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Competing in the frontline arena is dependent on A&R and promotion—the blocking and tackling of the business.
I.B. BAD DIAGRAMS WINNING IN
THE FRONTLINE BUSINESS
You Play to Win the Game, as then-Jets Coach Herm Edwards Eloquently Put It
Monte Lipman’s Republic scored another #1 album this week with Pearl Jam, marking the label’s fourth chart-topper in the last seven weeks, following Ariana Grande and Jack Johnson in September and Drake earlier this month. This recent run further ramps up a wildly successful year for Republic, as the latest marketshare percentages dramatically reveal. With a 9.4% new-release share year-to-date, the company is nearly two full percentage points ahead of its nearest rival.

The true test of a label’s performance has to do with how it fares in the frontline (or new-release) business—it’s the measuring stick employed when top executives are renegotiating their deals. Competing in the frontline arena is dependent on A&R and promotion—the blocking and tackling of the business—and Republic excels in both areas, as evidenced by the remarkable job Lipman and company have done with Lorde, transforming the precocious teenager from an unknown to a top seller in the space of a few months.

The next big story of the fall is this week’s release of Katy Perry’s PRISM, Capitol Music Group’s entry in the Q4 superstar sweepstakes, with midweek retail projections suggesting a sales total approaching 300k, or around 100k higher than her previous album’s 192k first week. CMG is the most improved label year-to-date in terms of frontline marketshare, having gained nearly two and a half percentage points to occupy the #5 position since Steve Barnett took the helm of the transitioning company early this year.

Barnett is one of three Brit execs heading up Top Five U.S. labels, along with Peter Edge and Rob Stringer, who head up Sony Music’s two biggest labels in RCA (#2 in YTD new-release share with 7.5%) and Columbia (#3, 7.0%), respectively. These experienced and capable power players are bucking a historic trend that has seen one U.K.-trained executive after the other unable to make the transition to the American music business.

As the biz enters the last two months of 2013, industry observers are laying down bets on which late-arriving release will generate the greatest momentum for its label heading into the holidays. IGA has two massive contenders in Eminem (first-week forecast: 750k) and Lady Gaga (450k), providing the crowning touch for a resurgent year. The company is #5 in new-release share but #1 in a tight four-way race with Republic, RCA and Columbia for TEA bragging rights. According to UMG insiders, the ruling triumvirate of Jimmy Iovine, John Janick and Steve Berman is functioning like a well-oiled machine after just one year of working together.

Wonderers are wondering what items will be at the top of Michele Anthony’s to-do list when she starts the newly created job of Universal Music Group EVP next week. But even before her official start date, Anthony has been taking meetings with various Universal execs, who have come away from these sit-downs convinced that she’s bringing added value to the mix. Interestingly, Anthony was deeply involved in a pair of successful recent UMG projects even before joining the company, representing Pearl Jam and Black Sabbath (which had a #1 debut in June), both of them on Republic.

Even as Craig Kallman exhibits out-of-character aggressiveness in pursuing talent, he’s rumored to be sending up trial balloons regarding his next deal. Does one have to do with the other; i.e., is Kallman auditioning for his next job by showing he’s a player after a year or two of passivity as Atlantic co-Chairman? Or is this just another head fake? Most believe Kallman will never leave Atlantic, no matter how many times they reduce his guarantee. But could he possibly be unhappy that Len Blavatnik and Stephen Cooper are allowing Lyor Cohen to return to the label—putting the fox in the henhouse, so to speak?

Has Cooper concluded that Warner Music is better off with Cohen than without him, as Atlantic’s year slips away without any fourth-quarter heat? Cohen’s return to WMG is shrouded under a cone of silence from Atlantic, despite Lyor’s claim that a new super-rich deal is all but done.

Mike Caren, WMG’s ace record maker, is building his massive pubco while continuing to serve as a huge A&R asset for Warner’s competitors. One top UMG label exec only half-kiddingly described Caren as his best A&R man. Wasn’t the Caren deal supposed to be about taking care of Warner’s own assets?

What superstar is releasing a late-fourth-quarter album exclusively to physical retail—and how unhappy will iTunes be about that?

Names in the rumor mill: John Sykes, Beyoncé, Troy Carter, Tish Cyrus, Todd Moscowitz and Don Passman.

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