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Executive Turntable: Guitar Center Leadership All Shook Up; Warner Classics VP Comes to America

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It’s Friday! That means another spin around the Executive Turntable, Billboard’s comprehensive(ish) compendium of promotions, hirings, exits and firings — and all things in between — across the music industry.

Guitar Center tapped longtime board member Gabriel Dalporto to be the musical instrument re-and-etailer’s new CEO, effective immediately. The appointment follows the sudden departure of Ron Japinga, who joined the company in 2014 and has served as CEO since 2016. The company gave no reason for Japinga’s exit but did stress that he will no longer serve as a member of the board. Other changes in the offing include the return of Tim Martin as chief financial officer and the appointment of Ken C. Hicks as chairman of the board. Dalporto most recently served as CEO of online education platform Udacity, and he previously served in various senior roles at online lender LendingTree. He has been a member of the company’s board of directors since 2018. Leading that board, effective immediately, will be Hicks, currently the executive chairman of Academy Sports. Additionally, Martin is back in the CFO spot, which he occupied from 2012-2022. (He spent his break from slinging guitars as COO and CFO of Torrid Holdings, a direct-to-consumer apparel brand specializing in plus-size clothing.)

Sean Michael Gross, the head of WMG’s classical music unit in the UK, has added North America to his remit. As vice president of Warner Classics UK & North America, Gross will split his time between London and the States, and continue to report to Warner Classics president Alain Lanceron. The California native joined Warner in 2021 and in that short time has grown the label’s market share and workeed with a roster that includes Fatma Said and Abel Selacoe, among others. Prior to joining WMG, Gross accumulated professional credits at IMG Artists, 21C Media Group and Askonas Holt. “Sean has been a tremendous asset to our global Classics team in the last couple of years,” said Lanceron. “He is always at the forefront of change in the classical music sector, taking an innovative approach that embraces the future.”

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The Orchard‘s largest office outside of NYC has given its co-leaders some title bumps. Effective immediately, Ian Dutt has been elevated from managing director to president of UK operations, while Chris Manning will now put managing director, UK and Europe on his business cards instead of general manager. Both are based in London — where they oversee a team of 150-plus employees and will continue to lead global efforts and day-to-day operations for the Sony-owned distribution company. Dutt joined Orchard in 2016 as part of its merger with Sony RED UK, where he was MD. Manning began his Orchard journey in 2008 and has held a plethora of positions there including label and operations manager, and senior director of international operations. They’ll continue to report to Colleen Theis, president and COO. “Ian and Chris will continue to spearhead operations for our artist and label partners, expand our network, and seek out amazing independent talent in our second biggest market,” said Theis. “Together, they are an unparalleled team who work tirelessly to connect our clients from the region to audiences worldwide.”

Bay Area indie label, publisher and distributor EMPIRE elevated industry veteran Elliott Peters to general counsel. Peters, who joined the company in 2020 and was most recently svp of global business, will now oversee EMPIRE’s legal and business affairs and be the fine print point person for all deals with DSPs and retailers. Prior to EMPIRE, Peters spent nearly two years as vp of business and legal affairs at SoundCloud, and before that held executive roles at RDIO — as it was being sold to Pandora — and Apple. He kicked off his music industry career in 2000 at Warner Music Group and over the course of 10 years at the major, rose to svp of head of digital and legal affairs. “Elliott has been tremendous in helping EMPIRE scale globally,” said EMPIRE CEO and founder, Ghazi. “As we continue to enter new markets around the world, Elliott will spearhead our efforts worldwide.”

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Laura Mendoza joined Sony Music Publishing as managing director of its Colombia office, effective immediately. She’s based in Bogotá and reports directly to Jorge Mejia, Sony Music Publishing president & CEO, Latin America and U.S. Latin. A creative executive with 20-plus years in the music industry, Mendoza most recently served as head of label and artist solutions Central America, Andean & Southern Cone Region at Believe Distribution Services. Prior to that, she worked at Altafonte Music Network and at EMI Music Colombia. In her new role at Sony Music Publishing, she’ll be responsible for overseeing SMP Colombia’s business operations and advancing its growth initiatives, working closely with the company’s Latin America and U.S. Latin teams, as well as industry partners across the region. “It is an honor to work alongside so many talented professionals across the company,” Mendoza says. “Both the challenge and the opportunity of developing the careers of such a fantastic roster will allow me to contribute to a better industry and to the growth of SMP songwriters globally.” –Sigal Ratner-Arias

ICYMI: BMG terminated about 40 employees on Oct. 27, including executive vp of global repertoire Fred Casimir and senior vp of global repertoire Jason Hradil. The cuts effectively halted its international marketing department for recordings as well as its Modern Recordings label … Sounds Australia veteran Esti Zilber will take the reins at the national music export body, succeeding Millie Millgate as executive producer.

Kobalt promoted Sean Dishman to senior director of creative. The Los Angeles-based exec has clocked nine and a half years at the publishing administration company and was most recently creative director, having signed acts such as Madison Cunningham, Mac DeMarco, Jamila Woods, Poppy and Magdalena Bay, as well as some of Kobalt’s more whimsically named clients like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Kobalt also credits Dishman with major assists in releases by Lil Yachty, The Wombats and Yeek, among others. “[Dishman’s] knowledge & passion for music spills over into all that he does for our clients,” glowed Jamie Kinelski svp and head of West Coast creative. “His impeccable taste makes him a valued member of our global creative team, and I am thrilled to see continued growth at Kobalt.”

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Nashville-based writer/artist development company Eclipse Music Group promoted Penny Gattis to partner. As a co-owner, Gattis will continue overseeing the publishing division, while taking on an expanded role in the overall strategic direction of the firm, including the Eclipse Management and Penumbra Records divisions. Gattis joined Eclipse as general manager of publishing in 2020 and has since been instrumental in earning cuts with artists including Morgan Wallen, Luke Bryan and Jake Owen, as well as sync placements with brands including Lexus, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Gattis’s career also includes time at Round Hill Music, BMI and Tom-Leis Music. “Penny has the perfect combination of creativity, tenacity and relationships to support our creative clients and to advance Eclipse to the next level,” said Kurt Locher, principal of Eclipse Music Group.

Entertainment business management firm FBMM has named Jen Conger and Erica Rosa as owners. Conger has expertise in royalty analysis, domestic and international touring, sponsorship and endorsement deal negotiations, commercial insurance and estate planning. She oversees over $90 million in revenue each year on behalf of her clients. Conger also became the first female associate business manager in the firm’s history, and five years later, was promoted to business manager. Rosa joined FBMM as the firm’s first full-time royalty employee and was named vp, royalties and contract compliance in 2021. From 2020 to 2023, she relocated to Los Angeles to help establish the company’s Los Angeles office. Rosa has played an essential role in multiple eight- and nine-figure catalog sales and also oversaw unpaid royalty recoveries and prevention of loss revenues of over $200 million.

Blue Raincoat Music, an artist management, publisher and label all rolled into one, increased it London office by four in one fell swoop. Founded in 2014 by Robin Millar and former Chrysalis CEO Jeremy Lascelles, the Reservoir-owned company welcomes…

Dan Walton, project manager of catalogue reporting to Dermot James. Previously a product manager at Demon Music Group.

James Batsford, project manager reporting to Dermot James. Previously a freelance label consultant, but before that managed releases at Domino Records.

Ben Asplin, copyright manager of commercial music operations reporting to Tina McBye. Previously a royalties manager at BMG.

Tian Anderson, artist management assistant reporting to Amy Frenchum and Rupert King.

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SMACK added Jaice Cousins as digital coordinator. The Ohio native and Belmont University graduate previously served as product data management coordinator for Warner Music Group. In her new role, Cousins will oversee SMACK’s social media management across all digital platforms, as well as contributing to marketing campaigns and strategy for SMACK clients including Walker Hayes, Kylie Morgan and Jenna Davis. Cousins will report to director of marketing and artist development Molly Bouchon.

“Outlaws & Mustangs” singer Cody Jinks has put together a new, independent team as he gears up for the release of his next album in 2024. The team includes Malia Barrett (president, Late August Records), Amber Dee (director of tour marketing), Joe Greenwald (vp of radio and streaming, Late August Records), Logan Hacker (day to day manager), Keith Kilgore (tour manager) and Liz Slyman (director of marketing). Jinks said in a statement, “As my team and I traverse the next part of this journey, it’s hard not to think that now I am truly more independent than ever. That is exciting.”

Point72 Ventures hired Brett Kernan as a new advisor at the investment firm. Since its 2016 launch by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, Point72 has invested in 120-plus fintech, enterprise and consumer companies, including Range Media, Mirror and Hook. According to Kernan, he holds the distinction of being employee #1 at music tech company Splice, where he handled music partnerships for over seven years before co-founding early-stage investment group Wave7, where he has served as individual advisor for Soundful and JioSaavn.

The MAP Fund, a financial supporter of original live performance projects across the United States and its territories, appointed David Blasher as executive director. He had been interim executive director since the beginning of the year. Prior to joining MAP Fund, Blasher was director of global legal operations and innovation at NBCUniversal. MAP Fund also appointed Meital Waibsnaider as its new board chair and Ron Ragin as the inaugural director of programs.

Multi-discipline AI company Futureverse announced that Artist Partner Group founder and CEO Mike Caren has joined as a founding partner of its text-to-music venture called JEN. Expected to release in early 2024, Jen can form up-to three minute songs as well as help producers with half-written songs through offering ‘continuation’ and ‘in-painting’ as well. Other JEN principles include Futureverse co-founders Shara Senderoff and Aaron McDonald, as well as Alex Wang, the company’s head of AI research.

Last Week’s Turntable: Three Six Zero Adds Caron Veazey as Partner

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