Universal Music Group (UMG) has partnered with production company Grace/Beyond (GB) to develop three new music-based television series, Variety has learned exclusively.
Grace/Beyond’s principal partners — Josh Wakely (pictured above), Mikael Borglund and Trevor Roy — all serve as executive producers on the Netflix animated series “Beat Bugs,” which features re-imagined versions of Beatles’ classics by music superstars including P!nk, Sia, Eddie Vedder, Rod Stewart, and many others. Wakely also created the series.
“I think there’s an extraordinary hunger with these iconic artists and emerging artists for music-based content,” Wakely told Variety. “I think people are eager to experience music in all manner of ways and I got to experience and execute that with ‘Beat Bugs.’ To have access to Universal Music’s catalog is like being a kid in a toy store. Every day I wake up with a new idea for another artist.”
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The first of the three new series is currently titled “27.” It will explore the life circumstances behind a fictionalized variety of characters coming to a crossroads at the pivotal age of 27, an age at which artists like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain all died. Viewers will be able to experience the series in a traditional linear format as well as engaging with it through interactive choice of storytelling. The live-action, scripted program features songs from artists spanning the UMG publishing catalogs.
“Melody Island” will be an animated series in which each episode features a story inspired by a classic UMG master or composition with an uplifting message and tropical island feeling. Live action segments hosted by luminaries from popular culture will teach children a project or craft they can do at home with their families or fellow students in the classroom.
Finally, “Mixtape” is described as an episodic drama that mirrors the way a mixtape works – fast forwarding, pausing and rewinding on the pivotal moments that define the relationships, love and heartbreak of the stories’ characters. Each episode is based on and connected to an iconic song on that forms the 12-track season.
“I had been developing these over a period of time but I really needed the access to Universal’s catalog,” Wakely said. “And the people that run the company, they’re used to working with artists, so when they approached me I knew they had that experience. They would know how to curate these shows.”
The companies are also collaborating on an untitled Motown project at Netflix that will feature newly recorded versions of Motown classics. Smokey Robinson is the series’ executive music producer and UMG is a primary investor in the series. The soundtrack will be released on UMG’s Motown/Capitol label through GB’s Melodia imprint, which previously released the “Beat Bugs” soundtrack through UMG’s Republic Records. As part of a new agreement between the companies, GB will also develop future projects based on UMG’s recorded music and publishing catalogs.
“From my very first meeting with Josh, I was struck by his unique vision and innovative storytelling that holds music as the centerpiece of his film and TV projects,” said Michele Anthony, executive vice president of UMG. “I’m so proud to expand our relationship with Josh, Mikael, Trevor and the incredibly talented team behind the Emmy Award-winning Beat Bugs and the forthcoming Motown show. At UMG, we support and work with great artists from every medium and I’m thrilled to be working closely with Grace/Beyond to bring original experiences to life based on our extensive catalog and artist rosters.”