Stars Realign at Universal Music Group

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Michael Nash, Executive Vice President, Digital Strategy

In a restructuring that comes at a pivotal time in the trajectory of the Universal Music Group, Michael Nash has joined the company as Executive Vice President Digital Strategy, hitting the eject button on his consultancy at Warner Music Group. The move comes in the wake of Jay Frank’s appointment, in August, to the newly-created role of Senior Vice President Global Streaming Marketing at UMG.

The news came as part of a corporate realignment announced by UMG Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge, who also boosted Andrew Kronfeld to Executive Vice President Marketing for UMG. Kronfeld relocates from the company’s offices in London, where he was managing international marketing, to headquarters in Santa Monica, where he’ll work directly with UMG labels in managing the interaction and coordination of artist repertoire.

The moves, particularly insofar as impacts the digital sector, are seen as significant, in that they come at a time when Universal is wrestling to reframe the business model of Spotify (in which it, like other big labels, owns a roughly five percent stake), pushing the streaming service to pursue more premium subscriptions over the free streaming model that comprises much of its consumer activity.

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Andrew Kronfeld, Executive Vice President, Marketing

During the first quarter of 2015, Grainge started making public comments about the need to accelerate paid consumer subscriptions for streaming, and about the same time former UMG global digital chief Rob Wells exited (leaving his post vacant until Nash’s appointment).  The RIAA reports that free streaming royalties generated about $295 million in the U.S . for music labels in 2014 as compared to nearly $800 million generated by paid subscription.  Paid downloads still contribute the bulk of industry revenue, pegged at $1.34 billion in 2014, according to the RIAA, which characterized the figure as a 13% decline over the prior year, while subscription services are growing.

A Forbes analysis couched the 7.8 million paid music subscribers (as of June 2014, +48% over prior year) as paltry compared to Netflix’s 35 million streaming video subscribers for the same period. In July the New York Post reported the major record labels were considering a the nuclear option against YouTube, citing Universal, Sony and Warners as weighing the possibility of yanking content.

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Jay Frank, Senior Vice President, Global Streaming Marketing

And the RIAA’s recent announcement that old-fashioned vinyl LP sales have surged past free streaming had to sting. Universal’s realignment fine-tunes the corporate structure for future growth.

In announcing the restructuring, Grainge also detailed additional promotions and unveiled a new 10-person Executive Management Board that in addition to Kronfeld and Nash includes: Michele Anthony, Executive Vice President, UMG; Frank Briegmann, President & CEO, Central Europe and Deutsche Grammophon; Jody Gerson, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing Group; Jeffrey Harleston, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs, UMG; David Joseph, Chairman & CEO, Universal Music UK and Ireland; Boyd Muir, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, UMG; Pascal Nègre, CEO of Universal Music France and President of Italy, Middle East and Africa; and Will Tanous, Executive Vice President, Communications, UMG.

Nash served as an executive at Warner Music from 2000-2011, rising to the role of Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy and Business Development in which capacity he oversaw worldwide new media projects, strategic relationships and business development activities. He left to form his own consultancy, advising digital media startups and new technology companies, and starting in June, advising Warners. In his new position, effective Nov. 2, he reports directly to Grainger.

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Lucien Grainge, Chairman & CEO

Universal Music Group operations in 60 territories.  It’s labels include A&M Records, Angel, Astralwerks, Blue Note Records, Capitol Christian Music Group, Capitol Records, Capitol Records Nashville, Caroline, Decca, Def Jam Recordings, Deutsche Grammophon, Disa, Emarcy, EMI Records Nashville, Fonovisa, Geffen Records, Harvest, Interscope Records, Island Records, Machete Music, Manhattan, MCA Nashville, Mercury Nashville, Mercury Records, Motown Records, Polydor Records, Republic Records, Universal Music Latino, Verve Music Group, Virgin Records andVirgin EMI Records.

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