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CAPITOL CONGRESS: A HITS LOSER'S VIEW

Motown's Ethiopia Habtemariam, CMG's Geoff Harris and Ashley Newton, UMG chieftain Sir Lucian Grainge, CMG topper Steve Barnett and COO Michelle Jubelirer, Astralwerks chief Glenn Mendlinger and Blue Note ruler Don Was await the martinis that will restore the ring-a-ding-ding to Studio A.

I joined the Capitol Congress at Hollywood's Arclight Cinemas toward the end of a packed day Wednesday to participate in a panel with several other music-trade folks; more about that in a moment.

The day opened with a rather familiar-looking cartoon (see bottom of story) featuring likenesses (and actual voices) of Steve Barnett, Michelle Jubelirer, Ashley Newton and Geoff Harris, among others, and then the real Barnett strode onstage, joined by Sir Lucian Grainge. Their remarks hit on two themes that would be constants throughout the event: the exciting new streaming era, and the enormous potential of a global marketplace.

What followed will be familiar to anyone who has attended a past Congress: a tour of various labels and subsidiaries, punctuated by new music. Motown's Ethiopia Habtemariam, Coach and Pee of Quality Control (joined by Lil Yachty), UMe's Bruce Resnikoff, Jacqueline Saturn and Piero Giramonti of Harvest and CarolineStar Wars impresario J.J. Abrams, Capitol Christian's Bill Hearn, AstralwerksGlenn Mendlinger all presented before lunch. 

Pop phenom Niall Horan (intro'd by promo chief Greg Marella and SVP Marketing Mitra Darab, seen at left) played hit "Slow Hands" and new single "Too Much to Ask" and presented a first listen of his duet with Maren Morris, "Seeing Blind." Up-and-comer Maggie Rogers (brought out by Nate Albert) also performed. Halsey premiered a new video. Don Was presented for Blue Note and hosted an A&R panel with Greg Kurstin, Spike Stent and No I.D. Beck previewed his new video. Newton intro'd the Sgt. Pepper reissue and an array of new music. Artist Vic Mensa threw down. There was a streaming and sales presentation featuring SVP Marketing & Commercial Development Matt Sawin, SVP Streaming Strategy & Research Jeff Temske and SVP label sales Vince Szydlowski.

Head of International Robbie McIntosh's presentation on differences between various global territories and how they consume music earned considerable positive feedback. 

Many plaques were presented.

Allow me to apologize to the Capitol Music Group family for my contribution to the panel that also included Variety's Shirley Halperin, Music Business Worldwide's Tim Ingham and Billboard's Gail Mitchell, moderated by the redoubtable Larry Jenkins. Our wide-ranging half hour touched on the new optimism in the biz (and the high ceiling for subscription streaming), contending with 24/7 deadlines and the mountain of data now available, the dominance of hip-hop in the marketplace and more. The mescaline started to kick in around the eight-minute mark, and apparently I went on some kind of rant about field mice. I still can't feel my legs. 

Time didn't permit Shirley to offload her many precious memories of working for Billboard.

The day concluded with Sam Smith, who (after receiving a plaque from Barnett and Capitol U.K. chief Nick Raphael) spoke on a panel with writer/producer Jimmy Napes, moderated by Zane Lowe. The pair discussed writing for Smith's forthcoming album in L.A., Nashville and Ireland, working with producers like Timbaland, Malay and more, and how they winnowed down some 130 songs to the selection on the set. No music was played, but patience is rewarded.

Later, there were cocktails. So many cocktails.

Jimmy Napes, Zane Lowe and Sam Smith wonder why this Congress has passed no legislation whatsoever; Barnett, Grainge, Quality Control’s Coach K, Ethiopia Habtemariam, Lil Yachty, Ezekiel Lewis, Quality Control’s Pee and Newton prepare to spit a verse about the In ‘N’ Out truck.

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