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I.B. BAD: THE NEW
WORLD ORDER

THE NEW WORLD ORDER: Because the music business is in a state of transformation, a new set of measurements is required to more accurately reflect performance. As the business hits the three–quarter mark of 2016, the old traditional marketshare metrics are less meaningful or comprehensive than sales + streaming (SPS), which the year-to-date chart below indicates. YTD streaming marketshare is also broken out for the first time in order to show the impact of audio streams on the business as a whole. A third chart lists the Top 25 sales + streaming albums of the year. Together, these charts represent the new key focal points in today’s business.

Some takeaways: Lucian Grainge’s UMG holds a lead of slightly less than seven percentage points over Doug MorrisSony Music in SPS marketshare. WMG’s relatively strong showing can be attributed in large measure to an EU-stipulated divestment following Grainge’s acquisition of EMI Recorded Music four years ago, as Len Blavatnik outbid a combined Sony and BMG to acquire Parlophone for $765m in February 2013. That money was well spent, in that it brought in Coldplay and David Guetta, as well as high-end catalog from the likes of David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Radiohead.

Rob Stringer’s Columbia is #1 in SPS share, while Monte Lipman’s Republic is on top in streaming share—which among other things shows how hot a given label is in the singles sector. Adele’s decision to withhold 25 from all the streaming services and Beyoncé’s Tidal exclusive on Lemonade are the primary causes of Columbia’s slippage in the streaming sector. The problem is that Tidal has a severely limited subscriber base, which is much lower than the 4.2m the service claims, according to rights holders. There’s a sizable drop-off between Columbia and Republic and the rest of the field in what once again has become a two-horse race pitting the two most dominant labels of recent years. Cameron Strang’s Warner Bros. Records is #3 in SPS share, thanks in part to rich catalog, as the deaths of Bowie and Prince triggered an unexpected windfall; WBR’s #7 showing in streaming share indicates that this has been a primarily sales-driven phenomenon, while streaming on Prince’s catalog was limited to Tidal, with its small subscriber base. Edge and Corson’s RCA holds the #3 position in streaming share thanks to a slew of hit singles from Justin Timberlake, G-Eazy, Sia, ZAYN and P!nk. Steve BartelsDef Jam has gotten a big boost from streaming, with 4.7%.

BIG GUNS OF Q4: This year’s rollout of heavy artillery has more than its share of potential bombshells, as big artists find new ways to subvert the conventional rollout. Specifically, Drake’s Views-inspired short film Please Forgive Me will arrive as an Apple Music exclusive in the near future. Still bathed in mystery are the specifics of a second effort from Drake, a collaborative album or mixtape also thought to be an Apple Music exclusive. Initial speculation had Kanye West as Drake’s partner on the project, but more recent rumors reference Rihanna. Even more tantalizingly, a long-rumored conjugal collab pairing Beyoncé and Jay Z may also hit during Q4. If it happens, will it be on Columbia or Roc Nation? And will it be a Tidal exclusive, which, as we’ve seen, can increase sales because streams are so low? Whether Justin Timberlake releases a new studio album this year could depend on the performance of RCA’s JT-led Trolls soundtrack. Also subject to rampant rumormongering are Eminem and Miley Cyrus, though there’s nothing to suggest either will drop an album this year. Katy Perry, U2 and P!nk have been bumped to next year.

The just-released single from The Weeknd, “Starboy,” is out and blowing up, as expected; the track begins the rollout of the follow-up to his 2015 breakthrough Beauty Behind the Madness (XO/Republic). Surprisingly, it wasn’t produced by Max Martin—who oversaw smash “Can’t Feel My Face”—but rather by Daft Punk. Martin did, however, helm
several other tracks on the album, also titled Starboy and due out on Black Friday. The lead single from Bruno Mars’ third album—which most believe will quickly become WMG’s biggest release in recent years—could arrive as soon as this week, according to label insiders. And Lady Gaga’s new “Perfect Illusion,” from her 10/21 Interscope album, did 99k in sales and 6m streams in its first week.

The major releases whose drop dates have been nailed down include Norah Jones (Blue Note, 10/7), Green Day (Reprise, 10/7), Pitbull (RCA, 10/7), Kings of Leon (RCA, 10/14), Lady Gaga (Interscope, 10/21), Michael Bublé (WBR, 10/21), Kenny Chesney (Blue Chair/Columbia Nashville, 10/28), Sting (A&M/Interscope, 11/11),  Emeli Sandé (Capitol, 11/11), Miranda Lambert (RCA Nashville, 11/18) and Metallica (Blackened Recordings/ADA, 11/18),  Additionally, holiday albums are coming from Pentatonix (RCA, 10/21), Neil Diamond (Capitol, 10/21) and Kacey Musgraves (Mercury Nashville, 10/28).  

ACTION: Is the relationship between Usher and Sony about to come to an end? The veteran R&B artist hasn’t made things easy for RCA in its rollout of the new Hard II Love, the final album under his current deal; he’s given Tidal an exclusive, and he’s done very little to promote the release. Not surprisingly, the album’s first-week performance has been soft, with south of 30k in sales. That’s quite a decline from the 1.1 million debut of 2004’s Confessions, the biggest album of his recording career, which began in 1994 after L.A. Reid signed the teen prodigy to his LaFace label. If Usher becomes a free agent, it’s very likely that the best offer will come from Sony, which owns his catalog, as most free agents discover. Perhaps Scooter Braun, who recently took on Usher as a management client, can help revive the career of the veteran R&B artist, as he did with Justin Bieber, Usher’s onetime protégé. Braun will have an easier job with Ariana Grande, who has returned to his management company armed with a new single that bears all the earmarks of a smash.

FIRST-WORLD PROBLEMS: One subplot of UMG’s worldwide A&R meetings last week in Hampshire, England, involved nonstop whining from numerous Yanks in attendance about the local cuisine. Only the highest-ranking members of the UMG team are in attendance at Vivendi’s corporate meetings, taking place this week in St. Tropez, where no one has ever complained about the grub.

CLOSING BLINDS: Rampant rumors about a certain label Chairman’s early demise are nothing more than smoke at this time… Look for some major moves at more than one diskery, as the planets realign near Buckingham Palace.

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Kevin Kelleher, L.A. Reid, Charlie Walk, Danny Strick, Jason Owen, Wendy G and The Fat Duck.

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