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CAPITOL'S 75TH: A TOWERING TALE

Capitol Records is about to kick off a lavish celebration of its 75th anniversary with a flurry of multimedia activity, slated to include a deluxe coffee-table book, new releases of major catalog, a documentary series for next year and, in mid-November, splashy events at the Tower.

The spotlight will be on the label’s illustrious roster of artists—you know, Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Beatles, Beach Boys, Glen Campbell, solo Beatles, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger, Heart, Duran Duran, Radiohead, Beastie Boys, no big whoop—and its iconic building.

The company had languished during the notorious 20-year period that saw various EMI mismanagers—including but not limited to Guy Hands of equity firm Terra Firma, and his handpicked bug-spray magnate Elio Leoni Sceti, biscuit king Eric Nicoli, Ken and Nancy Berry, Jim Fifield and Sir Colin Southgate—In charge before UMG acquired EMI’s assets in 2012. This resulted in a revolving door of Capitol heads, none of whose regimes made it to the five-year mark. (This poor showing by EMI U.S. was in marked contrast to the company’s stellar legacy in the U.K., it should be said.) In the merger, EMI was obliged to divest its Parlophone holdings, and thus lost Coldplay, David Guetta and more. 

After the acquisition was complete, Steve Barnett was recruited by Uni topper Lucian Grainge to helm the L.A.-based Capitol Music Group, which in addition to Capitol includes Virgin, Blue Note, Astralwerks, Motown, Harvest, Caroline and Capitol Christian.

Barnett moved quickly, and scored a huge hit with Bastille, followed by the success of Sam Smith. Then came hits from 5 Seconds of Summer, Album of the Year winner Beck, fledgling diva Tori Kelly and jewel in the crown Katy Perry. Astralwerks’ Halsey earned major buzz and has lately exploded on the strength of her smash collaboration with The Chainsmokers.

This year, Barnett has overhauled his two key departments, A&R and promotion, adding Ashley Newton as President, bringing in Greg Marella as EVP Promo, and anointing Nate Albert and Andrew Keller as EVP and VP A&R, respectively. Harvest co-heads Jacqueline Saturn and Piero Giramonti were placed atop indie wing Caroline, which he completely reorganized. These execs join the Tower’s core team of COO Michelle Jubelirer, EVP Scott Greer, head of International Robbie McIntosh, CFO Geoff Harris and Communications head Ambrosia Healy.

Capitol made headlines in August by inking a new global deal with the legendary Paul McCartney, who will not only record new music for his longtime label but will reissue his mighty solo catalog beginning next year. Just this week, Barnett prevailed in a heated signing derby for 1D lad Niall Horan. Other noteworthy signings include hip-hop breakout Lil Yachty (via JV Quality Control and Ethiopia Habtemariam’s Motown), rockers Avenged Sevenfold, bluegrass giant Alison Krauss and U.K. artist Calum Scott, who has had one of the year’s most downloaded singles across the pond.

Q4 will see Capitol unleash new releases from, among others, mega-seller Norah Jones (Blue Note), Glass Animals (Harvest), Mary J. Blige, superstar comic Kevin Hart (under the nom de rap Chocolate Drop) and Empire of the Sun (Astralwerks), as well as a holiday set from pop royalty Neil Diamond. We may also see the new set from Beck, but for now its release date is TBD.

In the meantime, put on your party hat and clear a big space on your coffee table.

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