Music Industry Moves: Matty Karas Stepping Down From MusicREDEF

Matty Karas, editor of the popular MusicREDEF website and newsletter since 2014 and a veteran music and music-industry reporter and critic, is stepping down from his post on Friday, he announced in Thursday’s newsletter. The publication will go on hiatus while he assists REDEF founder Jason Hirschorn with finding a replacement.

A veteran student of the game, Karas led MusicREDEF with a seasoned, clear-eyed, opinionated and at times seemingly all-seeing perspective. The newsletter hit inboxes at around 6 a.m. ET nearly every weekday morning, containing several paragraphs of introduction wherein he’d sound off eloquently on an artist, a company, a trend or (often) a problem, all of which were setting up the multiple articles he’d quickly summarize and link to in the rest of the email. The guy seemed to read everything and miss virtually nothing, and he was diligent about recognizing the publication that broke a story as well as the most perceptive trend pieces.

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That perspective has developed over nearly 35 years: according to his very amusing LinkedIn profile — and who makes their LinkedIn profile funny? — He started in 1990 as the pop music critic at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey before moving on to roles at the ‘90s pre-internet music-recommendation service Muze, MJI Broadcasting, SonicNet, Addicted to Noise, MTV News, VH1 and a couple of long-defunct outposts of the MTV universe before landing at REDEF in 2014.

So he knows what he’s talking about, and his voice matters. REDEF’s audience was small and insider compared with more mainstream publications, but if you were lucky enough to have him link or retweet one of your articles — and you never had to send him anything because there was a 95% chance he’d already read it — you knew you were doing something right.

“He’s an amazing advocate for the right side of any argument,” one fellow lifer told Variety on Thursday morning.

He’ll publish one more newsletter on Friday and then MusicREDEF will go on a brief hiatus until he and Hirschorn achieve the daunting task of finding a suitable replacement. Matty, thank you for your service.

+ Universal Music Group Nashville has named Chelsea Blythe as its new executive VP of A&R. She joins from her most recent post as senior VP of A&R at Def Jam, where Blythe led A&R efforts on Armani White, 26AR, and Anella Herim among others.

“I’m so excited to bring Chelsea to UMG Nashville as EVP A&R,” says UMGN Chair and CEO Cindy Mabe. “Her bold leadership, dynamic spirit, and passion for the music and artists will align perfectly with the culture we are building. Her love for country music brought her to Nashville and her dynamic presence and impeccable instincts will help lead our artist development strategy and innovate the future of country music.”

Blythe began her career as an A&R intern at Interscope Records before becoming the department coordinator where she worked on expanding the careers of acts such as Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Rae Sremmurd and Mike WiLL Made-It. She moved to Columbia Records in 2016, becoming VP of A&R and signing Symba as her first artist. She also helped bring Baby Keem to the label and helped to develop Polo G and the Kid Laroi.

+ Jen Hubbard has been appointed to a newly formed role of director, sync A&R at Concord Music Publishing. Based in Nashville, she will help to develop and manage Concord’s U.S. songwriter roster for the purpose of sync activity in addition to connecting the A&R and sync teams.

Hubbard, who last served as director of A&R for the company, will also support Concord’s overall strategy to streamline sync-forward initiatives and provide more opportunities for writers across film, TV, ads, gaming and more. Based at the Nashville headquarters, Hubbard reports to Brad Kennard, senior VP of A&R with support from Kourtney Kirkpatrick, VP of publishing sync and Brooke Primont, executive VP of global sync at Concord Music Publishing.

+ Berklee Valencia will present an honorary doctor of music degree to entrepreneur and music and entertainment PR executive Yvette Noel-Schure at the 2023 commencement ceremony on July 10 at the Auditori del Palau de les Arts.

Known for her work with Beyoncé, Prince, John Legend, and Chloe x Halle, among many others, Valencia will be recognized for her career accomplishments and dedication to the music industry. In the last five years, the Valencia campus has awarded honorary doctorates to Al Di Meola, Imogen Heap, Lila Downs, Gilberto Gil, and Alberto Iglesias.

+ “Barmageddon” creators Blake Shelton and showrunner Lee Metzger have launched a new production company called Lucky Horseshoe Productions.

The announcement follows Shelton’s departure from “The Voice,” where Metzger was an executive producer. Lucky Horseshoe Productions, represented by Verve, will produce “genre-spanning” content across platforms, according to the press release.

“I’m excited to partner with my longtime friend and creative rainmaker Lee Metzger,” said Shelton. “He was one of the first people I met at ‘The Voice’ and we’re enjoying working together currently on ‘Barmageddon.’ We’ve always been in sync on ideas and projects that interest and excite us. So long as Lee doesn’t screw this up, it’s going to be great.”

“Over the years of working with Blake, we’ve created some incredible TV moments, now with the success of Barmageddon, we’ve realized we have a creative point of view that an audience loves to watch,” said Mezger. “I’m looking forward to producing our own brand of entertainment and years of success with Blake. Besides, now that he’s left The Voice, it’s not like he has anything better to do.”

Tuesday, May 23

Brandi Carlile will be honored with the Songwriter Icon award by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) as part of the organization’s annual meeting at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on June 14.

“Brandi Carlile is in a class of her own,” said NMPA President and CEO David Israelite in a statement. “A critical success who has become a cultural and commercial force, she consistently has delivered stunning lyrics and vocals that cut to the heart of the human experience. We are thrilled to celebrate what she has given and continues to give to the craft of songwriting.”

The first-ever NMPA Non-Performing Songwriter Icon award will be presented to country hitmaker Ashley Gorley and RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier will be presented with the NMPA Industry Legacy award. Warner Music Group CEO Robert Kyncl will deliver a keynote conversation on the “value of music and the ever-evolving opportunities for songwriters, artists, and creators” in the context of streaming and artificial intelligence.

Additionally, the evening will feature surprise tribute performances and an impactful lawmaker will be presented with the NMPA President’s award which this year will go to Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) for his leadership on the Music Modernization Act and CASE Act.

The evening will also include a State of the Industry address that will examine the new streaming rates which recently went into effect.

+ Terrace Martin — the Grammy-nominated musician and producer known for his collaborations with chart-topping acts such as Kendrick Lamar, Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg and Travis Scott — has entered a new global recordings agreement with BMG for the launch of a multi-album jazz series with his record label Sounds of Crenshaw. The first project in a six-album deal is scheduled for release this summer, with new music expected soon.

“Terrace is an extremely talented, influential, and highly respected creator and protector of the Culture,” said Tim Reid, BMG senior VP of repertoire and marketing. “There is an authenticity and attention to detail in his creative approach that is undeniable. With Terrace at the helm, Sounds Of Crenshaw is the future of Jazz.”

(L-R) BMG’s Thomas Scherer and Raj Jadeja, Terrace Martin, BMG’s Dan Gill and Tim Reid (Courtesy of Samantha Whitehead)
(L-R) BMG’s Thomas Scherer and Raj Jadeja, Terrace Martin, BMG’s Dan Gill and Tim Reid (Courtesy of Samantha Whitehead)

+ Ernst Trapp will be stepping down as the chief executive officer of Warner Music Group‘s EMP at the end of May so that he can pursue other projects, the company announced today.

Trapp has led EMP since 2013, working with such artists as Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Nirvana, Panic! At the Disco and Twenty One Pilots, as well as major entertainment brands and franchises including Disney, Harry Potter, Marvel and Star Wars. He spearheaded the private label collections at EMP and successfully introduced a broad range of third-party streetwear brands, steering the company through its acquisition by WMG in 2018. In 2021, Trapp was appointed president of global e-commerce, retail and licensing of WMG, responsible, among other things, for the commercial success of more than 200 online stores worldwide.

“I’ve had an amazing time leading EMP through many changes over the last decade,” said Trapp. “We emerged from each challenge stronger than ever and the company has a bright future ahead of it. But now is the right time for me to move on and pursue new opportunities, knowing that the amazing team at EMP are in a good place.”

+ The Recording Academy’s Black Music Collective (BMC) and Amazon Music selected Joseph Michael Abiakam (Norfolk State University), Langston Jackson (Hampton University), Kennedi Amari Johnson (Clark Atlanta University), Courtney Roberts (Texas Southern University), and Caleb Wilkerson (Florida A&M University), as the recipients of the “Your Future Is Now” scholarship.

The music-industry-focused award is offered to students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and gives students $10,000 for the 2023/2024 school year with the opportunity to be part of an immersive program featuring workshops and one-on-ones with Amazon Music and Recording Academy department leads.

“We are immensely proud to collaborate with Amazon Music in renewing this exceptional scholarship program for the third consecutive year,” said Ryan Butler, VP of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Recording Academy. “The imperative of Black representation in the music industry cannot be overstated, and this scholarship is a tangible manifestation of our unwavering commitment to promoting the aspirations of future Black music leaders. We are delighted to provide Joseph, Langston, Kennedi, Courtney, and Caleb with this life-changing opportunity as they pursue their ambitions and contribute to the advancement of Black music.”

In addition, as part of “Your Future Is Now,” Amazon Music, The Same House and the Recording Academy are coming together to host the “Your Future is Now” business development seminar for select members of the 2023 graduating class of Morris Brown College taking place on June 17. Facilitators at the event will include Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter President Justin Henderson and Frankie Yaptinchay of Amazon Music.

For more information on the Black Music Collective and the “Your Future Is Now” scholarship, visit here.

+ Godmode has signed singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine to a new management deal. The pop singer recently signed with RCA Records in April and just completed a sold-out North American tour, represented by CAA for booking.

The management company and label also represent Channel Tres, SG Lewis, and JPEGMAFIA with a built-in publishing arm in partnership with Hipgnosis Songs Group.

+ Rostrum Records has appointed Edith Bo as their new head of A&R, responsible for setting and overseeing the overall direction of A&R strategy, including scouting and signing new artists. She will additionally helm branding partnerships and will be working closely with Rostrum’s marketing team while reporting to Rostrum Records President, Erika Montes.

“Edith is a rockstar A&R executive with deep relationships throughout the industry from artists, managers and labels alike,” said Montes. “I’ve long admired her work over the years and am excited to finally work together as she becomes the latest addition to Rostrum’s growing team.”

Bo joins Rostrum from SoundCloud where she spearheaded their first songwriter initiative called “Unsung Heroes,” as well as publishing and sync partnerships. Prior to SoundCloud, Bo served in artist management and A&R at Roc Nation, where her clients included Big Sean, Mustard, Hit-Boy and Santigold.

+ AI company Endel is partnering with Universal Music Group to create “AI-powered, artist-driven functional music designed to support listener wellness,” per the press release. Through this partnership, Endel will help UMG artists reimagine their catalogs by generating new versions of their songs geared for sleep, study, relaxation, or focus.

Artists from Republic and Interscope have already signed on to participate with the first releases expected to debut within the next few months. Endel had previously worked with Republic Records’ artist James Blake, who released “Wind Down” with Endel in May 2022.

In making the announcement, Michael Nash, UMG’s executive VP and chief digital officer said: “At UMG, we believe in the incredible potential of ethical AI as a tool to support and enhance the creativity of our artists, labels and songwriters, something that Endel has harnessed with impressive ingenuity and scientific innovation. We are excited to work together and utilize their patented AI technology to create new music soundscapes – anchored in our artist-centric philosophy – that are designed to enhance audience wellness, powered by AI that respects artists’ rights in its development.”

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