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LABEL NEWS: Mottola Gets Label Deal with Universal Music Group (Click on More to view all articles)

(CelebrityAccess News Service) — Tommy Mottola is back. The veteran industry executive has inked an exclusive deal with Universal Music Group to reactivate Casablanca Records. New York newspapers put the deal at between $40 million and $50 million.

"We are delighted to be in business with Tommy and his dynamic team at Casablanca," said Doug Morris, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group. "For over a decade, he was the heart and soul of Sony's creative success. Tommy brings to the company the same innovation and creativity that have been the hallmarks of everything he's done in his storied career."

"Tommy is a remarkably creative talent in his own right, who possesses the intuitive ability to build, strengthen and transform artists into powerful global brands," added Mel Lewinter, chairman and CEO of Universal Motown Records Group. "And under his leadership, we are confident that Casablanca will provide the kind of organic environment needed for artists to develop, while at the same time benefiting from Universal Motown's unique support system."

"I have looked closely at the many opportunities which have been offered to me over the last several months, but none have had the right combination of elements to attract me like the one from Universal," Mottola said. "I could not ask for a better partner than Doug; our close friendship began over 20 years ago, and I am thrilled to be working with him now. I am also looking forward to working with Lewinter, whom I respect greatly, and the entire Universal Motown Records team to grow Casablanca into a worldwide success."

Mottola is one of the most highly regarded and influential executives in the entertainment business. He most recently served as chairman and CEO Sony Music Entertainment. During his tenure, he made Sony into one of the most successful global music companies in history, expanding its businesses in over 60 countries, while creating one of the strongest management teams in the industry. Along the way, he developed and nurtured many of contemporary music's top icons, from Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Gloria Estefan and Aerosmith, to Destiny's Child, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Nas, the Dixie Chicks, Shakira and Marc Anthony, among many others.

Mottola has also created a number of highly successful strategic co-branding initiatives, including Celine Dion's marketing partnership with Chrysler and an unprecedented and multifaceted global marketing campaign with Pepsi. Moreover, he revitalized Sony Music's publishing division by securing the much sought after acquisition of Sony Tree and enabled Sony to become the first major music company to make available commercial digital downloads.

Mottola joined Sony (then CBS Records) in 1988 at age 37 as president of CBS Records, making him the youngest president in CBS history. A year later, after a restructuring of the company, he was named president of Sony Music. And in 1993, he was named chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment. Prior to joining CBS, Mottola was one of music's most prominent artist managers, who successfully launched the careers of such chart-toppers as Hall & Oates, Carly Simon and John Mellencamp.

Most recently, Mottola branched out into television production when VH1 approached him about developing a reality based television program centered around his unprecedented track record for discovering, nurturing and transforming female artists into worldwide superstar divas. Serving as executive producer, Mottola and VH1 debuted Born to Diva earlier this year and enjoyed immediate success. Detailing an intercontinental musical search for the next diva, the program quickly garnered critical acclaim and launched its own dedicated following of fans.

Mottola's resurrection of Casablanca Records has nothing to do with Neil Bogart's label of the same name in the 1970s — it released records by Kiss, the Village People and Donna Summer. Casablanca will focus on new artists and will not have rights to any acts or music on Bogart's Casablanca Records. Universal has the old Casablanca copyrights.

Although neither Universal nor Mottola specify how much Mottola's compensation would be, The New York Times reported that Universal's deal was for $40 million. "Universal committed itself to putting $8 million a year into the operation for five years, but did not specify how much of that money would be Mottola's compensation and how much would go toward the label's expenses," said the Times.

Both The New York Daily News and The New York Post put the deal at $50 million. The Post called it a three-to-five-year deal while the News had it as a five-year deal.

The New York Times also reported that "Universal had the option of withdrawing from the venture if Casablanca failed to produce at least three albums a year that reached Nielsen SoundScan's weekly top 10 list."

No artists have been announced for the newly reactivated Casablanca Records.–edited by Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Christian And Gospel Music Sales Decline 10 Percent In 2003

(CelebrityAccess News Service) – Christian and gospel music has maintained its solid market share in the overall music industry in spite of slipping 10 percent in the first half of 2003, according to the Gospel Music Association, which announced the genre's mid-year sales.

At the end of the first six months of 2003, Nielsen SoundScan sales of Christian and gospel music were at 21,046,000 units compared to 23,445,000 units at the same time in 2002, a 10.23 percent decline. These sales represent 7.14 percent of all music sales, which puts gospel music sales ahead of Latin, jazz, classical and soundtracks.

"We are not surprised at the slowdown because gospel music sales are being affected by the same issues as the rest of the music industry — an uncertain economy and music piracy," said John W. Styll, president of the GMA. "Certainly, we are addressing ways to get back on track in growing sales, but we believe it is a good sign that our genre's popularity among all sales has not waned."

General market retailers have sold more Christian and gospel records than Christian retail in 2003 to date. Their 12,214,000 units represent 58 percent of all Christian music sales. Their decline from last year was under six percent, while Christian retailers are seeing just over a 15 percent sales decline in 2003.

The Top 20 albums sold between January 1, 2003 and June 29, 2003 were:

Record Title Artist Label

1. Wonder What's Next Chevelle Epic/Integrity
2. Worship Together: I Could Sing Various Worship Together
3. Offerings II: All I Have To Give Third Day Essential
4. WoW Gospel 2003 Various Verity
5. All About Love Steven Curtis Chapman Sparrow
6. WoW Worship (Yellow) Various Provident
7. Rise and Shine Randy Travis Word/Curb
8. O Brother Where Art Thou? Various Lost Highway
9. Worship Again Michael W. Smith Reunion>
10. Donnie McClurkin … Again Donnie McClurkin Verity
11. I Worship: A Total Worship Experience Various Integrity
12. WoW Hits 2003 Various Sparrow
13. Stacie Orrico Stacie Orrico ForeFront/Virgin
14. Almost There MercyMe INO
15. Adoration: The Worship Album Newsboys Sparrow
16. Worship Michael W. Smith Reunion
17. Two Lefts Don't Make A Right Relient K Gotee
18. Songs 4 Worship: Shout to the Lord Various Integrity
19. Furthermore Jars of Clay Essential
20. Rebirth of Kirk Franklin Kirk Franklin Gospocentric

"We see two distinct trends in our top album sales," said Styll. "Perhaps most pervasive is the continued success of worship music. Nearly half of the top albums are worship records, telling us that our consumers desire a real connection to God with their music and are actively seeking music that extends their church experience into daily life. On the flip side, our consumers, particularly the younger ones, are just like all other young music buyers who want their music to be hip and relevant. One example is Chevelle, which first debuted in the Christian market three years ago and now has a gold-selling release on Epic and a spot on the summer Ozzfest Tour. Other artists like Relient K and Switchfoot are following close behind with their newest records scoring big sales. These artists are making very contemporary music without the offensive lyrics and negative stereotypes that are too often found in their mainstream counterparts."

While these trends will continue, Styll said, there are some other positive signs that predict a better second half of 2003. Several other current releases are poised for breakthrough success and a second half release schedules promises key top-selling artist releases from Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, CeCe Winans, Nicole C. Mullen, ZOEgirl, Jump5, Shirley Caesar, and others, makes the sales forecast for the remaining six months of 2003 look much better.

"The good news about Christian music in 2003 seems to be that its impact in our culture is powerful," said Styll. "Artists like Stacie Orrico and MercyMe are not reserved about their faith, so when their music makes a connection the way it has, it proves that there is an audience that wants music that echoes our intrinsic need for inspiration and hope."

Despite the promising news, Styll acknowledges there is a huge task ahead to combat declining sales due to illegal downloading, a problem that the gospel music industry is fighting alongside the rest of the music industry.

Recently a task force was formed, comprised of leaders from the industry's three leading distribution companies, to address digital distribution issues. The task forces' goals include educating Christian music labels on the importance of making music digitally available (legally), helping to facilitate the digitization of all catalog, encouraging dialogue between Christian labels and their parent company departments devoted to digital distribution, increasing visibility/availability of our music online through online services such as Apple's iTunes, and ultimately, of course, increasing sales at bricks and mortar retail.

"There is no doubt that our music is being pirated at the same levels as every other type of music. We do, however, face a unique paradox. On the one hand, we have the moral argument that stealing music is wrong. On the other, some naively have argued that downloading and sharing gospel music is a type of ministry, perhaps unaware that it is copyright infringement. While we work with organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), we will also have to address our unique situation as we explore ways to move our consumers away from illegal downloading," said Styll. –edited by Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Segue Records To Be Distributed By Sumthing

(CelebrityAccess News Service) – R&B/jazz vocalist and producer Vaneese Thomas and producer Wayne Warnecke have signed a deal with Nile Rogers' Sumthing Distribution to nationally distribute their label, Segue Records.

Segue Records is a division of Vaneese Thomas Enterprises Inc., a music industry corporation founded by Thomas and Warnecke in 1993. Thomas, daughter of R&B legend Rufus Thomas and sister of Carla Thomas, is president of VTE; Warnecke is executive vice president. Along with Segue Records, VTE, includes a gospel label, Peaceful Waters Music, two (ASCAP) publishing catalogs, KMA Tunes and Peaceful Waters Music and Wayne’s World a world-class recording studio located in Pound Ridge, NY.

“We are very excited to have Vaneese and her label join the Sumthing family," says Andy Uterano, president of the company. "Nile started this label with an artist friendly philosophy, and Vaneese’s professionalism, talent and heritage will help carry on that tradition. We are in sync with our goal of addressing the needs of the adult marketplace, and look forward to having success with Vaneese’s upcoming record, and many other artists to follow.”

“Our focus for the Segue label is the adult contemporary market, and Sumthing has years of experience in that area, as well as strong relationships with key retailers,” adds Segue’s label manager, Steven Goff. “I think it’s a perfect match.”

Segue’s plans for the near future include the release of a newly recorded album by Thomas A Woman’s Love and projects by recently signed contemporary rock band Nine Men’s Morris and singer/songwriter Dana Edelman. –edited by Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Jason Flom — Stand Up Comedian

(CelebrityAccess News Service) — Jason Flom, the president of Lava Records, has become a stand up comedian. He performed recently at Carolines on Broadway in New York City and had another date scheduled for Stand-up NY on July 9. "Any money I make I will give to charity," he told the New York Daily News.–edited by Bob Grosswiner and Jane Cohen