Earlier this week Hitsdailydouble reported the rumored possibility that iconic record producer David Foster will leave his long time home Warner Music Group (WMG) for its largest competitor, Universal Music Group (UMG). Foster has spent the majority of his professional career as a prominent member of the Warner family. His phenomenal reputation and skills as a record producer allowed him to form his imprint brand, 143 Records. Through 143, Foster has been able to have projects releases through WMG record labels like Warner Bros, Atlantic Records, and most often Reprise Records. Odds are, if he does in fact leave, WMG will have made, and will continue to make more money off of his records than UMG could possibly make up for, based on the weight of his catalog alone. However in this case, it is not the money, but a developing combo of circumstances that would create Foster’s possible desire to leave for UMG. Warner Music Group, home of David’s current stable of smash stand out talents Josh Groban, Michael Buble, and Clizbeats Featured Artist Charice, has also been rumored to either be putting itself up for sale, or merging with or acquiring the struggling EMI Music. Whatever the specifics on such happenings turn out to be, there is a high likelihood of leadership change at WMG’s top ranks, making Foster likely to take a look at his personal options.
The second aspect of the combo is the reputation and track record of UMG’s newly appointed chief, Lucian Grainge. Hitsdailydouble describes Grainge as “in hot pursuit” of David Foster and all that comes with committing him to a possible contract, now that his $37 million contract with WMG has come to an end. As former head of UMG’s UK division, Grainge, has made a reputation for luring and accumulating top talent away from their posts at other companies, adding to UMG’s dominance. He does this, not through corporate size , but naturally through recognizing, attracting, and fostering talent. (no pun intended) This reputation has grown to be so infamous, that many credit him for the dismantling of EMI UK, luring executives and artists over to UMG one after the other. In fact, since taking over the helm of Universal Music Group’s top spot, it is Grainge that is reportedly responsible for the contract acquisitions of industry staples like American idol, veteran record executive Barry Weiss, NBC talent competition The Voice, and vet rockers, The Rolling Stones.
Known to be willing to do anything undercut his competitor, Grainge is very likely to drive a hard bargain for the commitment of a producer as accomplished as David Foster. If Foster does leave, it will be interesting to see if he separates from working with his artists signed to WMG’s Reprise Records, or if he will follow the precedence set by the likes of Sean “Diddy” Combs, who maintained his executive roles when he made a similar jump from WMG to UMG not all that long ago. Only time will tell what Foster decides to do. Only one thing is for sure. Changes in the career pathway of an industry notable like David Foster’s are bound to make an impact.