Music Industry Moves: Shahendra Ohneswere Joins Island Records as Head of Creative Strategy

Island Records has appointed Shahendra Ohneswere to the newly created position of head of creative strategy to oversee multi-platform content, art and video as well as digital marketing initiatives across the label. Based in New York, Ohneswere will report directly to Island Co-CEOs Imran Majid and Justin Eshak.

“Shahendra has carved out a unique position in the industry and helped orchestrate some of the biggest global breakthroughs of the past decade,” said Eshak. Added Majid, “[Ohneswere] brings a creative and innovative approach to storytelling through visuals and aesthetic in all of his work. Shahendra is an invaluable addition to the Island family.”

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“The start of my love of music began with Island Records. Joining the next generation at Island gives me the opportunity to bring my background and experience to the forefront of Island’s legendary artist roster and unmatched staff,” said Shahendra. “My career has been building to this moment, and I look forward to working closely with Imran and Justin to reach the highest heights we can accomplish.”

Shahendra joins Island Records from Columbia, where he served as senior vice president of content development and co-head of digital marketing since 2018.

+ Billy Porter, Charlie Puth, Connie Britton, Bill Nye and Danai Gurira have been tapped as ambassadors for Global Citizen, an international advocacy organization focused on ending extreme poverty. They join long-term ambassadors Hugh Jackman, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Usher, John Legend, Rachel Brosnahan and more.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Global Citizen over the years, and I’m honored to be one of their new Ambassadors,” said Puth in a statement. “I love playing music for my fans and now we get to work together to change the world – I couldn’t be more excited. We must take action to end extreme poverty and protect our planet.”

“I look forward to continuing my work with Global Citizen and doing what I can to help amplify their important work around the world,” said Britton. “For years Global Citizen has been at the forefront of some of the most important and life-changing advocacy and so, along with my fellow Ambassadors, I hope to help inspire people around the globe to join us in taking action to eradicate poverty and protect our planet for future generations.”

+ Sony Music Masterworks has made a majority investment in Barcelona-based Proactiv Entertainment, a producer of live music and experiential events around the world.

Under the agreement, Proactiv’s managing director Nicolas Renna will continue to lead the company’s day-to-day operations and work closely with Masterworks President Mark Cavell, as well as Sony Music Spain and Portugal President Jose-Maria Barbaton on behalf of SME’s Latin Iberia region, to grow the business.

Proactiv Entertainment’s live music shows and events have included performances in Spain by Andrea Bocelli, Malu, Juan Luis Guerra, Dani Martin, Juanes and Maluma, among others. It has also helped put together shows like “Disney on Ice,” “Disney Live!,” “WWE Live,” “Hamilton,” and “Harry Potter In Concert,” to name a few.

Founder of Proactiv Entertainment Horacio Renna, said: “I am very happy and proud that Proactiv Entertainment, which I founded over 35 years ago, is joining the Sony Music Entertainment family. We have built our company to be one of the leaders in our sector and a standard-bearer through our values, professionalism, and hard work. Today starts a new era of success, made even greater by a partner with such great history and world-class capabilities.”

+ The Songwriters Hall of Fame has added a new SHOF/Belmont University Songwriting Scholarship to its scholarship program. This and many other scholarships are presented prior to the SHOF’s 2023 Induction and Awards Gala being held in New York City on June 15.

The scholarship will go to Belmont University Songwriting majors who “possess tangible exceptional songwriting potential and the intangible qualities of bringing out the best of their collaborators and contributing to the larger community of songwriters,” per the press release. Recipients are selected by the faculty of the Belmont Songwriting Department, with the inaugural recipients being Lauryn Marie Hedges and Zander Jett.

+ Chrysalis Records/Blue Raincoat Music, which is part of the Reservoir group of companies, has announced the appointment of Donna Vergier as VP of international marketing.

Vergier joins the staff full-time from her previous position as the company’s freelance international consultant. She previously held international marketing positions at Mute, Domino Recordings and Good Soldier Records. Based in London, Vergier will report directly to James Meadows, senior VP of marketing at Chrysalis Records/Blue Raincoat Music.

In her new role, Vergier will work with artists on the Chrysalis Records/Blue Raincoat Music roster and their representatives overseeing international campaigns and managing relationships with the company’s global partners and distributors. She joins as Chrysalis prepares to release new albums from Ben Harper, William The Conqueror, and the multi-artist Nick Drake covers project “The Endless Coloured Ways” in the coming months.

+ Krooked Kings, and their label home Nobody Gets It, have inked a new deal with Matt Geffen’s Coup D’Etat Music for publishing (in partnership with AVEX USA) and distribution (in partnership with ADA Worldwide). This marks Coup D’Etat Music’s first distribution signing as part of the new division co-founded by Ben Schecter. They join a roster at ADA Worldwide that includes Central Cee, KSI, 88Rising, Dixie, Mia Gladstone and Idles. On the publishing side, they also join AVEX USA artists Shenseea, Jasper Harris and Bryan Michael-Cox.

Krooked Kings is managed by Wade Davis of Nobody Gets It and repped by Alex Douma of CAA.

Wednesday, May 17

Columbia Records has named Nicole Kim vice president of A&R.  She was previously head of A&R for BigHit Music/HYBE and head of creative for superstar K-pop group BTS. She worked across their collaborations with the likes of Coldplay, Halsey, Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion and others. She will be based out of the company’s Los Angeles office.

Prior to joining Big Hit Music/HYBE in 2017, she held creative positions at Starship Entertainment and Sony Music Publishing Korea.

+ Incoming BMG CEO Thomas Coesfeld, who assumes his new role on July 1, has announced details of his new senior management team. In addition to succeeding founding CEO Hartwig Masuch, Coesfeld will also become a member of Bertelsmann’s Group Management Committee, the committee advising Bertelsmann’s Group Executive Board.

Effective July 1, Mathis Wolter will join BMG as CFO, replacing Coesfeld. Wolter joins from sister Bertelsmann division RTL Group. Also newly appointed to BMG’s top management team is Alberto Chullen Llamas, who joins BMG from Bertelsmann Education Group as EVP Investments to drive forward the company’s growth strategy and support future catalog acquisitions.

Joining Coesfeld and Wolter on a new BMG board are:

  • Sebastian Hentzschel, now promoted from CTO to Chief Operations Officer, responsible for rights and royalties, supply chain, technology and data;

  • Chief Content Officer Dominique Casimir, responsible for repertoire and marketing ex-US (excl. global recorded marketing), synch and corporate responsibility;

  • Chief Human Resources Officer Nikola Holle-Spiegel, responsible for learning and talent development, talent acquisition and employer branding, HR analytics and projects and people and culture.

Tuesday, May 16

The T.J. Martell Foundation will be honoring three music industry veterans for its 45th annual New York Honors Gala, which returns to the City for the first time since 2019 on June 13.

This year’s honorees include Warner Records Co-Chairman and COO Tom Corson, who will receive the Lifetime Music Industry Award; Chief Creative Officer and executive VP at Def Jam Recordings Archie Davis, recipient of the Rising Music Superstar Award; and Grammy Award-winning songwriter/producer Shane McAnally, who will receive the Spirit of Music Award.

Gala Co-Chairs and Board Chairman John Esposito, Tunji Balogun, Aaron Bay-Schuck, Robert Carlton, Steve Gawley, Laura Swanson and Julie Swidler, will be hosts for the evening. Filmmaker Ryan Coogler, R&B star Coco Jones, and singer-songwriter Brandy Clark will provide entertainment.

As the Foundation’s primary fundraiser of the year, the Gala will support medical research and treatments focused on finding a cure for cancer. For more information see here.

+ Virgin Music has elevated three executives at the company: Leslie Cooper becomes senior VP of artist development and special projects; Marisa Di Frisco is the new VP of national promotion and Lauren Holman is the new VP of streaming marketing.

Based in Los Angeles, Cooper will oversee K-Pop releases and work to identify new artist development opportunities within the company and lead collaborative efforts in that area. She was previously VP at the company, where she worked closely with SM Entertainment on their SuperM and NCT 127 projects.

Di Frisco will continue to oversee promotion campaigns at alternative, rock, AAA, and non-commercial/college radio for Virgin Music. Holman will lead the streaming and playlisting strategy team, who is behind the successes of such artists as Rema, whose global hit “Calm Down” has been riding high in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 for weeks.

“These three accomplished executives have played a crucial role in artist development. They make sure our labels and artists get the support they need at every phase of their careers,” said Jacqueline Saturn, President of Virgin Music. “I’m happy to be able to promote them to these important new positions where they will be able to contribute even more to our continued success.”

+ Warner Chappell Music UK (WCM UK) has announced the promotion of Amber Davis to the role of senior VP. She will simultaneously continue in her position as WCM UK’s head of A&R and will report to Shani Gonzales, WCM UK’s managing director.

In addition to continuing to oversee the A&R department, Davis will take on a broader role in shaping the publisher’s overall UK strategy. She joined the international team in 2014 as creative director and was named head of A&R in 2019.

“We have an incredible team here and a roster of world-class songwriters that I’m extremely privileged to work with,” commented Davis. “I’m excited to carry on discovering the best UK talent whilst also working with our senior leadership team to drive the company forward. I’d like to thank Shani, Carianne Marshall and Guy Moot for this incredible new opportunity.”

+ Hallwood Media, a full-service management company, has upped Danny Berkeley-Scott as its new vice president.

“Danny embodies what I believe a true manager should be,” said Hallwood Media founder and CEO Neil Jacobson. “He has an almost daring entrepreneurial vision embracing innovative ideas and partnerships. He has become a rising star and natural leader within our management division”.

During his time at Hallwood Media, Berkeley-Scott represented clients like Young DZA, who produced Cardi B’s “Up,” along with Elyas, who produced Drake and 21 Savage’s “On BS.” He also helped launch Hallwood Media’s Engineer Management division, signing Grammy-nominated recording engineers Angie Randisi (Lil Baby, PartyNextDoor, GloRilla, Tyga) and Mike Tucci (DaBaby, Juice Wrld, The Kid LAROI). On the global front, Berkeley-Scott expanded Hallwood’s producer roster throughout Eastern and Western Europe.

+ Eileen Mercolino will be joining the Veeps team as the company’s first chief marketing officer, taking the lead over the concert streaming business and its audience optimization, technology, marketing, merch offerings, philanthropic efforts, and partner alignments. She brings years of experience in executive roles at Hard Rock International, the Walt Disney Company, and most recently, Spin, to name a few.

+ FaZe Clan head of communications Chelsey Northern has left the LA-based esports and gaming brand to shift her focus to the PR firm she helped launch called the Untold.

FaZe Clan is now represented by the brand, alongside clients Deadfellaz, PROOF, Futureverse and the innovation teams at Warner Music Group and Atlantic Records.

+ 300 Entertainment has partnered with Florida-based imprint Remain Solid for a label joint venture. Remain Solid was founded by 100k Track, who has helped manage the careers of such artists as YNW Melly, King Von, Hotboii, and more.

“This partnership with 300 Entertainment was based on loyalty and family,” said 100k Track. “Since their signing of YNW Melly in 2018, the love and respect from Kevin Liles, Selim Bouab, and Rayna Bass has never wavered. 300 showed me the blueprint of developing and launching a successful artist and how to navigate the business. I’m excited to continue this journey and put some major wins on the board.”

“Track has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to his artists,” adds Selim Bouab, co-president of 300 Entertainment “His natural ability to connect with artists and recognize their gifts aligns with our mission at 300. He has an incredible ear for music and we look forward to signing more talent this year and beyond.”

+ Veteran publicist Hillary Smoot has joined the Schneider Rondan Organization (SRO PR) as Las Vegas director and senior account executive.

Smoot, who has nearly 30 years of experience in the business under her belt, will bring several of her own clients including Feld Entertainment Inc. (“Disney On Ice” and “Monster Jam”), Las Vegas-based restaurants and venues, plus the restaurant Backyard Kitchen & Tap.

The news was announced by SRO PR’s partners Marcee Rondan and Mitch Schneider, who opened the company’s Las Vegas office three years ago.

“Hillary and I met two years ago in Las Vegas through our mutual friend and associate, publicist Laura Herlovich,” said Schneider. “I was immediately struck by Hillary’s abundance of passion, skills, knowledge and super-tight relationships with the media… We stayed in touch via lunches and meet-ups, which then evolved into a working relationship when we both came together to handle the Nice Hospitality Group in late 2022. Working closely with Hillary on that account really planted the seed for us to combine forces in a bigger way at SRO PR. I truly feel it’s limitless as to what we can achieve together.”

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