Music Industry Moves: Maria Egan Joins Riot Games; Natina Nimene Earns EVP Stripes at Def Jam

·13-min read

+ Riot Games has named Maria Egan (pictured above, at left) global head of music and events. She arrives from Splice, where she was chief music officer. In her new role, Egan will spearhead music content for all gaming, television series and film globally, and serve as lead manager for all label partnerships and music industry relationships. Location-based experiences will also be part of her portfolio, including mixed reality and virtual experiences, in addition to physical activations. Prior to Splice, Egan was president and head of creative at leading independent publisher, Pulse Music Group.

+ Def Jam Recordings has promoted Natina Nimene (pictured above, at right) to executive vice president, promotion and artist relations. A 10-year veteran of the label, she serves as a special liaison for core Def Jam artists (Ye, Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, 2 Chainz, Jeezy and YG among them) and for developing artists like Muni Long, Coco Jones, Fredo Bang and Danileigh. In her new position, she’ll continue to lead strategy, execution and management of the label’s promotion campaigns. Nimene was previously SVP, urban promotion; she added artist relations to her responsibilities in 2020.

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Said Def Jam Recordings chairman and CEO Tunji Balogun: “Natina is a gifted, one-of-a-kind executive who has a rare, innate talent for connecting with artists in a meaningful way and executing their plans with care, passion and razor-sharp focus and expertise. Her huge impact on our label, staff and records is felt every day. More than that, she acts as an all-important emissary and beacon to our industry and culture at large. I’m beyond excited to congratulate Natina on this well-deserved promotion and look forward to the many wins we will achieve together.”

“I’ve been honored to work at this legendary label for over ten years, but never have I felt such optimism and belief if its leadership than at this moment,” added Nimene. “Tunji’s talent and creative instincts – as well as his well-earned reputation for artist development – are unparalleled, and he has established himself as a passionate, thoughtful and inspiring leader. I’m excited to lend my energy, experience and drive to this incredible journey.”

Wednesday, May 4

+ Via Artist Publishing Group, artist, songwriter, and producer Chrishan has extended his publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music. His credits include Meek Mill’s “Dangerous,” A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie’s “Look Back It,” Drake’s “Jaded,” French Montana’s “No Stylist” and Chris Brown’s “Grass Ain’t Greener” and “Party.” Chrishan is the nephew of R&B singer Lyfe Jennings, one-half of production duo Makasound and the founder of Right Now Sound.

“Chrishan is a one-of-a-kind talent, and I’m so excited to welcome him to the APG family and support his career alongside the team at Warner Chappell,” said APG A&R Daniella Cabargas. “He’s already accomplished incredible things, continues to push boundaries every day, and is an inspiration to everyone he works with.”

+ The founders of Keel, which boasts a roster that includes Louis the Child and Two Feet (signed to Interscope and Republic, respectively), have launched a record label and recording studio under the banner Thirty Knots. Based in Los Angeles and specializing in indie-alternative, crossover electronic and pop-rock, its artist Nicky Youre has accumulated more than 54 million streams on Spotify alone for his song “Sunroof.”

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to publicly launch Thirty Knots and provide artists the opportunity to work with a forward thinking label that bestows a manager perspective, an innovative digital marketing approach and attention to detail that is vital to success in today’s ultra-competitive modern landscape,” said founders Peter Rugo and Joey Papoutsis.

Tuesday, May 3

BMG has re-upped its deals with its two U.S. repertoire leads, Thomas Scherer and Jon Loba (left and right, below). Los Angeles-based Scherer is president of repertoire & marketing for L.A. and New York, and Nashville-based Jon Loba is president of BMG Nashville, naturally enough.

Loba will also now add publishing to his established Nashville label responsibilities, while Scherer will take the lead on US rights acquisition in addition to his responsibilities for BMG’s Los Angeles and New York-based repertoire operations.

. - Credit: Courtesy BMG
. - Credit: Courtesy BMG

Courtesy BMG

According to the announcement, Scherer and Loba’s repertoire operations account for around half of BMG’s global revenues. They will continue to work closely with CFO US Joe Gillen; the news comes as BMG plans to open its new Los Angeles office after an 18-month delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch said, “BMG is on a roll in the U.S. and it’s thanks in no small part to the work of Thomas and Jon. Jon has created a label powerhouse in Nashville with Jason Aldean, Dustin Lynch, Jimmie Allen, Lainey Wilson, and Jelly Roll so it makes sense to extend his scope to our Nashville music publishing operation. Meanwhile Thomas is delivering significant double-digit growth at BMG’s core US publishing business with writers like George Harrison, Juice WRLD, D’Mile, Diane Warren, and Lewis Capaldi while also building our recordings interests with key signings like 5 Seconds of Summer, AJR, Maxwell, Slash, Bryan Adams, and the recent acquisitions of Mötley Crüe and John Legend catalogs.”

+ SoundCloud has acquired Musiio, an artificial intelligence company that is intended to amplify SoundCloud’s existing music intelligence capabilities and allow the company to further leverage its data.

According to the announcement, Musiio’s technology focuses on B2B audio reference search (AI that can “listen” to music), automated tagging, and playlisting tools for the music industry. By “listening” to more tracks than a human could and identifying characteristics and patterns, its AI allows users to better predict success, which in turn, can increase their hit-rate and ultimately their revenue.

“SoundCloud hosts more music from more creators than any platform on the planet. Acquiring Musiio accelerates our strategy to better understand how that music is moving in a proprietary way, which is critical to our success,” says Eliah Seton, President of SoundCloud. “We are honored to partner with Hazel and Aron and welcome the absolutely brilliant team of innovators at Musiio to the SoundCloud family.”

Based in Singapore and founded by British CEO Hazel Savage and Swedish CTO Aron Pettersson, Musiio was founded in June 2018 and was recently named one of Fast Company Most Innovative Companies for 2022. Savage and Pettersson will remain an integral part of operations, coming on board as VP, Music Intelligence and VP, AI and Machine Learning, respectively. SoundCloud will fully integrate Musiio’s employees, who will retain their positions.

+ Filmmaker J’la Swafford has been named recipient of the Motown Records Creator Program Supported by Google, which was designed to elevate women of color within the music industry. As creative collaborator, Swafford will provide creative support to Motown Records’ executives and roster of artists from March through July 2022.

The program announced earlier this year was created by Motown Records in partnership with Google to provide resources and opportunities for women of color with the desire to develop a professional career within the music industry. The partnership was brokered by UTA Entertainment & Culture Marketing.

Swafford has a wide range of experience in directing, cinematography, and production. In her role as a creative collaborator, she will have the opportunity to work alongside the label and its front-line artist, Tiana Major9.

“I am honored to welcome J’la into the Motown Family as the Motown Records Creator Program’s very first creative collaborator,” said Motown Records Chairwoman & CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam. “J’la is an inspired young filmmaker with a soulful eye and a passion for innovative and forward-leaning storytelling. As a label that is committed to elevating Black creative work, we are excited to provide her an opportunity and creative space to cultivate her natural talent and expand her portfolio of work.”

+ Creem Entertainment announced that former Vice publisher John Martin has joined as CEO, leading a wave of new hires at the company. Martin will work alongside JJ Kramer, chairman of Creem Entertainment and son of the magazine’s co-founder & publisher Barry Kramer, and Jaan Uhelszki — a key member of the magazine’s legendary 1970s staff and a pioneering female music journalist — who joins as editor at large.

Other new hires include Amy Schriefer, who joins as VP of marketing, and Fred Pessaro as VP of content (both also formerly of Vice); Dan Morrissey as executive editor (formerly of Entertainment Weekly), Maria Sherman as senior editor, Matt Salacuse as photography director and Dave Carnie as editor at large. BMG Cypress Ascendant Holdings have also come on as investors in Creem Entertainment.

“Creem was always the most iconic American brand of my rock n roll infused memories,” Martin said. “After seeing the documentary and meeting JJ, I knew there was a huge opportunity to bring the company back for the modern era. In 2022 the pendulum is swinging and the vibe shift is real: young people and music fans of all ages want some cathartic release, to laugh and have fun again, and not take themselves too seriously.”

Monday, May 2

Columbia Records has named Wilt Wallace senior vice president of urban promotion it was announced today by executive VP of promotion Peter Gray, to whom Wallace will report.

“Wilt has an impressive and remarkably modern approach to promotion that consistently reaches the top of the urban airplay charts.” stated Gray “It’s a genuine thrill to welcome him to our team. We are all excited to see him apply his skills and strategies to our roster of world class artists and material at Columbia Records.”

“Columbia Records is one of the most iconic entities in the history of the music business and I’m eager to become a part of its bright future,” Wallace added. “I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Ron Perry, Jen Mallory and Peter Gray for this amazing opportunity. From afar, I’ve always admired Columbia’s unique ability to strategically identify monster hits and successfully deliver them on the charts.” says Wallace.

Prior to joining the Columbia Records team, Atlanta-based Wallace held the role of SVP or urban promotion at Warner Records, where he rose through the ranks from the mix-show team to senior VP.

+ Universal Music Publishing Group has signed Dave Bayley of Glass Animals to an exclusive, global publishing agreement. Glass Animals, who are signed to UMG’s Republic label in the U.S., were named Group of the Year for Variety’s Hitmakers.

Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO of UMPG, said: “I am a Glass Animals fan and I am especially delighted to work closely with UMPG’s global creative teams to amplify Dave Bayley’s talents as a writer and producer, not only for his band but also for other artists who inspire and excite him.”

Glass Animals manager, Amy Morgan of September Management, added, “After the success of ‘Heat Waves’ and ‘Dreamland,’ the next chapter for Dave is going to be a really important one. There is so much to explore for him both as an artist and as a writer/producer and I’m really looking forward to working with Jody, Mike and the team at UMPG to help develop all these strands of his career.”

Latterly, UMPG A&R lined up Bayley to co-write Florence Welch’s new single, “My Love,” from her forthcoming album. Glass Animals are also currently on their “Dreamland” tour across the U.S.

“There’s so much I want to learn and so much music I want to make in so many different areas — from Glass Animals records, to pop songwriting, to experimental sound design, to scoring,” said Bayley. “When it came time to re-sign my publishing, there were so many wonderful people, ideas and opportunities around that I began to feel a bit lost, but Universal Music Publishing and the incredible team of people there had drawn a long and clear path for me through those ideas… it just felt like a journey I wanted to take. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!”

+ Lynn Gonzalez has been promoted to executive vice president, head of business affairs and business development at Def Jam Recordings. The announcement comes from Universal Music Group’s Steve Gawley, executive VP of business and legal affairs and Tunji Balogun, chairman and CEO of Def Jam Recordings.

Gonzalez will continue to handle the business and legal affairs for the company, including over­sight of Def Jam’s legal team and its negotiations and deal-making on behalf of the label’s roster of artists. Gonzalez, who is based in New York, will report to both Balogun and Gawley.

“Beyond her best-in-class skill set as an attorney and her remarkable business instincts and acumen, Lynn provides invaluable guidance and perspective on behalf of our artists and their plans,” said Balogun. “Her unique ability to handle the intricacies of her very sensitive and important work while adding keen insights and value across every aspect of our label makes Lynn a real one-of-one.”

Gonzalez has served as Def Jam’s senior VP of business and legal affairs since 2016, having joined the company in 2013, as VP of business and legal affairs. Prior to Def Jam, she spent six years in business & legal affairs at Atlantic Records.

“I was fortunate enough to hire Lynn Gonzalez for her exceptional legal talents,” said Gawley. “What I came to learn over time was that her unique talents as a deal­maker were only exceeded by her intuitive operational sensibilities. Lynn will be a critical force in enhancing Def Jam’s legacy and in helping its stellar management team reach ever greater heights under Tunji’s leadership.”

+ Singer-songwriter Kal Lavelle has signed with Sony Music Publishing U.K. for a worldwide publishing agreement.

Recently, Lavelle co-wrote Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers,” which achieved chart-topping positions in the U.K. and around the world. Kal has also been in the studio with artists including KOLIDESCOPES, Naughty Boy, Eddie Serafica and more.

Tim Major, co-managing director, U.K., Sony Music Publishing said, “She has a rare ability to quickly and deeply connect with other songwriters and she encourages honest and genuine collaboration in everything she does. I must thank Jim Doyle and Ed Sheeran for introducing us and, of course, Kal for putting her trust in Sony Music Publishing.”

“Very special thanks to Ed Sheeran, Jim Doyle, Paul Spraggon, Dominic Drummie and every member of the wonderful Sony team,” added Lavelle in the announcement.

+ Dualtone Music Group, an MNRK Music Group company, has hired music industry vet Julie Muncy as senior VP of promotion and strategy, effective immediately.

She will lead all Dualtone radio promotion at AAA — alternative and Americana formats. Based in Los Angeles, Muncy will report directly to Paul Roper, Dualtone president. Dana Murray will support Muncy in her new role as senior manager of radio creative and promotion.

Before joining Dualtone, Muncy led AAA radio and artist development campaigns at Warner Records for more than 20 years. She’s worked closely with artists such as The Black Keys, Wilco, The Head and the Heart, Red Hot Chili Peppers and more.

Roper added: “Julie is so well respected and loved throughout the entire industry and we are thrilled to have her join the Dualtone family. To have someone with her level of expertise and experience be our artists’ ambassador at radio is an incredible asset for our company.

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