Spotify hires Francis Keeling to head up global licensing

Francis Keeling used to negotiate hard with digital services to get the best deal possible for Universal Music Group.

Now he finds himself on the other side of the table.

The widely respected digital exec is joining Spotify‘s London office as VP, Global Head Of Licensing on June 1.

The news comes barely a month after MBW revealed that Keeling was leaving UMG following 14 unbroken years at the major.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Spotify’s decision to hire Keeling is what it might mean for the firm’s ongoing licensing talks with major labels.

Poacher turned gamekeeper? Or should that be the other way round…

Universal is currently believed to be on a rolling contract with Daniel Ek‘s company, as the two parties thrash out a mutually acceptable paid/free strategy.

Keeling will report into Stefan Blom, Spotify’s Chief Content Officer.

“Francis is one of the very best in the business.”

Stefan Blom, Spotify

Said Blom: “Francis is one of the very best in the business – 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.”

One particular reason Blom will be super excited: Keeling negotiated huge digital deals with a number of Spotify’s toughest competitors at UMG, including Google and Apple – and now brings that knowledge inside Daniel Ek’s company.

Keeling joined UMG as Head Of Commercial, Digital at Universal Music UK in 2002.

In 2009, he stepped up to Vice President, Digital, at Universal Music Group International (UMGI) – the London-based division of UMG which has recently undergone a major restructure.

Three years later, Keeling was promoted again to the position of UMG’s Head of Global Digital Business.

Prior to UMG, Keeling held content and biz dev posts with the likes of Vivendi,, Pearson and the Financial Times.

His departure from Universal in April came little over a year after the exit of his longtime boss at the major, Rob Wells.

The ultimate replacement for Wells as Universal was Michael Nash, who joined UMG from Warner as EVP of Digital Strategy in October.

Nash has this year made two major additions to his own team: Gracenote founder Ty Roberts joined UMG as Chief Technology Officer in April, with ex-Warner and MixRadio exec Jonathan Dworkin arriving as SVP of Digital Strategy and Business Development earlier this month.Music Business Worldwide

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