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Spotify hires former UMG exec Francis Keeling for global licensing role


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This year’s licensing-renewal negotiations between Spotify and Universal Music Group have a new twist.

The music-streaming service has appointed Francis Keeling as its VP, global head of licensing. Until last month, Keeling was head of global digital business for the label group, working on its deals with the likes of Apple Music and… Spotify!

His experience of hardball licensing negotiations will be handy at a crucial time for Spotify as it renews its agreements with Universal, Sony Music and Warner Music.

As Music Ally reported last month, the streaming service is currently in rolling month-to-month deals with at least two of the major labels (and possibly now all three) after its last set of licensing agreements expired.

Keeling will join Spotify on 1 June, reporting in to chief content officer Stefan Blom. He left Universal in April – one of several senior staff in UMG’s digital team to have followed former president of global digital business Rob Wells out of the door since early 2015.

Keeling had risen through the ranks since joining Universal in 2002 as head of commercial, digital for Universal UK. Before that, he had worked for Vivendi, Launch.com, Pearson and the Financial Times.

“Francis is one of the very best in the business,” said Blom this afternoon. “We’re super excited to have him join the band as we continue to evolve and bring together artists and fans by delivering the most compelling and engaging music and media experience

Keeling is one of a number of new senior hires for Spotify in the last year, as it gears up for intensifying competition with Apple Music and other streaming rivals, not to mention its long-awaited IPO.

Other executives joining the company have included former Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy for a similar role at Spotify; Microsoft veteran Horacio Gutierrez as general counsel; and former VH1 president Tom Calderone as global head of content partnerships.

Blom, meanwhile, was promoted from his previous job at Spotify as chief strategy officer in August 2015, keeping those duties while adding the chief content officer role. He is one of the execs directly under CEO Daniel Ek in Spotify’s senior ranks.

Stuart Dredge

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