Downtown Music Shakeup Continues As Mike Smith Departs and Emily Stephenson Becomes Publishing President

Downtown Music layoffs
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Downtown Music layoffs
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Photo Credit: Downtown Music

In March, some five months after laying off about 30 CD Baby and Soundrop team members, Downtown Music announced another round of personnel cutbacks. Now, the company has named a new president of publishing and revealed a high-profile executive departure.

These latest developments concerning the New York City-headquartered business’s restructuring just recently came to light in a report from Variety as well as a LinkedIn post penned by Downtown. While the precise extent of the aforesaid March layoffs is unclear, a substantial portion of the affected professionals are said to have worked on the publishing side.

Moreover, although none of the impacted employees seemed to have addressed the news via a LinkedIn post of their own at the time of this writing, the layoffs reportedly reached Songtrust, the previously mentioned CD Baby, Downtown Music Holdings, and Downtown’s publishing unit itself. Additionally, Downtown signaled that it was exploring “a number of cost-saving measures.”

And as highlighted at the outset, the evidently multifaceted reorganization is likewise extending to execs, as Downtown’s FUGA in March formally elevated Dorothee Imhoff (chief commercial officer), Liz Northeast (SVP for EMEA), and Sven Zeevalk (global head of operations).

On the heels of these promotions, more than 10-year Downtown vet Emily Stephenson has officially been upped to president of publishing, whereas Downtown Music Services global president Mike Smith is departing the company.

Weighing in on his exit via a widely circulated statement, the nearly three-year Downtown team member Smith communicated in part: “It has been my pleasure and privilege to lead Downtown Music Services through a significant period of restructuring and realignment that has seen it become a global leader in artist services. … After nearly 40 years at the coal face of the UK music industry, I have decided to take some time away from the day-to-day business of music to refocus my energies into a number of personal, creative projects and to devote more of my time to the charitable work that is so close to my heart.”

In comments of her own, Stephenson relayed in part: “Thanks to Mike’s fantastic leadership over the past three years, Downtown’s publishing divisions are in a great position to align our efforts and maximize revenue for our clients, whether they use Downtown Music Publishing, Songtrust or Sheer.”

Of course, Downtown is hardly the only music industry company that’s making layoffs and implementing sweeping changes at the executive level.

Last week, for instance, Warner Music Group CEO Robert Kyncl, who officially started leading the major label at February’s start, announced plans to trim 270 positions. Simultaneously, Warner Music UK detailed an extensive collection of hires (Isabel Garvey is now COO), departures (Parlophone co-presidents Nick Burgess and Mark Mitchell as well as general manager Jack Melhuish exited the label), and promotions (Claire Coster became a publicity director for all of Warner Music UK).