Mercury rises in U.S. again; Massey at top

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Island Def Jam is reviving the Mercury imprint in the U.S. and has tapped veteran Sony Music A&R executive David Massey to serve as president of the division.

Mercury — which over the years has served as the U.S. home to such acts as Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp, Def Leppard, Kiss, Rush, Rod Stewart, Cinderella, Fine Young Cannibals and Tears for Fears — ceased operating as a frontline label in North America in 1999 in the wake of the merger of Seagram and PolyGram.

In resurrecting Mercury, IDJ chairman/CEO Antonio "L.A." Reid said he is looking for the imprint to serve as a "new cornerstone in the IDJ family." Driving the move is IDJ's hire of Massey, a 15-year Sony veteran who has been involved with hits from Shakira, Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Travis, Silverchair and others. He was most recently executive vp A&R at Sony Music Label Group U.S., a post he assumed 2004.

"I see Mercury as a label that reflects the kind of artist I've been associated with in the past," Massey said.

Talks between Massey and IDJ heated up in January as he was negotiating a new contract with Sony Music — a deal that was to include transforming his Daylight Records imprint from a wholly owned subsidiary distributed through Epic Records into a joint venture with offices outside the Sony building.

Sony execs did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Massey founded Daylight in late 2000 as an A&R center for all of the labels within the Sony Music Label Group. His signings for the label included Anastacia, Good Charlotte, Phantom Planet, Cheyenne Kimball and Cyndi Lauper.

"The track record of trust and inspiration he has won from the artists he's worked with over the years … makes him the perfect choice to pilot Mercury through its latest incarnation," Reid said.

In opting to jump to IDJ, Massey is leaving the Daylight name and the core of its roster at Sony.

Coming with him are his two Daylight A&R directors, David Gray and Evan Lipschutz, and one recent signing, George Simon Stanford, a singer-songwriter from Philadelphia.

There is no word yet on Mercury picking up acts from Island or Def Jam. The only other act confirmed for the Mercury roster so far is Dussy, a female band initially signed but Universal Music International.

While Mercury has been in mothballs in the U.S. for years, it has remained an active imprint overseas, serving as the international home for many IDJ acts as well as international signings.

"It's a very exciting challenge to rebuild a label that from a global perspective has quite a brand," Massey said.

Just how many releases come out this year under the Mercury banner remains to be seen, but the number figures to be a handful. Massey said the plan is to build the imprint slowly.

He will assume his Mercury post April 16, based in New York and reporting to Reid and IDJ president Steve Bartels.

Massey began his career with Sony at Epic Records, starting as vp A&R in 1991. Before that, he was an artist manager based in London and heading his own independent record company, Big World Records.

Brian Garrity is a senior correspondent for Billboard.
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