Music Industry Moves: Warner Music Partners With the Sandbox for Music-Themed Metaverse World; ASCAP Promotes Three to SVP

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The Sandbox, a decentralized gaming virtual world and a subsidiary of Animoca Brands, has partnered with Warner Music Group to create the first music-themed world in The Sandbox gaming metaverse. Described as a combination of musical theme park and concert venue, the Warner Music Group “LAND in The Sandbox” will feature concerts and musical experiences featuring WMG artists.

The strategic partnership marks The Sandbox’s first deal with a major music company and Warner Music Group’s first entry into the NFT metaverse realm.

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Under the partnership, the Sandbox will work with WMG to develop innovative music experiences taking place in LAND. To mark the occasion, The Sandbox will hold a LAND sale in March 2022, which will allow music fans to buy LANDS adjacent to the WMG property.

“Our partnership with The Sandbox adds a new layer of possibility in the metaverse, with the ownership of virtual real estate,” said Oana Ruxandra, Chief Digital Officer & EVP, Business Development at Warner Music Group. “As a first-mover, Warner Music has secured the equivalent of beachfront property in the metaverse.”

“We’re shaping the Sandbox as a fun entertainment destination where creators, fans, and players can enjoy first-of-a-kind immersive experiences and be more closely connected to their favorite musical artists through NFTs,” said Sebastien Borget, COO and co-founder of the Sandbox. “This strategic partnership with Warner Music Group brings the open metaverse one step forward in the direction of fan-owned and community-driven initiatives – the possibilities are very exciting.”

+ ASCAP has promoted three executives to senior vice president: Elizabeth Rodda to SVP of international affairs; Matt DeFilippis to SVP of licensing; and Alex Grout to SVP of membership and business and legal affairs.

Rodda will work to optimize international revenue for ASCAP’s members and continue to lead ASCAP’s International Analyst team in assessing and improving data collection and accuracy and will work closely with our partner collective management societies and data partners throughout the world to drive revenues and greater efficiencies for music creators.

DeFilippis will be responsible for revenue from some of the industry’s largest platforms, including digital audio and audio-visual streaming platforms, and traditional audio-visual and audio. He will also help to develop overall growth strategies for existing and potential licensees, as well as generate new licensing opportunities.

Grout is responsible for membership, copyright, licensing and transactional issues impacting ASCAP members and a key negotiator with top-tier ASCAP songwriter and composer members regarding affiliation and distribution matters.

ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said: “Liz, Alex and Matt are three strategic executives who have been important contributors to ASCAP’s success in achieving the goals of our six-year plan to grow revenues and build a sustainable future for our songwriters, composers, lyricists and music publishers. I am thrilled to recognize them with these promotions, and highlight the expertise, insights and dedication that they bring to our leadership team.”

+ The French digital music company Believe has named Manon Jessua senior global PR manager, the company announced this week. Previously the international projects and content manager for the Midem conference, she is based in Paris and is in charge of global press activations and media relations for Believe.

At Midem, Jessua was in charge of the conference program and international activations, notably the launch of Midem Africa, the Midem Latin American Forum and the Global Indie Voices program.

Tuesday, Jan. 25

Elvis Costello has signed a worldwide, exclusive music publishing deal with BMG to represent his entire catalog, including his latest album “The Boy Named If.” Under the agreement, BMG will administer the rights to all of his songs dating back to his 1977 debut album, “My Aim Is True.”

His catalogue includes timeless classics such as “Alison,” “Watching the Detectives,” “Everyday I Write The Book,” “Pump It Up,” “Veronica,” and hundreds of others. A two-time Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Costello has released some 32 studio albums and his songs have been covered by Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Chet Baker and countless others. He has written songs with Burt Bacharach, Paul McCartney and Carole King, among others. Alistair Norbury, BMG President Repertoire & Marketing UK, said, “It is not often that a catalogue as distinguished as Elvis Costello’s becomes available. We look forward to working with Elvis and his management to further raise awareness and appreciation of one of the greatest songwriters the UK has produced.” (Pictured above, Costello, second from left, with BMG’s Alistair Norbury, Ian Ramage and Hartwig Masuch.)

+ Beggars Group U.S. has named Nabil Ayers to president, with Claire Taylor promoted to general manager, the company announced Tuesday. Longtime president Matt Harmon has decided to step down to pursue other opportunities after 24 years at the company.

Beggars founder and chairman Martin Mills said, “We are very grateful to Matt for his contributions over two decades which have brought us such success, but equally excited about Nabil and Claire’s elevations, as we look forward to an even brighter future.”

Ayers, U.S. label manager of Beggars’ 4AD Records since 2009, is the former co-owner of Seattle’s Sonic Boom Records and is also a freelance writer; his recently announced memoir, “My Life in the Sunshine,” a reference to a song by his father, jazz great Roy Ayers, will be published in June by Viking/Penguin. Simon Halliday will continue to lead 4AD in his role as worldwide managing director.

Taylor has been with Beggars since 2007, and is shifting over from her role as head of product management.

+ Veteran publicity executive Didier Morais has announced the launch of his new public relations agency, Vital Versatility, which will “specialize in bridging the intersection of music, entertainment, sports, lifestyle, business, social justice and more through communications,” according to the announcement. His client roster includes Megan Thee Stallion, Van Jones, Fat Joe, Yo Gotti, E-40, Yung Bleu, Too $hort as well as Gotti’s CMG record label, whose roster includes Moneybagg Yo, 42 Dugg, Est Gee and others.

“Storytelling has always been my passion and I’m thrilled to bring my vision for Vital Versatility to fruition in this next chapter of my professional journey,” Morais said. “I take great pride in highlighting my clients’ versatility as entrepreneurs, philanthropists, entertainers and look forward to amplifying their narratives in compelling, comprehensive, and creative ways.”

Most recently, Morais was VP of music & entertainment at Berk Communications, where he worked extensively with Roc Nation, Meek Mill, REFORM Alliance, Michael Rubin, Puma, D’Usse Cognac and Bel-Air Athletics, among others.

+ Andy West has been named executive VP and general manager of Warner Music Canada. In his new role, West will lead WMC’s strategic teams across marketing, digital, commercial revenue, publicity, promotion and licensing. West joins the company after serving as country manager for Apple Music for seven years; he previously held posts at Sony Music Canada, Yahoo! Music and Warner Bros Entertainment before joining Apple in 2011. His appointment is effective Feb. 14; he will be based in Toronto and report to WMC president Kristen Burke.

Burke said “Andy is a hugely respected exec who has worked with labels and managers to help put Canadian artists on the map. He combines an enthusiasm for all genres of music with a business brain that enables him to put the right artists in the right places to connect with fans. He’s the perfect choice to help me grow and diversify our artist roster and tap new opportunities for them in addition to the still-growing streaming model.”

+ The Recording Academy has named John Loken has joined the company as executive VP of marketing, effective immediately. Loken will report to Chief Operating Officer Branden Chapman and oversees creative services, brand communication, social media, email marketing, merchandising, analytics, and advertising.
Prior to joining the organization, Loken was senior vice president of consumer marketing at Endeavor/IMG Events, and previously held senior posts at Ticketmaster, Live Nation, Warner Records, Motown Records and the indies Discovery/China Records and Fearless Records.

“I am delighted to have John join the Recording Academy as our Executive Vice President of Marketing,” said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “We are excited to see John’s innovative expertise in brand storytelling take the Academy to new heights as the organization continues to break new ground in our global presence.”

+ Nathalie Rubin has joined the Elektra Music Group as manager of publicity. She was most recently an account executive in the music department at ID Public Relations, with a roster of clients that included Perry Farrell, John Legend, Vince Staples, Olivia Rodrigo, Charlie Puth, Jewel, Natasha Bedingfield, Universal Music Group, and others. She began her career as the in-house publicist at BMG Recorded Music, which also included the rock labels, Vagrant Records and Rise Records.

+ The music licensing subscription service Feed Media Group has inked a music licensing deal with Beggars Group for its Adaptr product. It currently also has deals with Warner Music Group, Merlin, BMG, Kobalt, Spirit, Reservoir, and Warner Chappell.

“We are super keen on licensing services that encourage innovation,” said Beggars’ Simon Wheeler. “Adaptr enables tech innovators to properly license music at the beginning of their product development, not as an afterthought. That approach is something we feel has been missing in the marketplace and is important for Beggars to be part of, we’re pleased to be a part of an ecosystem that helps new services develop, using and paying fairly for high quality music.”

Monday, Jan. 24

Reservoir has acquired the publishing and recorded music catalog of Country singer and songwriter Travis Tritt. Financial terms were not disclosed but the deal encompasses all of Tritt’s work up to and including the 2021 album “Set In Stone.”

Tritt’s sales tally is impressive, with seven albums certified platinum (signifying one million units sold) and more than 30 million sold over his career, which launched in 1989. He is a two-time Grammy winner and a member of the Grand Ole Opry and is best known for the hits “Help Me Hold On,” Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares),” “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin,’” “Anymore,” and “Nothing Short of Dying.”

+ APG, the independent music company founded by Mike Caren in 2004 that encompasses Artist Publishing Group and Artist Partner Group, has named Andre Herd senior director of A&R. Herd has signed multiple creators to the label in recent months, including Ronin “All Girls Are The Same,” Octavio the Dweeb, Lexi Jayde and WZRD BLD (to Artist Publishing Group). With a heavy focus on pop and alternative for Artist Partner Group. Herd’s new role will have him expanding the department and hiring additional A&Rs.

Said Herd: “I started at APG a year and a half ago, and I’ve never felt more autonomy and creative support at a company. The freedom that is given to each A&R while also having a system in place to build/learn and develop in at APG is outstanding and unprecedented. The world is becoming quicker and more instantaneous, and I couldn’t be more excited to keep building with a team that is quick, flexible, and prioritizes real artist development.”

“Andre has been an essential part of this team and it is with great pleasure we support his growth into the Sr. Director role,” added Caren, who heads the company as CEO, following its 15-year joint venture with Atlantic (APG went fully independent in late 2020). “His ambition, proactiveness, and resilience have been the driving force behind his success at APG. I’m looking forward to everything he will continue to accomplish as an A&R and leader”.

+ AWAL, the artist services company which was acquired by Sony Music in Feb. 2021, has promoted Jenn Hovick to vice president of artist and label development.

Hovick joined the company in 2018 and led its B2B business. She is based in Los Angeles and reports to Chris Hardy, SVP of artist development for North America and head of Canada, who said: “We are thrilled to have Jenn elevated to this position within our North America Artist Development Team. Her track record of working with Independent Labels and Artists throughout her career is exemplary and has been achieved by building productive relationships and always doing what’s best for our label and artist partners. She is well respected within the department and throughout AWAL, and there is no question her leadership will be an integral part of the department’s success.”

+ Digital music streaming for businesses service Soundtrack Your Brand has named Lisa Farris chief marketing officer. Soundtrack Your Brand provides “background music” to retailers, restaurants, bars, hotels, and more, and uses “full song trackability” that offers artists and songwriters usage-based payouts and transparency as it relates to business and public performance of their music. Farris, who’ll report directly to founder and CEO Ola Sars, was previously chief marketing and innovation officer for the Recording Academy and the Grammys.

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