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Warner Music Group Puts Focus On Nashville

NASHVILLE, TN (Hypebot) – At a time when labels are cutting back, WMG is instead shifting resources to its Nashville-based operations with the formation of Warner Music Nashville. This new division will include Warner Bros. Nashville, Word Entertainment and a re-launched Atlantic Nashville label.

WMG Nashville will be led by music industry veteran, John Esposito, who has served since 2002 as President and COO of WMG’s sales and marketing division, WEA Corp. Esposito will be based in Nashville and Mike Jbara, WEA’s EVP and Chief Operating Officer, has been promoted to President and CEO of WEA Corp., succeeding Esposito.

Bill Bennett, EVP and General Manager of Warner Bros. Nashville will leave the company. During his tenure, Bennett was instrumental in numerous successes at Warner Bros. Nashville, including multi-Platinum artists Big & Rich, Blake Shelton and others. Mark Bright will continue to lead Word Entertainment as President and CEO.

Nashville has not been immune to industry downturns, but new artists can still be broken there. This move by WMG repositions its resources across a broader playing field.

From the press release:

“I am very proud of the work we’ve accomplished over the years, especially the fantastic success we’ve seen from our multi-Platinum artists such as Faith Hill, Michelle Branch, and Big & Rich, as well as the outstanding results we are seeing from developing artists such as Gloriana, James Otto and Word’s Francesca Battistelli,” said Warner Bros. Records’ Chairman and CEO, Tom Whalley. “To now be given an even greater mandate from WMG and the dedicated efforts of a talented executive such as Espo is a terrific opportunity for our team in Nashville to focus on expanding WMG’s presence in the Country and Christian genres. Bill is a terrific executive who’s leaving at the top of his game and I want to personally thank him for his excellent work leading Warner Bros. Nashville to its best performance in many years.”

Atlantic Records’ Chairman and CEO, Craig Kallman said, “The past year has seen Atlantic Records return to the country world for the first time in nearly a decade. We’re back because we have been truly inspired by a new generation of artists who came to us with music we loved, and who we simply had to have on the label. The phenomenal success of the Zac Brown Band has proved that our instincts and our timing were right and, along with upcoming artists like Jesse Lee and the Invite, they are taking us down the country path again. So we’re thrilled that our friend Espo is heading south to lead the Warner Music country charge. He’s not only a brilliant executive and a great guy, but above all he’s a passionate, genuine fan whose career has been driven by a true love for the music.”

Esposito said, “This is a dream come true for me. I have long been involved with and have loved the artistry, creativity and wonderful vibe of Nashville. I look forward to enhancing Warner Music’s business there by building upon Warner Bros.’ and Word’s great accomplishments while also working to establish Atlantic as a powerful and artist-friendly destination in the Nashville community.”

As President and CEO of WEA, Esposito was responsible for WEA Corp.’s sales, distribution and marketing activities as well as the global management and distribution of WMG’s digital assets. In addition, Esposito was responsible for the Digital Sales and Marketing group, which manages the mobile and online business for WMG’s U.S. labels.

Esposito also oversaw WMG’s Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), the music industry’s leading distributor of independent record labels, and Independent Label Group (ILG), WMG’s family of independent labels.