Sphere Studios, Warner Chappell and BMG Lead Music Executive Job News

Sphere Studios, Warner Chappell and BMG Lead Music Executive Job News

Sphere Studios, Warner Chappell and BMG Lead Music Executive Job News

It’s time for another spin around the Executive Turntable, Billboard’s comprehensive(ish) compendium of promotions, hirings, exits and firings — and all things in between — across music. Don’t forget to dig into this year’s Indie Power Players list. We also have a weekly interview series spotlighting a single executive and a regularly updated gallery honoring many of the industry figures we’ve lost throughout the year.

Sphere Entertainment has turned to Hollywood studio veteran Carolyn Blackwood as its new head of Sphere Studios, which develops and produces the “multi-sensory entertainment experiences” for concerts, corporate events and more at the next-generation spherical wonder. At Sphere, Blackwood will lead a team of creative, production and other various wizards responsible for those immersive experiences, plus work closely with MSG Ventures on developing the production technologies needed to create them. Blackwood has more than 25 years of studio experience, and was most recently chief operating officer at Warner Bros. Pictures. Prior to WB, she spent 20-plus years at New Line Cinema, where she rose to president and chief content officer. Between those two studios, she was integrally involved with some of the biggest films of the last quarter-century, including The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Barbie and The Conjuring franchise.

“Throughout my career, I have focused on creative and business innovation in the entertainment industry, as well as the pursuit of production excellence, and this is a tremendous opportunity to be part of the cutting-edge work at Sphere,” said Blackwood. Sphere’s newly elevated president and COO Jennifer Koester added that she believe’s Blackwood’s “expertise bringing high-profile entertainment projects to life will be an asset as we continue to build on, and grow, the Studios’ capabilities.”

The creative team at Sphere also includes chief creative officer Ned McNeilage, who joined earlier this year. Since opening last year with a successful run of U2 shows, the Las Vegas megavenue has been in a jam-y mood with a four concert mini-residency by Phish and an in-progress 24-date residency by Dead & Company. An eight-date run by Eagles is scheduled for the fall.


Universal Music India and South Asia promoted Viral Jani to chief revenue officer. Jani joined UMGISA in 2023 as head of digital, strategy & transformation, having previously held senior positions at Times Network, GroupM and Twitter, among others. The promotion follows the May elevation of Sanujeet Bhujabal from evp of content to managing director of the Mumbai-based label division. “[The promotions of Bhujabal and Jani] reflects the company’s commitment to growth and development of one of Universal Music Group’s most important emerging markets,” noted Adam Granite, CEO, Universal Music Group AMEA. “Together they will work closely, alongside Chairman & CEO Devraj Sanyal and myself, to deliver our mission of creating the best music-based entertainment company in the region.”

Warner Chappell Music promoted A&R exec Jessi Vaughn Stevenson to vp, A&R and digital. Stevenson will continue reporting to Ben Vaughn, president/CEO WCM Nashville, as she strategizes opportunities for songwriters. During her career, Stevenson has worked with songwriters including Jessi Alexander, Rhett Akins, Parker McCollum, Hailey Whitters, Morgan Wallen and Randy Montana.  “Jessi has always shown commitment to songwriters, helping them with their craft and careers,” said Vaughn. “She is always thinking of new ways to support songwriters and is a wonderful team player. We’re happy to announce her promotion.” –Jessica Nicholson

APM Music elevated creative executive Adam Weitz from senior director to vp of TV and film sync. Weitz has spent the bulk of his 16-year sync licensing career — roughly 11-and-a-half years — at APM, a production music joint venture between Universal Music Publishing Group and Sony Music Publishing. During that time he and his TV/Film team has banked large-scale licensing deals with Hollywood studios, streaming platforms and others, and locked in placements with hundreds of films and shows, including recent wins in Oppenheimer, Succession, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Ted Lasso and more. He also spearheads APM’s sample clearance business, which has collaborated with Drake, Beck, The Black Keys and others. Weitz reports to chief revenue officer Chad Elbert and president Adam Taylor, who remarked, “His deep industry connections and unique blend of creative and licensing expertise have established him as one of the very best in the industry.” Prior to joining APM in 2013, the Los Angeles-based exec spent nearly five years in leadership at sync licensing house Visions from the Roof. Under the pseudonym Phofo, Weitz composed music for several animated shows including Sushi Pack, Care Bears and Club Penguin, and he co-produced the first studio LP by MC Paul Barman. Reach him at aweitz@apmmusic.com.

BOARD SHORTS: Furnace Record Pressing founder and former CEO Eric Astor was elected to the Vinyl Record Manufacturing Association‘s board of directors. VRMA works to advance the record manufacturing sector — in which Astor has been deeply invested since FRP’s 1996 founding. He recently transitioned to an advisor role at the Metallica-backed Virginia plant, with Ali Miller taking over as CEO in March … OpenAI (ChatGPT) appointed Paul M. Nakasone, the former head of the National Security Agency (NSA), to its board of directors.

BMG appointed Alexandra Behrens as senior vp of global people excellence, a most excellent way of saying she’ll oversee HR services and operations across the company. Behrens is sliding over from Bertelsmann sister company Gruner + Jahr (G+J), where she led the people management & services team during a 15-year run at the print publishing giant. “Alexandra’s leadership will be instrumental in driving our global HR initiatives and fostering a culture of excellence across all of our locations,” said BMG CHRO Nikola Holle-Spiegel, to whom she’ll report. BMG recently announced a fine-tuning of its frontline recordings business under Jon Loba.

Digital Media Association (DiMA) promoted Sally Rose Larson to senior vp of government and external affairs. Prior to joining DiMA in 2019 as the audio streaming trade group’s vp of government relations, the Georgia native served as legislative director and later deputy chief of staff to Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), and was chief copyright advisor to House Judiciary Committee GOPers.

Reed Smith welcomed Jackson Abbeduto as counsel in its global entertainment and media industry group. Based in the lauded law firm‘s Century City, Calif. office, Abbeduto arrives following a year as counsel at Granderson Des Rochers. Prior to that, he spent nearly a decade at Universal Music Publishing Group and three years at YouTube as an executive. “Music is very important to our overall practice strategy, and considering our partner Gregor Pryor is the leading digital music lawyer in Europe, Jackson will have all the resources necessary to help us be on the forefront of advising clients in the US on all cutting-edge digital issues,” said Stephen Sessa, the co-chair of Reed Smith’s global entertainment and media industry group.

RADIO, RADIO: Cumulus Media promoted Kriston Aitken to chief human resources officer, taking over for a retiring Todd McCarty, who held the role for nine years. The HR veteran joined Cumulus in 2016 and was elevated to vp of Human Resources two years ago … Jose George and Olivia Morley joined advertising consulting firm Madison and Wall as senior analysts, according to Radio InkSamantha Melbourneweaver is joining NPR as managing editor/digital audience growth & engagement. She was previously the assistant managing editor of audience at the Los Angeles Times.

CAA promoted 15 employees, including Shayna Ehrlich to music marketing executive in the agency’s music touring department. She joined the firm in March 2019 as a music and comedy tour marketing assistant and later shed the laughs part of her workload. Prior to joining CAA, the NYC-based Ehrlich was in media strategy at iHeartMedia. THR has more details on the moves.

Hollywood-based publicist and former TV programmer Kiki Ayers launched My Best Kid Life, a new “daily guide on how parents and kids can live their best life” that will focus on wellness, nutrition, co-parenting and more, plus feature exclusive interviews with celebs discussing parenthood. Unique to MBKL is that all images used for the company are in the style of comic book, cartoon or anime. Pryor to this new venture, Ayers ran her PR firm Ayers Publicity and worked as an entertainment reporter. Earlier in her career, Ayers was a music programming manager at REVOLT and was in production at both MTV2 and The Jerry Springer Show.


Richard Burgess

Richard Burgess

A2IM president and CEO Richard James Burgess telegraphed his exit from the indie label trade group … UTA hired ex-Ingrooves chief Bob Roback as COO … Downtown named Molly Neuman as president of its CD Baby arm … Jennifer Koester was promoted to president and COO of Sphere EntertainmentUnitedMasters hired Def Jam vet LaTrice Burnette as evp and head of music … and COLTURE‘s Ty Baisden was named executive of the year in Billboard‘s Indie Power Players list.

Last Week’s Turntable: TikTok Lawyers Up

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