Music Industry Moves: A2IM CEO Richard James Burgess to Exit in 2026

Richard James Burgess announced today that he will step down as President and CEO of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) at the beginning of 2026 after 10 at the company.

“As A2IM approaches its 20th anniversary in 2025, I am filled with immense pride for our collective achievements and honored to have been the longest-serving head of A2IM to date,” said Burgess. “Leading this exceptional organization has been an extraordinary experience. I am profoundly grateful for the support and dedication of our board members, the invaluable work of our founding members and prior presidents who set up the organization to succeed, and the unwavering commitment of our many members. Our success is a testament to the hard work and passion of the many team members I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside.”

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The Board of Directors has initiated a search for his successor.

+ 18-year-old country singer Bayker Blankenship, whose viral hit “Maxed Out” hit No. 2 on Spotify’s Viral chart has signed with Lone Star / Santa Anna Records.

“Bayker is one of the rare, special artists who possesses a pure, singular talent, matched only by his unaffected personality and big heart,” said Todd Moscowitz, CEO of Alamo / Santa Anna Records. “His authenticity, warmth and wit shines through on ‘Maxed Out,’ which is quickly establishing itself as a very reactive hit. We are thrilled to welcome Bayker to the Lone Star/Santa Anna family, and look forward to an amazing journey together.”

+ On the heels of the HBO four-part docuseries, “STAX: Soulsville U.S.A.,” Stax Records is partnering with Bandcamp to present a live streamed interview with Booker T. Jones and Stax writer, publicist and Founder of the Soulsville Foundation, Deanie Parker. The event will take place on June 17 in honor of Black Music Month, and in conjunction with Bandcamp’s fourth annual Juneteenth celebration.

The hour-long discussion will be followed by an audience Q&A session and will be hosted by Bandcamp Daily contributor and host of the KEXP podcast Fresh off the Spaceship, Martin Douglas.

On June 19 —from midnight PT to midnight PT June 20 — Bandcamp will also be hosting its fourth annual Juneteenth fundraiser donating a portion of the sales to the Soulsville Foundation, supporting three not-for-profit music and educational entities, an afterschool music program, a museum, and charter school.

In addition to the interview, Bandcamp is partnering with eight other artists and labels to host a full week of special events. For more information, visit https://bandcamp.com.

+ Carolyn Blackwood has been named the new head of Sphere Studios for immersive content creation for Sphere.

In this role, Blackwood will lead the day-to-day running of the Burbank-based Sphere Studios, directing production operations and partnering with MSG Ventures, the division of Sphere Entertainment responsible for developing the production technologies used for Sphere.

+ Mom+Pop Music has signed Gallant and released his new single, “Coldstar.”

Thaddeus Rudd, co-owner of Mom+Pop said, “We are thrilled to partner with Gallant on the release of ‘Coldstar’ which is just the beginning of what we have planned for this gifted artist. Gallant is such a multi-talented artist who represents the renaissance that is currently happening in music. With his ability to switch genres, his edgy and experimental artistic endeavors along with his voice, we are proud to welcome him to the Mom+Pop family.”

+ Concord Music Publishing has signed Mount Kimbie — the English electronic music duo of Dom Maker and Kai Campos – to a new worldwide publishing agreement.

The new deal covers all works going forward including their new studio album “The Sunset Violent,” in addition the duo’s individual projects. Mary McGovern, senior A&R manager at Concord Music Publishing, said: “I am thrilled to be working with Dom, Kai and the Giant Artist Management team. They are top tier talent whose writing and production prowess never misses. It is a privilege for all of us at Concord to be a part of this exciting chapter”.

Mount Kimbie are currently performing across major cities such as Berlin, Paris, London, Los Angeles and more.

Wednesday, June 12

Ariana Grande will be joining Hybe’s global superfan platform, Weverse. The partnership between Grande and Hybe America, led by CEO Scooter Braun, will continue under Grande’s new management deal with Brandon Creed and his Good World Management firm.

WeVerse allows artists — including BTS, NewJeans, Blackpink, Conan Gray and more — to directly engage with fans and sell merchandise.

Creed, who has represented acts including Bruno Mars and Lizzo, began working with Grande four months after sources confirmed that the singer had parted ways with longtime manager Braun who, apart from a period of several months in 2017, had managed her since the release of her debut album a decade ago. Creed’s roster includes Demi Lovato, Troye Sivan, Charli XCX, Orville Peck and Mark Ronson, among others.

+ Jelly Roll and Republic Records have entered a worldwide deal ahead of the country singer’s upcoming album. This extends his current partnership with BBR Music Group, Stoney Creek and BMG publishing.

“Jelly Roll embodies artistry and independence,” said Jon Loba (BMG president) in a statement. “His authenticity is the key to his success. He continually uses his platform to not only captivate audiences with his music but also to uplift communities. We are proud of everything we have accomplished together and look forward to achieving even more success in the future.”

+ Sphere Entertainment Co. has upped Jennifer Koester to president and chief operating officer of Sphere.

Koester most recently served as the company’s president, Sphere business operations, where she has led the strategy and execution of all business aspects of Sphere, a next-generation entertainment medium in Las Vegas.

Koester will continue working together with executive leadership, and across the broader Sphere team, to grow the business and optimize its operations. Koester will also provide strategic oversight for Sphere Studios – the immersive content studio in Burbank dedicated to developing multi-sensory experiences for Sphere – including further developing the Studios’ capabilities as a full-service production studio.

Additionally, Koester is propelling venue utilization in numerous categories such as original programming, attractions, concerts, residencies and events; driving strategic partnerships and customer experience.

A seasoned executive with 30 years of diverse experience in technology, media, and entertainment, Ms. Koester joined Sphere Entertainment in February 2024 from Google, where she served in business development, marketing, technology, legal and product management.

+ Big Machine Music, a subsidiary of HYBE America, announced today the signing of Jon Hume to a co-publishing agreement.

As a co-writer and producer of Dean Lewis’ hits “Be Alright,” “Half A Man” and the 2024 ASCAP Pop award-winning song “How Do I Say Goodbye,” Hume has also penned songs for Sofi Tukker, Bebe Rexha, JP Cooper, NEEDTOBREATHE, Calum Scott and forthcoming songs with David Kushner and Bishop Briggs. Most recently, he served as a producer for ABC’s “American Idol.”

A native of Australia, Jon now calls Nashville home while continuing to write for and produce projects in Los Angeles and overseas. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to join Big Machine Music,” shares Hume. “Mike Molinar, Alex Heddle, Hannah Babitt and the team have unbridled energy and creativity and the roster they have assembled speaks for itself.”

+ Rythm, a community-based group listening music platform, officially launched Wednesday on Discord.

Founded by entrepreneur and engineer Yoav Zimet in 2016 as a music app on Discord, Rythm returns to the platform backed by leading venture capital firms and industry investors. In its new iteration, for the first time, Rythm has also secured global licensing rights for streaming music.

Rythm shut down in 2021, and relaunches with the aid of CTO and Co-Founder, Oliy Barrett. In the past two years, Zimet and Barrett have raised capital from VCs including Corazon Capital, Mucker Capital, CRUSH Ventures, along with music management houses Laffitte Management Group, Black Squirrel Partners, and co-founder of Q Prime, Peter Mensch.

Rythm offers two subscription tiers: free and premium. As a result of its licensing deals with leading music companies, with song streams being calculated by the number of listeners in a session.

+ UTA has signed Natalia Lafourcade for worldwide representation in all areas, with the exception of touring in Central and South America.

Lafourcade has earned an outstanding 17 Latin Grammy awards, making her the most awarded female artist in the history of the Latin Recording Academy. She has also received four Grammys, most recently winning for her latest, “De Todas las Flores.”

A prolific songwriter and composer, she has notably lent her voice to the Oscar-winning song, “Remember Me” from the Disney movie “Coco,” which she performed live at the 2018 Academy Awards ceremony with Miguel.

Lafourcade will continue to be managed by Juan Pablo López-Fonseca and Margarita Bruzzone.

Tuesday, June 11

UnitedMasters has appointed LaTrice Burnette as executive vice president/head of music, the company announced today. In this newly created role, Burnette will lead UnitedMasters’ artist services division.

Burnette has held senior roles at labels such as Def Jam Recordings, Island Records, Epic Records, Atlantic Records, and Roc-A Fella Records. She was most recently serving as executive VP at Def Jam Recordings. She was also an honoree on Variety‘s Power of Women impact list for 2023.

“I’m beyond excited to join the UnitedMasters team working alongside Steve Stoute, David Melhado, and Mike Weiss to help drive the next phase of growth for their global independent artist community,” said Burnette. “Having worked with so many amazing artists throughout my career, I’ve seen firsthand the increasing desire for independence while still receiving top-level label services. UnitedMasters has pioneered a model that gives artists the best of both worlds. I’m looking forward to collaborating with the UnitedMasters team to elevate artist development to new heights and empower the next generation of artists to own their futures.”

“I’m pleased to have LaTrice join the UnitedMasters team. She brings with her a wealth of experience by having played every single position inside a record company, from assistant to president,” said Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of UnitedMasters. “Every artist that I’ve spoken to that she has worked with has had nothing but great things to say about her keen understanding of the industry, of marketing, and helping them grow their careers. With our artist services business at UnitedMasters, having somebody like LaTrice on board, with her level of experience, is going to do nothing but help make our artists go further in their careers. This is another big move for us and our commitment to independent artists.”

UnitedMasters boasts partnerships with Brent Faiyaz, and Earthgang, and has developed new stars like BigXthaPlug, Anycia and Ekkstacy. Internationally, they’ve worked with Davido and Sarz in Nigeria; Veigh, Nagalli, and Supernova in Brazil, and FloyyMenor and Nickoog in Chile.

+ Neon Gold Records has inked a global distribution agreement with Virgin Music Group. This partnership coincides with the label’s 15th anniversary. Neon Gold has released music for Tove Lo, Charli XCX and Passion Pit, among others.

Neon Gold also announces their newest signing, alternative pop artists Phantogram, whose comeback single “All A Mystery” arrived May 31. More marquee signings are set to announce in the coming weeks.

“We’re thrilled to embark on the next chapter of Neon Gold with Virgin Music Group,” said Derek Davies, founder of Neon Gold. “The partnership allows us to maintain our independent spirit and artist-centric ethos, while benefiting from the scale, global infrastructure and team of Virgin Music Group. It’s the perfect combination to support our mission of delivering major results on independent terms for artists, carving out new lanes for our acts to have more control both creatively and commercially.”

Monday, June 10

Downtown Music has appointed Molly Neuman as president of its “direct-to-creator” division, CD Baby. Neuman will work to expand CD Baby’s services, succeeding CD Baby’s previous president, Scott Williams, who will remain a consultant to Downtown and CD Baby.

In a post shared to LinkedIn, Neuman said, “My ambitions for CD Baby are consistent with things I’ve spoken with many of you about before. We deserve an industry that gives opportunities to more than just those who have traditionally held centralized power and revenues. We need more genres, more genders, more geographies represented, and more stability for the future. We have to scale to meet the needs of the modern business, but keep our artists and their creativity at our center. I think we can do it.”

Prior to joining CD Baby, Neuman was the chief marketing officer for Downtown’s global group of music companies. She was also head of music at Kickstarter, and was the interim president and vice president of A2IM. Over the years she has held senior roles in label relations and licensing at digital music services, in addition to serving on the boards of Music Biz, SoundExchange and A2IM. She got her start as the drummer for the influential indie Bratmobile, and has remained a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion within the music industry.

+ Cash Money Records is making a strategic entry into the Latin market with the signing of four Puerto Rican artists: Jesus Figueroa, professionally known as Jeyyff; Valentín Jadiellee, also recognized as Dimewest; Midnvght and El Blxnco.

“By embracing these Latin artists, we embark on an exhilarating new chapter in our journey,” said Ronald ‘Slim’ Williams of Co-CEO Cash Money Records. “We are dedicated to supporting them and to help them realize their potential while introducing them to current & new fans globally. At Cash Money Records, diversity and authenticity have always been our cornerstone and we eagerly anticipate these exceptional artists will propel their music in the Latin market.”

+ Warner Chappell Music (WCM) has promoted A&R executive Jessi Vaughn Stevenson to vice president of its A&R and digital division.

Stevenson’s experience includes working with chart-topping songwriters including Morgan Wallen and Jessi Alexander, Rhett Akins, Parker McCollum, among others. She will continue reporting to Ben Vaughn, president and CEO of WCM Nashville.

Stevenson shared, “The past eight years at Warner Chappell have been extremely educational and rewarding. I feel blessed to continue to learn from the best in the business – from Admin and A&R teams to our world-class roster of songwriters and artists. Getting to fight for songs from inception to reception is my favorite part of publishing, and I look forward to finding new ways to develop and support our roster and their songs.”

Vaughn said: “Jessi has always shown commitment to songwriters, helping them with their craft and careers. She is always thinking of new ways to support songwriters and is a wonderful team player. We’re happy to announce her promotion.”

+ New York’s iconic Beacon Theatre has named Bruce Wheeler as its senior director of theatre operations. He joins after nearly six years at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, four of them as general manager. A 30-year veteran of the live-entertainment and music industries, Wheeler previously was GM of Central Park Summerstage, and spent many years working as an independent production manager for Regina Spektor, Cage the Elephant and Jimmy Fallon. Earlier in his career he held executive posts at MCA, J and Caroline Records.

+ Entertainment attorney John Branca has donated $5 million to Occidental College for the establishment of the John Branca Institute for Music, a music teaching and learning facility. David Kasunic, associate professor of music at Occidental, will serve as the Institute’s inaugural director.

Branca’s clients have included Aerosmith, the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees and the Beatles, among others.

+ Sony Music Entertainment (SME) has inked a global joint venture with Los Angeles-based record label D36. Founded by Abhi Kanakadandila in 2021, D36 is a launch pad for the music of South Asia and its diaspora. The global joint venture is said to offer D36’s artists growth opportunities in key markets outside of the U.S.

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