Here’s the first change Jon Loba intends to make, in his new position as BMG’s president of frontline recordings in North America: “Immediately ramping up the A&R team in L.A.”
So the Berlin-based music company is hiring? “Yes. Yes!” Loba says, by phone from the Detroit airport, near his home city north of Grand Rapids, Mich. “News at 10.”
Loba, who has spent the past seven years breaking country superstars such as Jelly Roll, Parmalee, Lainey Wilson and Blanco Brown in his role as the company’s Nashville president, will remain in Music City but broaden to other genres and U.S. cities. “BMG wanted to devote more resources to the U.S., and part of that was to focus even further on frontline, looking at the success we’ve had in Nashville,” says Loba, who plans to travel to L.A. every other week and New York sporadically. “The biggest challenge is keeping everyone patient.”
BMG announced the Loba move Thursday morning (Jan. 25) with a concurrent one for Thomas Scherer, who moves from running publishing and recordings in L.A. and New York to head of global recorded catalog. The move effectively puts Loba in charge of new music and Scherer in charge of classics (while still in charge of publishing). BMG’s CEO, Thomas Coesfeld, took over the company last July and, Loba says, has veered away from the company’s April 2023 announcement that it would combine its frontline and catalog divisions.
“[Coesfeld] is incredibly analytical and had a different take on the business,” Loba says, “and felt the catalog business could benefit from even more focus and being separated out a little bit.”
BMG, part of the Bertelsmann publishing empire, was formerly a standalone label, then merged with major label Sony Music Entertainment before a 2007 uncoupling. It has since beefed up as a music company focused on publishing, acquiring or re-signing catalogs by artists from Paul Simon to Tina Turner, and developed a recorded-music division thanks in no small part to its Nashville office. Loba joined the company in 2017 when BMG purchased BBR Music Group — whose roster included stars Jason Aldean and Dustin Lynch — for $100 million.
Bertelsmann, which recently failed to acquire Simon & Schuster, has pledged to invest billions throughout its companies, giving it considerable clout in a music industry dominated by the three major labels and smaller competitors such as Concord and HYBE. The company’s music divisions will be centered in the United States and the United Kingdom, not so much in Bertelsmann’s Berlin home base. “We are in an absolutely beautiful place,” Loba says. “The catalog allows stability and for us to take chances on frontline. We have the resources and reach of the three majors with the heart and tenacity and focus of an indie. There are few companies, if any, that have both.”
When Loba moves into his new position, effective immediately, he’ll begin expanding the label’s ability to discover and sign new artists. “Internally, for sure, there will be resources added. Our immediate focus is getting that world-class A&R team together, while removing, for the rest of the departments and staff, anything that’s not productive, getting rid of bureaucracy if there is any,” Loba says. “It’s just a real watershed moment for BMG. It’s our coming of age.”