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"We’re being patient in an industry that demands instant results. We have nothing but upside, taking an exciting brand and starting to prove ourselves in the marketplace."
——Matt Serletic, Virgin Chairman/CEO

BORN-AGAIN VIRGIN

Label's Matt Serletic Presides Over Superstar Releases Janet, N.E.R.D., Kravitz in Global Push
It’s been a little over two years since producer Matt Serletic was named Chairman/CEO of Virgin Records by EMI Recorded Music’s Alain Levy.

"The learning curve has been steep, not just for me, but for the label, learning to work together as a team," says Serletic, who oversaw the move from L.A. to N.Y. and an overhaul of its personnel.

With marketing chief Randy Miller, promotion head Hilary Shaev and Urban music ruler Lionel Ridenour, Virgin is rolling out its superstars, with N.E.R.D. last week, Janet Jackson this week and Lenny Kravitz in May.

N.E.R.D. is the performing group alter ego for Grammy-winning Neptunes producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, with Fly or Die the follow-up to 2001’s gold In Search of…

"This was a priority from the time I started, and it all goes back to our longterm, worldwide artist development philosophy," says Serletic. "It’s exciting to see the marketplace aware of and wanting this record. We’re moving the project from the tastemakers to every music fan around the world."

The band began a headlining U.S. tour earlier this month in Atlanta. The album bowed #6 on this week’s chart, with more than 108k in sales, Top 5 in the U.K., and is showing strength in Germany, Italy and Japan on the heels of the first single, "She Wants to Move."

Janet’s Damita Jo, her first album since 2001’s All For You, which has sold 3 million OTC to date, hit retail this week amid a media firestorm over the singer’s notorious Super Bowl appearance. Two singles have already been released, the rock-flavored "Just a Little While" and the ballad, "I Want You," which is shaping up as a hit at Urban radio. She's also set to be Artist of the Month on Launch.

Says Serletic: "It’s great to see the fans rally around Janet. The plan is to give the album long-term, consistent exposure, always pointing back to the music. There are some incredible singles on this album. The marketing, from the street teams up, is meant to drive people to the record. Once they start seeing and hearing her, the public will realize once again what an extraordinary artist she is."

The diva appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman this week, with spots upcoming on On-Air with Ryan Seacrest Friday (4/2) and Saturday Night Live (4/10) as host and performer.

Finally, veteran rocker Kravitz’s Baptism comes out May 18, preceded by the single, "Where Are We Runnin'?" recently spotlighted on the AOL First Listen program.

"Radio took it right off the Internet and put it on the air," says Serletic. "It feels like a bona fide hit for Lenny, who’s made one of the strongest records of his career."

Kravitz will tour Europe this summer and hit sheds in the U.S. starting in early fall.

Says Serletic: "We put a lot of effort into breaking our artists around the world. Look at Stacie Orrico. Her album went only gold here, but we’ve sold more than two million records internationally, giving her career a great platform."

Serletic is hoping to use his superstars as a springboard for some of the label’s newer artists, like soul singer Ricky Fante, street rapper Guerilla Black, Ruff Ryders Asian-American hip-hop artist Jin, Aussie band The Thrills and dancehall icon Beenie Man.

Concludes Matt: "We’re being patient in an industry that demands instant results. We have nothing but upside, taking an exciting brand and starting to prove ourselves in the marketplace. And it sure beats playing keyboards in Collective Soul."

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