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When will Barnett—whose Sony deal is up in March—begin his new job as head of EMI in L.A.? Will some fancy horse trading get him an early departure from Sony?
I.B. BAD: BARNETT’S TICKET TO RIDE
One Chapter Comes to an End and Another Begins for the Savvy English Expat
It now appears that Columbia Co-Chairman/COO Steve Barnett will indeed be moving to L.A. as Lucian Grainge’s handpicked selection to oversee the restoration of EMI in North America.

The respected exec’s decision brings to a close his 16-year run at Sony Music, which started at Epic under then-label head Dave Glew and led to Barnett replacing Polly Anthony as Epic chief in 2004, and being named Columbia Chairman by Columbia/Epic boss Don Ienner a year later. In 2006, Ienner was ousted by Sony BMG topper Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, who simultaneously named Rob Stringer as Ienner’s replacement. That set the stage for Stringer and Barnett’s record-shattering joint leadership of Sony’s flagship label, as Doug Morris, in one of his first moves after taking charge of Sony Music in mid-2011, changed Stringer’s role to focusing on Columbia fulltime.

But the friendship between the two Englishmen long predated their building of Columbia (now at a 10.7% share in new releases) into the winningest team on the field, increasing the label’s marketshare five years in a row, topped off by a stunning 2011 and a historic 2012 behind such acts as Adele, One Direction (the year’s #2 seller at 1.3m, with the follow-up expected to be massive) and Foster the People (900k+), along with #1 albums from Bruce Springsteen, Beyoncé, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, Neil Diamond and J Cole, as well as the wildly successful Glee franchise (which has sold a mind-boggling 37m singles and 7.1m albums in the U.S. alone).

In the wake of this dramatic impending move, what had been the Stringer-Barnett team will now be referred to as the Stringer-Columbia team. But how will Stringer fill the vacancy? Will he look outside Columbia, or will he instead rely on the existing team to take charge? The rest of 2012 looks to be on cruise control, with 1D’s sophomore LP expected to continue Columbia’s marketshare juggernaut through the fourth quarter.

Insiders insist Barnett’s move isn’t about the money; he was already making more than he’d ever dreamed of as a kid from the English Midlands. So when will Barnett—whose Sony deal is up in March—begin his new job as head of EMI in L.A.? Will some fancy horse trading get him an early departure from Sony?

Even before Barnett’s arrival, UMG/EMI integration has gotten underway, with meetings taking place in L.A., London and New York. What is the plan being formulated by Grainge to rebuild the label—beyond providing Capitol/Virgin with continuity and stability by signing President Dan McCarroll and EVP/GM Greg Thompson to new deals? And will the U.K. also be part of Barnett’s jurisdiction?

While it now appears that there will be sizable job losses in duplicated services, the core A&R and marketing teams will be significantly expanded. EMI U.S., which had continued to put points on the board despite being outmanned and outgunned, should begin to become more competitive as Grainge and Barnett build those teams.

A&R in particular has been the number one priority for Grainge since he took the reins at Universal, and never has a record company needed an A&R overhaul more than Capitol/Virgin, whose creative staffs were decimated by cutbacks during the Guy Hands era. Not only that, but EMI’s new brain trust clearly needs to feed the machine, with much of the current repertoire earmarked to go elsewhere as part of the Parlophone divestment.

Lyor Cohen, meanwhile, is back in the mix, reportedly with big investment money behind him, and looking to make a deal. Are Cohen and his team beginning to take meetings about a new venture?

Wonderers are wondering why Muse’s 2nd Law (WB) hasn't gotten off to a better start. While the band didn't do a lot of up-front promotion in the States, the new single “Madness” is researching extremely well, and ticket sales for the band's fall tour are exploding.

UMG East Coast ruler Barry Weiss hasn't been tentative in carrying out Grainge’s mandate to beef up A&R, having just added The-Dream, Dallas Austin and Steve Yegelwel to an already pumped-up IDJ creative team. IDJ topper Steve Bartels couldn’t be happier about the situation, having grown accustomed to dealing with a full pipeline of releases during the L.A. Reid years.

The Lumineers are making history, as the Dualtone band’s “Ho Hey” becomes the first-ever indie-rock single to cross to Pop. Handicappers are now setting the betting line on how high it will climb.

Names in the rumor mill: Joel Katz, Julie Swidler, Jeff Harleston, Andrew Kronfeld, Bob Morelli, Ryan Shinman and Richard Palmese.
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