Sunday, July 14, 2024

Bertelsmann, Universal and Merlin Lead Music Executive Job News

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It’s time for a July 4th weekend edition of the Executive Turntable, Billboard’s comprehensive(ish) compendium of promotions, hirings, exits and firings — and all things in between — across music. Check out this year’s Pride List of top LGBTQ+ executives in the industry. 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.

Thomas Coesfeld celebrated his one-year anniversary as CEO of BMG by joining the executive board of Bertelsmann, parent company of the Berlin-based music giant. The 34-year-old executive is point-person for Bertelsmann’s music business as a member of the board, which also includes chief executive Thomas Rabe and Thomas’ big brother Carsten Coesfeld, CEO of its venture capital arm, as well as company CFO Rolf Hellermann and chief human resources officer Immanuel Hermreck. Coesfeld took the reigns of BMG from longtime CEO Hartwig Masuch on July 1 of last year, and in short order instituted a new organizational structure by globalizing its catalog, sales and marketing teams and a “recalibration” of its presence in continental Europe, among other changes. Prior to rising to CEO, Coesfeld had been named deputy CFO at BMG in October 2021 before taking over as full-on CFO the following spring. During that time he oversaw BMG’s balance sheet and helped the company land 70 deals, including acquiring the catalogs of Mötley Crüe and Tina Turner, as well as those of Paul Simon, The Pointer Sisters, Peter Frampton and others.

He previously served as chief strategy officer on the executive committee of the Bertelsmann Printing Group, but began his career in 2014 as a consultant at McKinsey. Coesfeld is also a member of Bertelsmann’s Group Management Committee (GMC), which advises the executive board.

“[Coesfeld] knows Bertelsmann well from various positions,” Rabe raved in the announcement. “As CEO of BMG, he has made important decisions for the future of the business, for example by bringing digital distribution in-house and using artificial intelligence in various areas of the music business. Thomas will enrich the work of the Management Board as well. I look forward to working even more closely with him.”


Hannah Neaves

Hannah Neaves

Laura Lewis

Universal Music UK promoted Hannah Neaves to sole president of its catalog division, Universal Music Recordings. Her co-president over the last two years, Azi Eftekhari, has left the company, Billboard can confirm. Neaves and Eftekhari joined UMR in early 2022, roughly a year after the pair launched a London-based creative agency called Remedy Inc. Prior to joining forces, Neaves was creative director at TaP Music and Eftekhari had been head of label relations (EMEA) at YouTube. In the last two years, UMR’s wins include “Now and Then” — the “last Beatles song” — and other releases featuring Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse, the Spice Girls and more. “Hannah is, first and foremost, an artist person with an innate understanding of where creativity and discovery meet, something she has brought in abundance since re-joining our team,” said Universal Music UK chief David Joseph, referencing Neaves’ tenure at UMG’s Polydor earlier in her career. “A truly exceptional and inspiring executive, Hannah has already had huge success, most recently creatively leading the global and record-breaking Now And Then campaign for The Beatles, and there’s so much more to come.”

Former BMI executive Jody Williams was elected to a one-year term as the new chair of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum‘s board of officers and trustees. The publishing veteran, who founded Jody Williams Songs in 2020 following a 14-year run at BMI, has served on the museum’s board for 17 years. He replaces outgoing chair Mary Ann McCready, who remains as a trustee. CMHFM CEO Kyle Young remarked that Williams is “woven into the fabric of country music’s creative community in a true and meaningful way” and “resolute in furthering country music’s vitality as a cultural artform.” The Nashville institution also elected several new members to the board, including artist manager Clint Higham and WME agent Becky Gardenhire.

Merlin, the digital licensing partner for the independent music sector, welcomed Neil Miller as its new general counsel. Miller arrives from Greenberg Traurig, where he served as partner of the global law firm for three years. Prior to that, Miller was an associate general counsel at Facebook and earlier in his career spent six years as GC at SoundCloud. He is based in the UK. “Merlin is a dynamic organisation operating in a complex and ever changing legal and commercial environment,” said Charlie Sexton, Merlin COO. “Neil’s wealth of experience across music and digital entertainment is exactly what we need to meet these challenges. He is highly respected across the industry and brings a valuable blend of long-term thinking, technical skills, and impressive leadership.”

Believe has new leadership in place for its efforts throughout China, naming Charles Liu as general manager and Rebecca Dong as managing director for the growth-ready region. Based in Beijing and reporting to Sylvain Delange, Believe’s president of Asia-Pacific, Liu will focus on building partnerships and growing Believe’s roster of labels and artists. Dong rolls up to Liu and will manage all operations, along with legal, finance and HR matters. Believe has operated in China since 2016 and has grown to 80-plus “digital and music experts” across offices in five cities, the company said. “Greater China is both an exciting and challenging market where Believe’s unique approach can significantly contribute to accelerate the rise of a strong, diverse and thriving local music ecosystem as we’ve done is so many other markets in Asia Pacific,” said Delange.

NASHVILLE NOTES: Universal Music Group Nashville hired Houston Gaither as director of radio marketing. She was previously Sony Music Nashville’s manager of content, promotion and artist development … Former PLA Media director of publicity and branding Becky Parsons formed Found Sound Media, a PR and management firm focused on developing LGBTQ+ and female artists … Kylie Taylor joined Black River Entertainment as a graphic designer. Reach her at

OTM Music, a boutique publishing company with footholds in London, New York and Los Angeles, welcomed Kristin Genovese as the firm’s new U.S. head of sync and Kate Sweetsur as the new head of A&R. The company, which provides creative services for its roster of songwriters and brands, also noted the recent additions of Chi Chi Nwakodo as senior creative and Ethan Mizen as A&R manager.


Britney Davis

Britney Davis

Hipgnosis Song Management founder Merck Mercuriadis will step down as chairman of the investment manager, months after vacating the CEO role … Stephanie Rosa is managing director of Tixr‘s new London office … Former Capitol Music Group executive Britney Davis was named general manager at Quality ControlWarner Records promoted Robert Santini to senior vp of brand partnerships and ad sync … and Mano Sundaresan is the new head of editorial content for Pitchfork.

Last Week’s Turntable: Audacy OG Elevated

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