THEY ARE THE CHAMPIONS: Word has it that Sony Music has prevailed in the contest for Queen’s recording and publishing rights and their attendant revenue—including that from the Disney deal—for which House Stringer and Platt has reportedly tendered the winning offer of a cool 1 billion pounds sterling. Disney, which owns the recording rights in North America thanks to the 1990 deal that cost the Mouse $10m, has hitherto paid a handsome royalty to Queen; that will go to Sony under the new deal. Income from the licensing deal with UMG for the rest of the world will similarly go to Sony when that deal expires in 2026 or 2027, at which point SME will become the worldwide distributor and owner of all content.

Sony Music Publishing has the admin to the catalog now, and that deal has a long term, but all that income will now go to Sony. Because Sony’s sizable check buys name and likeness rights as well, expect Broadway shows and other brand monetization (Bohemian Rap-Soda, anyone?). The only revenue not encompassed by the massive agreement is live receipts, which will continue to be generated by the two surviving band members who still perform, Brian May and Roger Taylor.

The deal is expected to close in the next few weeks, but insiders wonder if SME will hold off announcing it for some time, as has been their M.O. Wonderers also wonder if longtime manager Jim Beach and his daughter, Matilda, who have been participating in Queen monies since forever, will take a slice of the cash pie—and if so, how big a piece? One other major player is said to have made it to the final bidding round, offering $900m.

UMG, as Disney's distributor, will continue to distribute the music in North America, where Disney retains the rights in perpetuity.

ON CYCLE: 2024 has been an exceptionally strong year release-wise, with huge albums from Taylor and Billie, giant singles from (among others) Sabrina Carpenter, Hozier, Post Malone, Kendrick Lamar, Zach Bryan, Eminem and the truly impressive newcomer Chappell Roan, who is looking like the next big breakout. Her rise comes alongside the explosive success of Carpenter as a powerful one-two punch from the already scorching Island bosses Imran Majid and Justin Eshak. Roan’s 2023 album moves into the Top 10 this week with an expected 45k—and that’s without the streaming smash “Good Luck, Babe!” which is due to appear on her next album (release date TBA). Albums from Zach, Em, Kendrick and Chappell will add fuel to a blazing marketplace. What else is on the way?

THREE CHORDS, WAY MORE THAN THREE LABELS AND THE TRUTH: Meanwhile, the mainstream explosion of country, which is now the closest genre, commercially, to what rock was in its heyday, has been fascinatingly disruptive to the status quo of the biz. Republic’s aggressive move into the sector now includes its own Nashville division, and widely admired Music City player Mary Catherine Kinney is said to be exiting her post at Spotify to play a pivotal role. House Lipman’s new office will be staffing up, and the sky’s the limit—Jim Roppo and team are the backup, and some say they’re the best marketing crew in the business, as their 29%+ overall market share underscores.

Such developments are understandably causing ripples throughout the Nashville establishment as lines once thought to be firm are redrawn. They are also showing the power of alliances between coastal companies and Music City, with Republic’s partnership with Big Loud/Mercury serving as the most obvious example; the label’s new deal with BBR for Jelly Roll should also yield ginormous results. But is Republic’s new office a further indication that the coastal giants want to control more of the country marketplace on their own? The Manhattan monster already has 15% country market share. And Zach Bryan, arguably the second-biggest country arrival of recent years behind Morgan Wallen, was inked by Warner West Coast, which has firmly established itself as a destination for country artists.

As promising new country acts emerge and labels move in, this dynamic becomes even more pronounced. Back Blocks-repped Tucker Wetmore’s deal with UMG Nashville was said to include a coastal partner—and the fact that this partner is Mercury is hardly a secret. So why hasn’t it been announced? Wetmore is said to have established a strong connection with Mercury co-head Tyler Arnold, as have Morgan Wallen and Post Malone (the latter’s pivot to country, incidentally, looks like a slam dunk).

Alamo’s Todd Moscowitz, not previously known as a tears-in-my-beer type, has inked newcomer Bayker Blankenship to his Santa Anna imprint. Meanwhile, the contest to sign teenage heartthrob Maddox Batson is heating up big time. The youngster is inked to Prosper Entertainment, which is overseen by Nick Barr and Eddie Franzoni; Barr is also SVP at Concord-distribbed PULSE Records, but Concord has been historically frugal, and this one looks headed for a big-money deal. Among the players believed to have been throwing big coin in Batson’s direction: Columbia (in conjunction with Sony Music Nashville), Warner in collaboration with 10K (Val Blavatnik is said to have his hands on this project, which is already inked to Warner Chappell and WME) and Broken Bow, possibly in cahoots with Republic. The attorneys in these negotiations are Adam Zia on the Prosper side and John Ingram on the artist side. Young Batson played an all-ages show at CMA Fest, and little girls showed up in droves.