MARKS OF QUALITY: The much-discussed Quality Control renegotiation with UMG, as a result of the Scooter Braun-led HYBE acquisition of QC, is said to be part of a larger negotiation for HYBE’s overall Universal deal. Allen Grubman is negotiating this pact. Could a rumored 2024 BTS reunion album and tour (with AEG and Live Nation said to be vying for the latter) make a potential deal that much sexier?

Meanwhile, HYBE is said to be in the market for more acquisitions—what targets might be in their sights? For one thing, word is they’re planning to make Big Machine a bigger machine. Through its acquisition of Scooter's Ithaca Holdings, the Seoul-based company also owns a piece of two big Nashville management shops, Jason Owen’s Sandbox (Dan + Shay, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town, Kelsea Ballerini) and Morris Higham (Kenny Chesney, Old Dominion, Brantley Gilbert). Boss Bang Si-Hyuk has been taking some interesting meetings in L.A. over the last few weeks.

MOVE IT ON OVER: Speaking of country, there’s a move by the majority of the Nashville music industry to embrace the most influential music in the genre—much of which is coming from outside the Music Row “factory.” But the conservative Nashville Grammy committee has thus far chosen to ignore it, instead pushing their longtime favorites (real or apparent conflicts of interest be damned) through the nominating process. Meanwhile, observers say, the committee has taken under-the-table wheeling and dealing, logrolling and back-scratching to a whole new level.

Hugely influential figures like Oklahoma outlier Zach Bryan, everyman Luke Combs and chart-ruling upstart Morgan Wallen have been excluded or only minimally acknowledged by what many see as the hidebound old guard in Grammyland. Indeed, Morgan’s label—Seth England’s madly successful Big Loud—has been scandalously overlooked by Nashville’s Grammy illuminati, a tendency that may be attributable to straight-up snobbery. Even hitmaker Kane Brown, now one of the biggest acts at the format, has been snubbed—could the same bias that kept him off Country radio earlier in his career be lingering in the committee chamber?

Country is changing, in sound and substance, with the radio-driven records of years past being eclipsed (and Country radio itself becoming far less relevant) in the face of streaming’s rise. Given the CMAs’ recognition of Wallen, Bryan, Jelly Roll, Lainey Wilson, HARDY and other innovators in its new round of noms, all eyes are on Grammy. The keepers of the status quo have looked out of touch for years, and it seems no major change is on the horizon. Will Nashville’s Academy peeps get on board this onrushing train, or just flip the bird at the rest of us, per tradition?

STRUM AND DRANG: The aforementioned Zach Bryan is demonstrating considerable muscle as a live act, selling 1m tix in his first week, with multiple arena and stadium sellouts on his AEG-promoted trek. By the time he hits the road he’ll be selling out three football stadiums in some major markets—a remarkable feat considering that the breakout star’s most recent tour had much smaller caps. Meanwhile, he’s enjoying huge streams and back-to-back #1 chart showings with his latest set—on Aaron Bay-Schuck’s Warner—and is at about 2m U.S. ATD on his prior album, American Heartbreak. Would he grace the Grammys stage after having been snubbed, especially given his extremely skeptical (perhaps even contrarian) stance toward the baby-kissing music-biz model?

The Scooter Braun saga continues to inspire much chatter among bizniks, most of it focusing on the management prospects and career transitions of Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, while former SB client Demi Lovato lands with Brandon Creed’s Good World Management. All of this plays out as Scooter himself appears to be segueing out of the management business to focus on expanding a company that has a much higher multiple, as an asset business, than a management company has.

Will Ari release new music prior to the Wicked premiere (the first installment of which is slated for Q4 of 2024)? The singer is said to be fully focused on her role in the musical film, so the possibility of any new original music in the interim is a big question. Ari insiders say she’s a genius-level creator in the studio and can put together strong new material in short order when she so desires. If her bandwidth is maxed by Wicked, though, might we see something from the vault fill the gap?

Meanwhile, how big a role will Ari's mother play in a possible new management company? As with Bieber, the question is: Where do you go after Scooter? Naturally, Irving—the GOAT—is the most often cited choice among industry gossips at the Polo Lounge and Giorgio Baldi, though Brandon Creed, Ron Laffitte and Coran Capshaw’s Red Light have all been mentioned.

With Bieber the situation is much stickier, given those 100 shows contracted to AEG, on which he’s obliged to pay commissions to Scooter and CAA. He’s already paid a chunk of what he owed (that $200m check from Hipgnosis certainly didn’t hurt), but the ongoing financial obligations associated with the cancelations—not to mention what’s described by insiders as a profligate lifestyle, which included keeping a truck on the road with his two Ferraris in it—creates special hazards for a potential new manager. JB’s new team of Michael Rhodes, David Lande, Lou Taylor, et al., with Hailey Bieber apparently the straw that stirs the proverbial drink, is undoubtedly focused on navigating this complex financial landscape.

Most Scooter observers expect him to negotiate settlements with both Ari and Justin regarding those contracts he has with them.