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10 THINGS ABOUT THE MUSIC BIZ THAT WEREN’T FUCKING BORING


HITS Editor in Chief Lenny Beer has weighed in on the weightier topics of 2018, and we’ve taken the wadded-up assortment of cocktail napkins and construction paper on which his musings were scrawled and assembled them into as readable a form as the content permitted.

  1. Billie Eilish, Billie Eilish, Billie Eilish: Darkroom/Interscope’s 16-year-old breakout is on the verge of being the biggest star in the business and the voice of her generation. If the sound seems a little strange on the ears, just remember when you first heard Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell. I think Billie would have been unstoppable if entered as a Best New Artist Grammy contender, but Team Janick’s slow, steady and picture-perfect marketing plan included holding back for next year. So far, it’s all working. Big sales and streams, combined with ubiquitous TV syncs and her first radio breakthrough, all indicate Ms. Eilish will be contending with the biggest of the big as we head into 2019. Like it or not, hear it or not, she’s the real deal. Don’t even consider betting against her.

  2. Drake: Year-end streaming calculations have Drake’s smash “God’s Plan” streaming 887m times YTD, out-streaming runner-up “Psycho” from Post Malone by over 300m. We’ll just leave that right there.

  3. Monte Lipman’s Republic: Speaking of the biggest of the big, how about this label now having Drake, Post Malone, Ariana Grande and now (thanks to the latest coup from the incomparable Sir Lucian Grainge) Taylor Swift. Talk about a Murderer’s Row—the 1927 Yankees have nothing on this foursome. After a successful yet complicated 2018, the new year will shine brilliantly on Team Republic.

  1. Capitol on the Move: While Interscope, Republic and Atlantic are currently an unstoppable trio atop the current marketshare standings, Steve Barnett and team are unquestionably on the rise. The Quality Control deal has boosted them into the hip-hop/streaming firmament, Caroline’s continued success has made them a force on the indie-distribution frontier and a constantly flowing release schedule of big hit records from Halsey, 5 Seconds of Summer, Bastille, et al, with QB Greg Marella calling the plays at radio, has set the Tower on a course for continued success.

  2. Warner Bros.: While it’s taken the Bunny nearly a full year to get its complete roster of power execs onto the field, the newly assembled team of Aaron Bay-Schuck, Tom Corson, Laura Swanson and Mike Chester is now all in place and ready to bring the heat. The company’s move from its longtime, run-down Burbank HQ to shiny, modern new downtown L.A. digs is underway—with a February move-in date—along with a brand-new attitude and hope that springs eternal. Strong team, great selling points—why not sign an act or two there?

  3. Travis Scott: This hip-hop superstar was always understood to be a streaming force, but all credit is due to Sylvia Rhone and Team Epic for broadening his marketplace appeal—he scored the second-biggest chart debut of the year—and especially to Rick Sackheim’s radio squad for turning “Sicko Mode,” which most believed had no shot at radio, into a bona fide Top 40 smash. That’s some promo mojo, and Travis is a much bigger story than anyone expected. Anyone know where we can get a T-shirt?

  4. Lauren Daigle: With all the new players now on the dancefloor, it’s fascinating to note that the biggest artist signing was made by longtime industry-mega-superstar Doug Morris. Using a long-cultivated network of allies, the biz icon was able to get in the room and close the deal, seemingly in an instant. Budding superstar Daigle, now a member of the 12Tone roster, has the sky as her only limit. If you haven’t yet checked out her smash single “You Say,” know that when you do there will be an immediate burst of Adelesque familiarity. This is a giant career in the making.



  5. Interscope’s sync department: I don’t know about you, but I’m overwhelmed by the performance of this team, assembled and led by Steve Berman. You can scarcely watch a sporting event or sit through a commercial break, bumper or major ad campaign without hearing Interscope music. Imagine Dragons, Billie Eilish, OneRepublic and more have been ubiquitous in the TV experience this year. It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of the licensing component in breaking artists and making songs familiar. This team deserves huge props as the leaders in multiple impressions for 2018.

    I keep thinking that there will be a next step, a new product—something only a rare few among us can even dream of—that will again rearrange our reality. 

  6. Lin-Manuel Miranda: We talk a lot about Grammy snubs—it makes for great headlines and perhaps a bit of solace for those we feel are underrepresented in nomination honors. But far too little has been said about Hamilton getting passed over for Album of the Year a couple of years ago, and what an egregious, lingering blunder this turned out to be. Meanwhile, the show continues to rake in approximately $3m each week on Broadway alone; plays in road companies to sold-out audiences all over the world; has a cast album that sells ceaselessly; and appeals, in its brilliance, to ever-younger audiences that have also made it a streaming wonder. Creator Miranda, for his part, has become a movie and TV icon, with awards-season adoration of his new version of Mary Poppins already generating phenomenal word of mouth­­­­—and it’s now been announced that Lin and his creative team will be among those singled out for Kennedy Center Honors this year. Paul Grein and I spoke about Hamilton often during what should have been its Grammy year, but clearly not enough. The biz missed the boat, but no matter: Mr. Miranda has transformed our culture in a million positive ways.

  7. What’s Next: 2018 has undeniably been The Year of the Stream. This is now the dominant platform for consuming music in most of the world. Spotify and Apple continue to be the leaders, while Amazon makes significant gains and Pandora has a loyal listenership. Yet I keep wondering what the NEXT BIG THING will be. In 21st Century culture there’s an endless flow of great new ideas and products. None of us knew that we would be constantly holding in our hands—and dropping into our pockets—a device that would put nonstop communication and entertainment at our fingertips. That every song ever recorded was ready to begin playing as soon as we spoke the title out loud. And yet I keep thinking that there will be a next step, a new product—something only a rare few among us can even dream of—that will again rearrange our reality. I can’t wait. So, to end these musings on the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, let’s all raise a toast to the future and what marvels it may bring. As always, we apologize in advance that you’ll have to hear about it all from us, with our usual snarky sense of purpose. Happy New Year.
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