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NEW LABEL LAUNCHED TO GROW TALENT

By Tim Arango, New York Post    July 24, 2003

Not everyone is pessimistic about the health of the music industry.

A trio of executives with music as well as Wall Street experience are launching a new label.

The three execs say Bardic Records will serve as an incubator for talent that will eventually - if all goes well - be passed on to the major record labels.

A formal announcement is expected today.

"I see our role as to look at talent very early, identify if there is growth, and nurture it along," says Jack Ponti, a songwriter and talent manager who serves as president of Visigoth Entertainment Holdings, Bardic's parent company. Ponti formed a band in 1980 with Jon Bon Jovi.

Ponti's partners are Francois Pham-Quang, who stepped down as head of Leveraged Sales, Europe, at Lehman Brothers in London to serve as CEO of Bardic; and Akbar Shamji, who will serve as chief operating officer. Shamji was recently the head of Soulife Recordings, a now-defunct label that was part of Atlantic Records.

Bardic will be distributed by RED, a division of Sony - and any artists who make it big on Bardic will be handed off to Sony Music, Ponti says.

Ponti and his associates believe rampant piracy isn't the only crisis affecting the music industry. Spiraling artist development costs, they say, are also eating away at profits.

"Over the last decade or so, artists have begun to think of a record deal as their lottery ticket," Ponti says. "They say, 'Now I'm rich.' "

Bardic's solution is to do development on the cheap: Instead of hefty advances, they will offer artists modest monthly stipends.

Bardic has already signed three artists, including a Canadian singer named Allison Crowe, who Ponti describes as Diana Krall meets Norah Jones meets Janis Joplin.