Buzzworthy Blog. And speaking of buzz, a lot of folks were out to catch new band Group Love who took the tiny flamenco-stage after HYH that night for their first show ever. Mingling on the East Side restaurant’s patio that night was CAA uber-agent Jenna Adler (who just picked up Surfer Blood), Interscope A&R hitter Louie Bandak and Atlantic Record‘s Mollie Moore. We also caught up with Flogging Molly manager and merch-master Gary Schwindt who promised to teach us everything he knows about hoodies and tees… Ian Rogers was not out at the Viper Room on Wednesday night for Get Busy Committee‘s first official L.A. show, but plenty of others were there to catch GBC’s unique high-energy performance. The Topspin Media founder was however on-site for the previous day’s parking-lot party on the West Side, which featured a performance from GBC and a visit from the Kogi BBQ truck… Yum.

Indie Dispatches: L.A. gets Waved Out & Dangerbird’s Signing Spree

Dangerbird Records Signs Manchester's Delphic

The balmy Los Angeles weather had a whole stack of music fans and industry folk checking out bands on the rise, eating bacon-wrapped hot dogs and generally hanging out in historic Echo Park for the recent inaugural Waved Out Festival at the Echo/Echoplex. Kudos to the folks at Spaceland, who with help from Aquarium Drunkard put on the eastside event that was full of good vibes and from what we’re told is the first of what will be a series of similar affairs coming in 2010. Think of a mini-version of NY’s Siren Festival. The ‘one admission’ ticket across the two venues encouraged people to check out acts that they otherwise might have not investigated. This included local up-and-comers Gamblehouse and Atlanta’s The Coathangers, who came out with classic Pacific Northwest 90′s Riot grrrl rock swagger. The surprise of the day was San Francisco’s psychedelic Moon Duo – the two-piece is buzzing after some Pitchfork love for their recent SXSW shows. The all-day event was topped off with sets from Best Coast, the nom de plume of L.A. local Bethany Cosentino who has over 20k digital downloads and more than a couple premier indie labels in pursuit, followed by one of this year’s most-talked about acts at SXSW, Surfer Blood.  The latter played to a packed room, including a heavy contingent of top brass from Warner Bros. Records. Their release Astrocoast has sold over 20k on Kanine Records, and many are wondering if they will be the next act from the indie to be launched onto a major label following Chairlift‘s promotion to Columbia Records

More from the indie label front as Dangerbird Records continues their signing spree. After recently announcing the addition of both Minus the Bear and Hot Hot Heat to their expanding roster, this week they added more international flavor by signing Manchester’s Delphic. The combo’s new album Acolyte debuted in the UK top 10 earlier this year and will see a June release in the states.

- Cool Hand Luke

Endless Summer…

The Drums have labels & pubco's marching to their beat

Monday night at Spaceland was like a good ole’ label brew-ha of days past, with A&R posses from around the league filling the room to catch The Drums (those keeping score may remember a couple of the members from former incarnation Elkland, who was signed to Columbia). Those marching to the Brooklyn-via-Florida band’s jangly surf-pop beat included barneys from all major music groups, with a particularly large showing from the bunny… Pubco’s are in the chase as well with Warner/Chappell making a strong play, but word is Sony/ATV may drop-in on the deal at any moment. Just remember, leashes are for pansies…

Elsewhere, some insiders are wondering what the future holds for Shangri-La Music, as the boutique label has been quietly handing back masters to some of its artists.  Word on the street is that it will come down to founder Steve Bing’s decision whether or not to continue funding the music component of his larger Shangri-La business group. Recent coups for the label include the release of the highly anticipated Monsters of Folk debut album and a building story for new UK artist Band of Skulls. Stay tuned…

Musical Chairs

Columbia Wins

Columbia Wins

As reports come in, well-respected A&R veteran Ashley Newton will be staying in the Sony Music family, transitioning from RCA to Columbia Records. We were alluding to Newton in our Aug. 20th post: “Which Head of A&R is making a jump to another label? Is the move to replace a soon-to-be exiting creative head? Inquiring minds want to know…” As Sony Music ruler Rob Stringer and Columbia Records head Steve Barnett were orchestrating Newton’s transition, Warner Bros. Records was indeed courting Newton in the last minute and insiders share that the bunny was offering a 7-figure annual salary to the seasoned exec. With a new A&R player in the Columbia fold, how does this affect Rick Rubin’s role at the company? Meanwhile, what’s going on at the Amanda Ghost-helmed Epic Records?…

In The Mix: Steve Moir, Freelance Whales, Pete Giberga and Kevin Day…