(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) —
World Wrestling Entertainment has formed WWE Music Group to link the WWE brand with popular music across all media platforms, including film, television, radio, the Internet, ring tones, video games, and emerging digital technologies. WWE Music Group will work with in-house talent, as well as established recording artists and outside labels and management, to create new music for WWE television and pay-per-view programming, WWE Superstar albums, entrance theme collections, and a variety of new initiatives.
WWE's Neil Lawi has been promoted to general manager of the WWE Music Group and will handle all business aspects and day-to-day operations. Previously vice president, Publicity, Lawi will work closely with Jim Johnston, who has been music director for the WWE for more than 20 years, and who will continue to create and produce original music for the WWE, including Superstar and entrance themes. Lawi will be based in New York and report to Devin Dunn, WWE's executive vice president, Television Produciton.
"This is an outstanding opportunity to merge the brand and talents of the WWE with a wide variety of music applications," said Dunn. "Neil has established meaningful relationships with music industry personnel, including record labels, artist management teams, and publishers. His music industry experience provides a vital and essential element in expanding the reach of the WWE's musical sensibility.
"Importantly, there is a great symbiotic relationship between WWE and the music industry," Dunn continued. "We enjoy working with artists at every level, and have recent working relationships with many well-known performers – including Kid Rock, Korn, Staind, Fat Joe, P.O.D., Shinedown, Lifehouse, Creed, and Alter Bridge – and welcome the opportunity to create new avenues of expression for a wide variety of artists."
One of Lawu's first priorities is to contact major and key independent labels and music publishers to broaden the variety of music available to WWE. "Bands today need new opportunities for awareness, and WWE has proven to be a perfect platform to reach a key music purchasing demographic," he said. "My focus will be to expand the talent pool from which the WWE draws to include the widest possible range of music while providing artists maximum opportunity and exposure to music purchasing audience segments via the WWE brand."
Lawi recently forged an alliance with Peter Gabriel to license his mega-hit "Big Time" as the global music theme for WrestleMania 22, which will be broadcast live on pay-per-view on April 2, from Rosemont's Allstate Arena in Chicago. WWE's latest compilation of covers is scheduled for release through Columbia Records on May 23. The collection will showcase WWE Superstar themes performed by Three 6 Mafia, Tego Calderon, P.O.D., Saliva, Killswitch Engage, Avenged Sevenfold, Motorhead, and a host of others. Atlantic recording group P.O.D. is scheduled to perform "Booyaka 619" at WrestleMania 22, a song recorded for the album and the entrance theme song for WWE SmackDown Superstar Rey Mysterio. Lawi has also secured Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child to sing "America The Beautiful" to kick off the annual WrestleMania celebration.
Under Lawi's aegis, the WWE recently launched the music career of WWE RAW Superstar John Cena, whose hip-hop album on Columbia Records, "You Can't See Me," debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard Top 200 best-selling albums chart and is rapidly approaching the RIAA gold mark.
Before joining WWE, Lawi was vice president, Publicity, Columbia Records Group, where he had worked since 1993. Lawi also played a critical role in the launch of American Recordings and DMZ Records.– Jane Cohen and Bob Grossweiner