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Executive Turntable: Crypto.com Arena Is Feeling Secure; Sony Taps Southeast Asia Leader; New Legal Counsel at Sphere

It’s time for another quick whirl around the Executive Turntable, Billboard’s comprehensive(ish) compendium of promotions, hirings, exits and firings — and all things in between — across music. Get to know the most powerful people in the music biz in the latest Power 100 list.

Crypto.com Arena, home of Lakers, Kings, Clippers and Sparks, hired Ron Little as the Los Angeles landmark’s vice president of security. Little will lead all event and non-event security and risk management services for the arena, and assist with planning safety protocols. He arrives in LA from Seattle, where he served as director of security for Lumen Field, Lumen Field Event Center and the WAMU Theater. Prior to the Emerald City, he held various roles in Oakland, most notably as GM for SMG at Oracle Arena and the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. Over the course of his 30-plus years in the biz, he also worked with Bill Graham Presents, Live Nation and the Bonnaroo Music Festival. “With a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the industry, Ron brings a unique perspective that aligns seamlessly with our vision,” says Lee Zeidman, president of Crypto.com Arena. “His strong industry relationships will undoubtedly contribute to the success of the arena, and we eagerly anticipate his leadership in overseeing a diverse range of events here in Los Angeles.”

Sony Music Entertainment looks to pounce on double-digit growth in Asia with the appointment of Kenny Ong as the label group’s new managing director for Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and special projects Southeast Asia, effective immediately. Ong’s job will be to expand Sony’s share of the pie in the region — revenue in all of Asia rose 15.4% in 2022, according to IFPI — and champion Southeast Asian artists. Ong was previously CEO of Astro Radio, the top radio power in Malaysia, and between 2015 and 2021 was managing director of Malaysia, Singapore and Indochina for Universal Music Group. “Our region is poised for continued growth, and to seize the opportunity it will require more creativity and diligence,” said Shridhar Subramaniam, SME’s president of corporate strategy and market development, Asia and Middle East.

Madison Square Garden Entertainment and Sphere Entertainment hired Laura Franco as evp and general counsel for both companies, effective Feb. 20. Franco, who wields 30-plus years in legal experience, including most recently as chief legal and compliance officer at Bumble, will report directly to executive chairman and CEO James L. Dolan. As general counsel, Franco will direct all business legal affairs, including complex transactions, at both companies. Prior to Bumble, parent of the same-named dating app, she served as evp and general counsel of CBS. “We are pleased to welcome Laura to the MSG Family of Companies,” said Dolan. “Laura’s background handling high-profile corporate and business legal matters at premier media companies will be a valuable addition to our Legal teams, and we look forward to leveraging her expertise as both companies pursue their business strategies.”

Curb Records promoted several staffers, with Craig Powers rising to svp of media and continuing to spearhead mainstream/crossover radio success with label artists including for King + Country and Natalie Grant; Powers had served as vp of media since 2020. Lori Hartigan has been promoted to national director of media; Hartigan has been with Curb for 10 years and has served the past eight years as director of west coast promotion. Additionally, Todd Thomas will move into the director of west coast promotion role (having previously served as director, southwest promotion), while Bailey White has been hired as director of southwest promotion. White comes to Curb after three years with Black River Entertainment’s promotion team. –Jessica Nicholson

Warner Music UK appointed Natasha Billing to svp of commercial and data insights, and promoted Nick Allum to her vp of data and insight. The label said these moves coincide with a shift in WMUK’s approach to data analytics and revenue generation, and will ultimately assist in nurturing artists’ careers by amplifying audience engagement and fueling innovation. Billing’s previous work includes stints at ASOS and Made.com, as well as a three-year stretch in a strategy role at Warner Music International. Allum, who reports to Billing, is tasked with building an in-house data and insight team and will manage audience, revenue and marketing data collection for the company’s labels. “With our new setup, and under Natasha and Nick’s leadership, we are well positioned to offer the best support possible to our artists, labels and partners, while further promoting and accelerating WMUK’s incredible frontline and catalogue releases,” said Isabel Garvey, WMUK’s chief operating officer, to whom Billing reports.

Cherie Hu, a respected music tech researcher and founder of data-driven learning platform Water & Music, landed a full-time teaching job at Syracuse University‘s prestigious Bandier Program for Recording and Entertainment Industries. Beginning in the fall semester, Hu will teach students about emerging technologies and new music industry models as part of Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications, where she currently adjuncts. Hu plans to continue her involvement with Water & Music in a more strategic role. As a journalist, Hu covered the intersection of music and tech for Billboard, Forbes, Pitchfork and NPR Music, among other outlets, and received the Reeperbahn Festival’s Award for International Music Business Journalist of the Year in 2017. “Cherie Hu is in an elite echelon of analysts creating the absolute best work and thinking about the future of the music industry,” said Bill Werde, director of the Bandier program and former editorial director of Billboard. “I’ve respected and learned from her work for years, and am thrilled to welcome her to the Bandier, Newhouse and Syracuse family, to continue her industry-leading work, and to teach our students about what’s next in music industry business models, marketing and platforms.”

Music-licensing company Epidemic Sound appointed former Amazon and Grubhub exec Sam Hall as chief product officer, starting Feb. 5. In his new role, Hall will lead Epidemic’s product department to boost its B2B/B2C offerings. He joins from CLEAR, where he was CPO at the US-based tech company. At Grubhub, Hall also oversaw the development of B2B/B2C offerings, and during his near-decade at Amazon was instrumental in building the company’s mobile business from the ground up. “We’ve made huge strides in the sophistication of our product offering to content creators of all kinds in the past three years, introducing tools that make it almost frictionless to soundtrack content,” said Oscar Höglund, co-founder and CEO. “We’re delighted to welcome Sam to accelerate this progress together; he brings a focus on customer experience across both B2B and B2C, and will be instrumental in developing a next-generation soundtracking experience for our creative community.”

Artist Partner Group announced a wide slate of promotions at the label. Eli Piccarreta has been elevated to svp of A&R, Corey Calder is moving up to svp of marketing and creative services, Jessica Kelm is now vp of marketing and digital operations, and Ashlee Merritt now has senior marketing director on her business card. APG, label home to a roster that includes Odetari, 6arelyhuman, Lay Bankz, The Sweepers and NLE Choppa, was founded in 2004 and is parent to Artist Publishing Group.

The Bryan Adams joined music-sharing tech startup Songbox as a co-founder. Using Songbox, creators can track when a file has been delivered, whether it’s been listened to and how long songs have been played. Additionally, the platform allows for creators to upload and share music video content. The Canadian rock icon said in a statement, “Songbox allows me to share new music that I’m working on in a way that I couldn’t before. I don’t need to send out MP3 files or physical products, so it keeps my ideas and early versions safe and secure until I’m ready to officially release the songs.” –J.N.

Jazz musician Branford Marsalis was named artistic director for the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in his hometown of New Orleans. The center, which uses music to help foster community and deliver services to underserved kids and musicians, was established in 2012 and is named after Marsalis’ father. “My dad was a teacher, in music and in life,” Branford Marsalis said. “After Hurricane Katrina, he envisioned a haven for the underserved musicians and children in his hometown of New Orleans. He spent the last decade of his life committed to turning that dream into a reality at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. It is my honor to step into the role of Artistic Director at the Center and to continue to drive its mission. I hope to make my dad proud.”

BOARD SHORTS: Leo Premutico, co-founder of renowned ad agency Johannes Leonardo, was named chairperson of the 2024 AMP Awards for Music & Sound. As Show Chair, Premutico will be tasked with helping assemble the AMP Awards Curatorial Committee … The National Association of Broadcasters appointed iHeartMedia regional president Jeanna Berge to its radio board of directors, replacing Joel McCrae.

Nice Life Recording Company promoted Bradley Haering to the fresh position of evp of A&R, and hired Mikelle Schwartz as evp or marketing for the indie label. Both are based in Los Angeles and report to founder/CEO Ricky Reed and Larry Wade, who is COO. Haering has been at the company since its formation in 2014 and is credited with signing the label’s Grammy-nominated band The Marías. Schwartz arrives from 88rising, where she was svp of marketing, with previous stops at Warner Records and Kemosabe Records. “I am thrilled for this next chapter at Nice Life Recording Company with these expanded positions,” said Reed. “Mikelle brings over 15 years of marketing experience, making her an invaluable asset to our Nice Life team at the leadership level. Brad, who has been with us since the beginning will oversee A&R in this newly added position as we continue to expand the Nice Life roster.”

Sony Music Publishing UK hired ZaZa Kazadi as senior A&R manager and promoted Adrienne Bookbinder to senior A&R manager of UK and Europe, and Nasra Artan to senior European A&R manager. All three are based in the company’s London office, with Kazadi and Bookbinder reporting to David Ventura, president and co-managing director, and Artan reporting to Ventura and Johnny Tennander, svp of international. Kazadi previously worked in management at Never Dies Management and spent two years as A&R manager at BMG Music Publishing.

Jon Granat joined JDM Music + Sound, makers of custom sound design for movie advertising, as a partner. Granat arrives from Nettwerk Music Group, where as svp of global sync licensing, he led a team working on creative, licensing and biz development for a roster including Passenger, St Lucia and Vacations. Prior to NMG, Granat worked with companies ranging from BMG, Chrysalis and Warner Chappell Music, among others. “I’m beyond thrilled to welcome Jon to the company,” said Joel Dean, a founding partner of JDM Music + Sound. “His wealth of experience across the music industry will be invaluable to bringing opportunities to the JDM catalog and our roster of composers.”

BMI veteran MaryAnn Keen was promoted to director of creative in the PROs Nashville office. Keen joined BMI in 2016 and was most recently the creative associate director, instrumental in scouting and signing new songwriters and coordinating event, such as the Key West Songwriters Festival. She has gained experience working with emerging writers and established hitmakers including Heath Warren, Mackenzie Carpenter and Brett Tyler, among others. Keen will continue to report to BMI’s Leslie Roberts, AVP of Creative Nashville.

Believe elevated Kristof Jansen to vp of Groove Attack, the digital firm’s rap and hip-hop brand in Germany. Approaching ten years at the company, Jansen most recently served as director of repertoire development for A&R at both Believe and Groove Attack. He’ll work out of the Cologne office and continue to report to Thorsten Freese, GM of Believe Germany.

Musicians on Call, a non-profit that brings music to the bedsides of patients, promoted six key staffers: Nicole Rivera to vp of programs, Sara Kolodziejczak to vp of development, Tarah Duarte to senior manager of strategic partnerships, Alli Prestby to creative manager, and Audrey Jadwisiak and Orenda Senior to program manager. “These team members have excelled in their roles and significantly improved the foundation of Musicians On Call. Our programs and national brand, along with the overall health of our organization, have all benefited from their leadership, creativity and ingenuity,” said MOC CEO Pete Griffin.

ICYMI:


Merck and Louis.

Universal Music Group honcho Lucian Grainge put Monte Lipman and John Janick in charge of a restructured label model that rejiggers its web of frontline labels to align them under two main companies … Utopia Music co-founder Mattias Hjelmstedt exited the company … Hipgnosis founder Merck Mercuriadis (pictured) is stepping down as CEO of Hipgnosis Song Management … Kris Lamb is elevated to evp and GM of Big Machine Records … which is part of Big Machine Label Group, which promoted Mike Rittberg to COO and Clay Hunnicutt rising to evp of label operations.

Last Week’s Turntable: All Songs Host Considered, Accepted

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