Music Industry Moves: Universal Music Publishing Taps David Gray to Lead New Global Creative Group

Universal Music
Courtesy of Universal Music Publishing Group

Universal Music Group has promoted publishing executive David Gray to an expanded role as head of the newly created UMPG Global Creative Group. He will also continue as executive VP and head of US A&R. Gray will be working from New York, where he reports to UMPG Chairman and CEO Jody Gerson.

The UMPG Global Creative Group is a team of senior A&R executives whose focus is on identifying and expanding global creative opportunities for the UMPG roster. Gray will continue to steer the creative publishing strategy for UMPG’s US-based songwriters, artists and producers; lead the team in identifying, signing and developing early rising talent; support legacy talent by providing opportunities to strengthen their careers; in addition to further growing the company’s A&R team.

Gray added: “As UMPG continues to lead the industry with our best-in-class A&R strategy, our newly formed Global Creative Group will further maximize the worldwide success of our songwriters. I am grateful for Jody Gerson for allowing me to lead in this area and am confident that UMPG’s next creative chapters will be our best yet.”

Having been with UMPG since 2013, Gray previously served as co-head, A&R and, prior, as executive VP, head of West Coast A&R. He is responsible for the signing of Shawn Mendes, Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato and Julia Michaels, among many others. Gray also worked closely with producers Take A Daytrip to launch No Idle, a joint venture publishing company with UMPG.

+ Kingship, the NFT “supergroup” created by Universal Music’s 10:22PM joint venture, will essentially become the Van Halen of the metaverse when they get their own M&Ms and will appear on limited edition candy boxes.

The series is inspired by the mythical group’s mythical tour rider containing required backstage items, which includes M&M’s of all colors — a deep reference to Van Halen’s infamously ridiculous demand to have only green M&Ms as part of their standard food-and-beverage tour rider.

In characteristic limited-edition NFT fashion, just 4,000 boxes have been created: The Gold edition, the rarest version, comes in a white and gold foil gift box and includes custom printed candies with the four group members in individually numbered boxes from 1 to 100. M&M’S will also produce only 3,900 exclusive celebratory gift boxes in Brown. Additionally, there will be 6,000 gift jars of the candies.

+ Secretly Publishing has promoted Eddie Sikazwe, who will now serve as the company’s first-ever senior director of A&R. Since joining Secretly in 2020, after founding the LA-based Abstract Management, Sikazwe has been a member of the A&R team for both Secretly Publishing and the Secretly Group of record labels.

His previous signings include serpentwithfeet, Luke Titus, NNAMDÏ and Jonah Yano. In the new role, Sikazwe will report to Secretly co-founder and president of A&R, Chris Swanson, and work closely with Kathleen Cook, who has also just been promoted from managing director to VP of publishing and sync.

In addition to the recent promotions, Secretly Publishing has also signed new talents Steph Marziano, Leith Ross, Jorge Elbrecht, Wednesday and MJ Lenderman.

+  Sean Stevens has been promoted to vice president of A&R and head of research & analytics for Warner Records. He is based at the label’s Los Angeles headquarters and reports to co-chairman and CEO Aaron Bay-Schuck. Since joining Warner in 2018 from Big Machine Label Group he has discovered or worked closely with artists including Teddy Swims, Ricky Montgomery, Ezekiel, MyKey, Sombr, Bktherula, XIX.

“Sean’s incredible taste and creative instincts matched with his ability to mine meaningful insights from a mountain of data, makes him a truly well-rounded A&R exec,” said Bay-Schuck. “He’s helped bring bold, original talent into the Warner fold and he cares deeply about the artist development process once an artist walks through our doors.”

Monday, August 22

Republic Records has launched a kids and family division, spearheaded by the appointment of Bree Bowles as VP of marketing and strategy. The new expansion is focused on signing, developing, and releasing family-friendly projects, with additional “major partnerships to be unveiled very soon,” according to the announcement.

Prior to her stint with Republic Records, Bowles worked at Brooklyn Bowl founder Pete Shapiro’s Dayglo Presents where she oversaw marketing and operations. Over the years she has worked with family-friendly brands like Nickelodeon and Disney, along with roles at Foxtel (News Corp) and the Brag Media, specializing in content, acquisitions, and strategy.

Republic co-president Jim Roppo said, “We’ve always wanted to do a children’s label. Family is everything to us. I am a dad before anything else. We finally found the perfect partner and an incredible executive, Bree, to bring this venture to life with quality, family-friendly, and fun music.”

Bowles adds: “Our mission is simple: produce world-class music that can be enjoyed by both kids and their parents, creating invaluable moments to connect in what is a distracted world. We are first and foremost building a label that is trusted by parents, but we are focused on developing new IP, driving innovation, and exploring what is possible. Our team is excited, our artists are excited, and we hope the little fans will love the new music as much as we do. Kids are the future, which means kids are also the future of music.”

+ Andrea Johnson, Emily Yoon and Erika Noguchi have joined Wasserman Music, to aid with symphonic performances and the development of intellectual property for the live music space. Wasserman Music’s roster includes acts like Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews Band, Foreigner, Herbie Hancock, Steve Miller Band as well as property-driven performances like “the Masked Singer Tour,” “DC In Concert,” and “Celtic Woman’s Home For Christmas – the Symphony Tour.”

Johnson’s resume spans work alongside veteran stars like David Foster, Katharine McPhee and Straight No Chaser, and classical crossover groups Vitamin String Quartet and the Piano Guys, live appearances by writer/actor Candace Bushnell, and cabaret performances for Jane Lynch, among others. She began her career at classical music management company ICM Artists, representing the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, the Russian National Orchestra, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

Both Yoon and Noguchi represent the more than three dozen properties of Disney Concerts, which puts together concerts and tours, and licenses Disney music and visual content to symphony orchestras and presenters on worldwide. Yoon and Noguchi also represent other IP-driven symphonic performance properties, as well as orchestral conductors.

For more than a decade, Yoon has been a key partner with Disney Concerts in the development of a roster of over 30 concert packages. She started her career at Columbia Artists, leading the company’s commercial symphony events. Noguchi comes to Wasserman Music with seven years of experience as an agent, artist manager and executive producer specializing in symphonic events worldwide. She also jumpstarted her career at Columbia Artists and quickly climbed to the position of associate manager.

+ Tres Generaciones Tequila has announced a partnership with R&B singer Givēon for its newest marketing campaign, “Get Up Tres,” as part of the brand’s recent relaunch.

“Get Up Tres” aims to inspire a new generation of artists, creators and fans to “celebrate the missteps, focus on the journey and always get up despite obstacles along the way.” The brand will serve as the official sponsor for Givēon’s “Give or Take” North American tour which kicked off on Aug. 16.

“For me it’s all about the process. That’s where the hard work shows up, that’s where the heart, and heartache, and all the storytelling reside,” said Givēon in a statement. “I’m looking forward to working with Tres Gen Tequila to not only share my story but to offer a platform through ‘Get Up Tres’ for others to tell us about their own journey and celebrate their own successes both big and small.”

+ The Blues Foundation has appointed former music manager/agent and former board member Kimberly Horton, as its interim president and CEO.

With the recent departure of former President and CEO Judith Black, Horton says she looks forward to leading the Blues Foundation through its next chapter and upcoming signature events — including International Blues Challenge in January 2023 and the Blues Music Awards in May 2023.

Horton is the longtime manager, agent, and founder of Heathrow Muzik Box, LLC. Throughout her 15-year career, she’s been credited for guiding various Blues artists, including Johnny Rawls, Billy Price, Lattimore, Dexter Allen, Lady A, Big Lou Johnson, and Eric Nolan of the famed R&B and soul group, The O’Jays. She is also the personal business assistant for Taj Mahal.

+ HIFI Labs, an artist mentorship collective, has opened applications for their upcoming Web3 Artist Cohort Program, marking its official launch and the first time the program is open to the public.

Led by HIFI Labs Head of Web3 and Artist Teams Henry Chatfield, the cohort aims to solve the obstacles that stand in the way of emerging artists including limited access to money, information and strategic counsel. The program boats work alongside the likes of Interpol, David Lynch, RAC, Dove Cameron, 88Rising, and more.

HIFI Labs’ Web3 Artist Cohort is a free virtual three-week immersive program that helps connect emerging musicians with the resources they need to develop and launch their upcoming projects using Web3 tools. Sessions will take place monthly and feature a small group of up to five musicians working together in a cohort designed to encourage collaboration and inspire new ideas through peer-based learning and idea shaping. Participants will go through curated lessons, prompt-driven projects and live peer feedback sessions.

The company is also actively working to acquire financial resources — directly and from contributing partners — to help artists cover expenses. Session 3 applications are currently open until Sept. 2, with five slots available. To apply for Session 3 of HIFI Labs’ Web3 Artist Cohort Program, please visit

From Variety US