In a bid to shift away from “focusing so heavily on radio alone,” as chairman and CEO Peter Edge told Billboard earlier this month, RCA Records has replaced recently departed co-president Joe Riccitelli, a radio-promotions veteran, with two newly-promoted executives. The label’s new heads of promotion are hip-hop and R&B specialist Sam Selolwane, who has worked on campaigns for Chris Brown, SZA, Usher and others, and pop and rock expert Keith Rothschild, who has worked with Brown, Miley Cyrus and Doja Cat.
RCA, a Sony-owned label whose market share declined from 6.4% in 2016 to 4.7% last year, has shaken up its leadership over the past month. One reason has to do with radio: As broadcast giants like iHeartMedia have spent the past year laying off staff, centralizing content via syndication and farming out DJs to multiple stations, they’re likely to break fewer hits on regional stations. Also, streaming exposure has grown to be almost as influential as radio exposure in recent years. Thus, while radio remains crucial in many genres, including R&B, country and Latin, labels’ promotions departments are likely to respond by not spending as much time and money persuading programmers to play their tracks.
“The truth about how records are breaking is it’s not just radio,” Edge said. “Radio plays a part, but it’s social media, DSPs, TikTok.”
Selolwane and Rothschild have long been influential at RCA — Selolwane joined the label 12 years ago — but are notably not as high in the executive hierarchy as radio-expert Riccitelli used to be. This could be an indication of RCA’s shift away from highly compensated radio-promotions staffs. “[Labels] still need promotions people, but when you get to people who make seven figures, you start to question the sustainability of that,” a major-label source said recently.
RCA’s recent moves also illustrate the label’s renewed emphasis on hip-hop and R&B. Its recently installed president, underneath Edge, is Mark Pitts, a former urban-music president. And, although longtime urban-promotion vp Geo Bivins left the company in December, Selolwane has worked on radio campaigns for many of the label’s biggest hitmakers. In an accompanying release, RCA noted recent chart successes by SZA, Brown, Young Thug and Jazmine Sullivan.
Edge told Billboard RCA will “lean further in on hip-hop and R&B,” citing newer stars like Flo Milli and Mulatto and adding: “We’ve been one of the leaders in R&B for quite a few years, that’s not new territory for us. We’re going to be building more of a hip-hop roster.”