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FEATURES WORTHY CONTENDER With his star rising as a producer
Paul Epworth still finds time to pursue a solo career
Charles Allen steps into Elio Leoni-Sceti’s shoes at EMI with a vow to move the major forward
‘No quick sale’ of EMI affirms Allen
Labels By Ben Cardew and Gordon Masson
CHARLES ALLEN, THE NEW EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF EMI MUSIC, says he has “absolutely not” been brought in to engineer a quick sale of the major’s recorded music operations to Warner.
Allen, a former ITV chief executive and Granada executive chairman who became non-executive chairman of EMI in January 2009, also explains that he will continue working on a business strategy to bring in new investment to the major following the shock departure of EMI Music CEO Elio Leoni-Sceti.
Leoni-Sceti, who joined the company in September 2008, had been tasked by Terra Firma chairman Guy Hands with drawing up a plan to bring investment into the major’s recorded music business. EMI needs to secure £120m of new investment by June 14 or it risks losing control of the company to Citigroup, the bank that loaned Terra Firma £2.5bn to buy EMI in 2007.
That looming deadline – as well as the fact that Leoni-Sceti is not being directly replaced, with Allen instead taking on his responsibilities – has led many in the industry to speculate that a quick sale of EMI
Taking the business to the next stage: Charles Allen refutes suggestions of an EMI sale
Music to Warner is in the offing.
However, Allen, who was pivotal to the merger of Granada and Carlton, says is it “absolutely not the case” that he has been brought in to speed through a sale.
“I have come in to take this business to the next stage,” Allen says. “I intend to put a plan together to encourage equity to come in and allow us to move forward. The team here has done a great job. We are seeing top-line growth.”
Of the strategy for new investment, Allen explains, “I have been working on that plan since December. That is the plan that the team are continuing to work on. It is about developing new music, breaking more acts and really understanding what fans want. It is about building relationships with the talent and their management. It is about building those relationships and smoothing the business.”
Far from smoothing the business, however, Allen’s appointment comes at an eventful time for EMI: on the one hand the major is experiencing significant chart success with acts including Tinie Tempah – the first Parlophone act to open their career with a number one debut since Baz Luhrmann in 1999 – Gorillaz and Lady Antebellum; on the other, several of its key catalogue acts, including Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and Queen are in discussions about their EMI deals, with the added complication of Pink Floyd last week winning a court case with the major over digital royalties and the right to unbundle album tracks for sale as downloads.
Such disturbances might be expected to unsettle both prospective and current EMI acts. However, Allen says this is not the case.
“The positive thing is that the artists have relationships with individuals, with our A&R teams in the UK. Those people are in place,” he says. “I have been here for 14 months. I have met a large number of the management and the talent.”
Surprisingly, perhaps, the managers of many EMI acts agree.
“We have a great deal of respect for Charles Allen – he is open and easy to deal with and he listens. What more could you ask for?” says IE Management managing director Tim Clark, who represents Robbie Williams.
“Charles Allen is a safe pair of hands and he’s helped turn EMI around. They’ve made some muchneeded changes and are very forward thinking, but what really needs to be done now is for the financing to be sorted so that the operational side can get on with the job.”
Of Leoni-Sceti, Clark adds, “He had a very difficult gig but he made a very good fist of it and he should be commended for the job he has done. However, I can fully understand why he believes he has taken the company as far as he could.”
Corinne Bailey Rae manager Bob Miller agrees. “Elio did a very good job in very difficult circumstances – he’s done the job that every single record company around the world is going to have to do, but he has also connected to the artists.
“EMI has kept us appraised of the situation throughout the ongoing company restructuring and Charles Allen is a good man to step in – he understands media and appreciates particularly the role that TV and radio can play in promoting music.”
Miller adds, “I think there is probably more restructuring to be done, but Elio has been making the cuts to reduce the overheads while Charles has been putting together a team for the future to put the flesh back on the bones.”
For his part, Allen insists that despite the executive upheaval at EMI, it is still business as normal at the major.
“My plan for EMI is very much a continuation of what we have been doing,” he says. “The key was getting the right team in place. We have strengthened our senior team and put strong people in. We are in good shape there.
“It is about continuing to drive the strategy we have put in place, which is all about music. You can over-complicate these things. We are getting the business into a shape where we understand what fans want and how to keep the talent happy.” ben/gordon@ musicweek.com
New tracks readied for Stateside assault as Taio cruises to US success
TAIO CRUZ IS TO ENTER THE STUDIO with renowned producer and songwriter Dr Luke this week to work on additional tracks for the US release of his Rokstarr album, after topping the Billboard Hot
100 chart with Break Your Heart.
The track leapt from number 53 to one on the Billboard Hot 100 last week, setting a record for the largest jump to number one on the Hot 100 by an act with its first charting single and selling 310,000 units on the way.
It is the second US chart topper by a UK urban act in the last six months, following Jay Sean going to number one with his track Down in October 2009.
Rokstarr is now set for release in the US in May. Island co-president
Darcus Beese explains, “The plan, as for any artist that has a big success on their first single, is making sure that we sell albums and he becomes an album artist. Talking to the US, they still have a lot of work to do, as I do here.”
Beese says that a couple of tracks from the sessions with Dr Luke will be added to Rokstarr for its US release. The new tracks will also form part of a UK re-release of the album, which has already sold more than 50,000 copies on this side of the Atlantic.
“We are ramping things back up here,” says Beese, who explains that Island UK has had to scale back its efforts on Cruz recently as a result of his US success. Leading the plot in the UK will be the release of the single Dirty Picture featuring Ke$ha on April 26. A remix of the track featuring US rapper Drake will be made available shortly.
Beese explains that the US number one also gives the international team at Universal a firm base to build from. “Our head of international now has a story when he goes and talks to the French or the Scandinavians,” he says.