Major Record Labels Relocating to New L.A. Territory
Epic Records is planning a move to the Sony lot to rebrand as a "West Coast Label" while Warner Music Group is considering Downtown L.A.'s Art District.
Sony Music is upping its presence out west as Epic Records moves its headquarters from New York to Los Angeles. Chairman/CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid, who has led the charge on a run of recent successes, including No. 1 albums by DJ Khaled and Future and a No. 3 Billboard Hot 100 hit for “No” by Meghan Trainor, tells Billboard that his label’s new home on the Sony Pictures Entertainment lot in Culver City — once construction is completed on a new wing later in 2016 — brings with it “a convenience and an advantage.”
“Hollywood is an industry town — it’s music, TV, film and obviously the streaming services have a massive presence,” says Reid, 60. “It is a great way to connect the dots, as we [consider] Epic as much an entertainment company as it is a label.”
Indeed, as recording studios and affordable (for a musician) housing have been pushed off the island of Manhattan into the boroughs or out of business, Los Angeles increasingly has become a hub for creatives, attracting not just artists but songwriters, producers and beat-makers. Being first — or early — to the hot new track is key to gaining a competitive edge, something with which Reid, who has spent three decades in the business, is intimately familiar. Says Reid: “And if I’m honest, I like the idea of Epic as the one Sony label that’s based on the West Coast” (where he also will be the highest-ranking Sony executive).
Epic’s move will see 75 percent of its workforce make the cross-country trek (including executive vp A&R Joey Arbagey, senior vp commerce Celine Joshua and vp brand partnerships Alla Benyatov, along with several staffers in marketing, publicity, promotions, and film and TV licensing); Reid already has purchased a home in Bel Air (though he and SoCal go back to the early 1980s when he was making music with longtime production partner Babyface). The lot also will house Sony labels Columbia and RCA and publishing company Sony/ATV in what's likely to offer cost-cutting advantages. Synergies between the film and TV arms are also expected.
Sony isn’t the only label looking at new digs. Warner Bros. Records (Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers) — headquartered for the last 40 years in an iconic ski-lodge-like building in Burbank — is staring down the end of its lease in late 2017 and considering moving, along with the entire Warner Music Group, to downtown L.A.’s newly rehabbed Arts District, THR has learned. Specifically: the Ford Factory building at Santa Fe and 7th Street.
A move by one of the "big three" music firms into one of the formerly downtrodden area's marquee buildings would mark the first high-profile Hollywood entrant to the neighborhood. Last year, talks between the Shorenstein-owned Ford Factory and BuzzFeed for a massive lease in the 250,000-square-foot space fell apart.
Still, it all points to a robust climate for music-related commercial real estate in L.A. “Between aspiring writers and producers who have planted roots here and the arrival of Apple, YouTube, Instagram and others to Silicon Beach, you have the beginning — the creative — and the end — the distribution — of the process,” says WMG head of A&R Mike Caren, who recently built a new studio complex west of Hollywood. “If you want to be closer to the music, you have to be in L.A.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.