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19 juillet 2006

Narada record label to leave city for New York

Distribution business will stay; other jobs to be cut or transferred . The Narada record label, the Milwaukee area's most prominent connection to the music industry, is being moved to New York. While a distribution business will remain here, the rest of the Narada jobs are either being eliminated or transferred, Jeanne Meyer, spokeswoman for EMI Music, which owns Narada, said Tuesday.

A few people were dismissed Tuesday at Narada's Glendale headquarters. The rest of the cuts and transfers will be completed by next March, Meyer said. About 30 people work at Narada, with about half of those at the distribution business, Music Design. The dismantling of Narada here will end local involvement with a 23-year-old label that helped spread the popularity of "new age" music. Narada since has broadened to include a variety of artists, chiefly instrumentalists, in such genres as jazz, Celtic and world music. The shutdown in Milwaukee comes as EMI moves to unite its adult-oriented music labels under the Blue Note banner. The company will still use the Narada name, Meyer said.

She said EMI would step up efforts to market to music buyers 25 and older. "We're applying a lot more talent and resources to the artists on the roster," Meyer said. " . . . It's essentially turning up the volume a little bit." Three years ago, Narada employed about 70 people, but EMI cut staff sharply at a time when companies were seeing sales plunge amid increased downloading of music from the Internet, much of it illegally. The drop in disc sales since has flattened, Meyer said.

In a statement, EMI executive Bruce Lundvall said the reorganization of the company's adult music labels would streamline staffing and help the firm capture as much as possible of the over-25 market. "Moving the Narada Label Group to New York further enhances our ability to attract talent to these music genres," Lundvall said.

Another person familiar with the EMI changes said artists often shun signing with labels that aren't in New York, Los Angeles or Nashville, where most of the industry is based. "Artists who are looking for success on a global stage usually find it attractive to go with a label that's located in New York or L.A.," the person said. Employees at Narada's Glendale headquarters have handled the gamut of functions associated with a record label, including marketing, promotion, sales, finance and the discovery and development of talent.

Narada was sold in 1997 to Virgin Records of America, which later was purchased by EMI. Since then, its Web site says, the company has become the main U.S. licensee for Peter Gabriel's Real World Records and developed the Back Porch label for roots rock, alternative country and Americana. Peter Buffett, the musician son of the famous investor Warren Buffett, came to Milwaukee in the late 1980s when he signed a recording contract with Narada. He later left Narada and recently relocated to New York. Narada artists include keyboardist Ramsey Lewis, guitarist Joyce Cooling, singer Kathy Mattea and singer John Hammond.

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