Warner Music Group Expands Nashville Operations

Bennett-EspitoWarner Music Group Corp. is expanding its Nashville operations with the formation of Warner Music Nashville, which will include Warner Bros. Nashville, Word Entertainment, and the re-launched Atlantic Nashville label. The story was first reported by MusicRow on Aug. 21, via a subscriber-only Breaking News Bulletin.

The division will be led by music industry veteran, John Esposito, who has served since 2002 as President, and then President and Chief Executive Officer of WMG’s sales and marketing division, WEA Corp. Effective immediately, Esposito will assume the newly created position of President, Warner Music Nashville and will be based in Nashville. As a result, Bill Bennett, EVP and General Manager of Warner Bros. Nashville will leave the company to pursue new opportunities. During his tenure, Bennett was instrumental in numerous successes at Warner Bros. Nashville, including multi-Platinum artists Big & Rich and Blake Shelton, as well as emerging stars The Wreckers, Gloriana and James Otto, among many others. Mark Bright will continue to lead Word Entertainment as President and CEO. Mike Jbara, WEA’s EVP and Chief Operating Officer, will succeed Esposito.

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.”

In making the announcement, Lyor Cohen, WMG’s Vice Chairman and Chairman and CEO, Recorded Music – Americas and the UK said, “Nashville is a critical music community, both creatively and economically. Warner Bros. Records Nashville under the leadership of Bill Bennett has done an excellent job representing WMG in this vibrant music capital. With the creation of Warner Music Nashville, we will build upon the outstanding work of Bill and his team and create even more A&R, marketing and promotional firepower.”

“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…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.”

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 independent Alternative Distribution Alliance.

Esposito joined WMG from The Island Def Jam Music Group (IDJ) where he was General Manager/Executive Vice President. Prior to IDJ, Esposito held a variety of executive positions at PolyGram, Inc., as well as chief operating officer of music and movies at The Wiz retail chain, and Regional Vice President of Mitsubishi Electronics America. He is an active environmentalist and serves on the Board of Directors for the TJ Martell Foundation.

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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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