Giant music label Universal Music Group (UMG) has taken its first steps towards becoming a theatre maker. UMG has hired leading West End producer Scott Landis and American film and television figure David Blackman to lead its team, which will develop theatre, film and television projects.
Tony Award-winner Landis has produced critically acclaimed shows like Funny Girl in the West End and Twelfth Night/Richard III on Broadway. His role as special advisor will see him develop a new network of theatre partnerships and projects for UMG, based on its existing artists and music catalogue.
‘Music is not only essential to film, television and theatre, but the stories behind our artists and their music offer narratives that provide a natural foundation to build exciting and compelling experiences for audiences around the world,’ said Universal Music Publishing Group chair and CEO Jody Gerson. ‘With David and Scott, we’re focused on working with the Hollywood and Broadway communities on delivering stories that will delight fans, reach new audiences and open up new commercial opportunities for our songwriters and our legendary music catalogue.’
Musical theatre productions based on bands – sometimes known as Jukebox Musicals – have become big box office business over the past fifteen years, with hit shows like Mama Mia! based on Abba and We Will Rock You taking from Queen. Blackman in particular is no stranger to this area, as he worked on the Motown-inspired film Dreamgirls.
‘There’s a glorious treasure trove of possibilities in UMG’s amazing artist roster and song library,’ said Landis. ‘I’m looking forward to helping unlock those gems and opening the door even wider to the theatrical community.’
This is not UMG’s first foray into such crossover productions, as in 2015 it produced the Award-winning documentary Amy about the life of singer Amy Winehouse, and was heavily involved in Kurt Kobain documentary Montage of Heck. UMG also owns Eagle Rock Entertainment, which has 800 concert films and documentaries in its catalogue.