The Warner Music Group has announced a restructure of its American business following the recent departure of the major’s recorded music chief Lyor Cohen. The biggest change is the union of publishing and sound recording catalogue under one roof, while it’s also been confirmed that Cohen will not be directly replaced.
Under the new structure, Warner in the US will have three divisions, frontline recorded music, publishing and catalogue, and label and artist services. The first division will consist of Warner’s record labels, principally Atlantic, Warner Bros and Warner Nashville, and will handle current talent and new releases. The second division will replace the Warner/Chappell publishing company, and also include catalogue marketing and the major’s catalogue label Rhino. The third division will bring together distribution operations and those Warner units working outside records and publishing.
The second of the new divisions is the most interesting, with the major allying the marketing of its sound recording catalogue with its music publishing operations.
This possibly recognises that there are many opportunities for a record label’s catalogue that are being missed by the old fashioned major label approach of marketing archive in much the same way as new releases, focused on compilations and album re-releases, rather than looking for more tactical opportunities to licence catalogue tracks and boost sales and listening on the digital space. As labels increasingly become licensing companies rather than album sellers when it comes to catalogue, it makes sense to tap into the licensing expertise that exists in the music publishing domain.
In terms of executives, the rejig results in a promotion for Warner/Chappell boss Cameron Strang, who will now also oversee Rhino Entertainment, whose boss Kevin Gore will report into Strang. On the frontline recordings side, the bosses of Atlantic, Warner Bros and Warner Nashville will report directly into overall Warner Music Group CEO Stephen Cooper, rather than a replacement for Cohen. Matt Signore will head up label and artist services.
In a memo to staff published by Billboard, Cooper said of the rejig: “Among the numerous benefits in aligning Rhino and Warner/Chappell will be enriched collaboration in the US among our recorded music and music publishing teams with respect to catalogue exploitation, sync efforts and rights acquisition”.
It’s not thought that the changes Stateside will have any immediate impact on Warner Music businesses elsewhere, including the UK, though if the rejig is successful you’d expect other territories to be brought inline at some point.
Elsewhere in Warner Music news, the major has completed its previously reported refinancing, with new loan facilities that Billboard reckons could save the company up to $43 million in interest payments annually.
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