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Many believe that the Barnett hiring, in tandem with the relocation of EMI’s U.S. headquarters to L.A. will set off a domino effect potentially involving key players from all over the major label landscape.

I.B. BAD SURVEYS THE FIELD

You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Scorecard. Here’s Your Guide to What Promises to Be a Highly Competitive Round of Musical Chairs
CODE RED: Taylor Swift closed out her massive 1.2 million first week just before superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast, shutting down virtually every New York-based business. But the lingering effects of the storm could have a negative impact on record sales for the next week or two.

All the non-storm-related chatter in the business has to do with what is happening at Universal following Lucian Grainge’s aggressive acquisition of EMI, with the integration of the two companies outside the U.S. now well underway, directly overseen by London-based Max Hole, Uni’s veteran international head. Although the EC’s insistence on a dramatically expanded divestment package prompted critics to claim that these concessions would make the deal less sound, the combining of UMG and EMI in Japan and Germany—the world’s second and third biggest markets, respectively—should be a significant factor in making the economics of the acquisition work.

Former Columbia Co-Chairman/COO Steve Barnett, who will be charged with the task of rebuilding Capitol Records in the U.S., departed 550 Madison Ave. some three weeks ago, immediately after the news leaked about his new gig. But having accepted the job, Barnett can only hope for a mutually agreeable accommodation of some kind between Sony Music and Universal; otherwise, he may not be able to move into the Capitol Tower until his current deal expires at the end of March.

Many believe that the Barnett hiring, in tandem with the relocation of EMI’s U.S. headquarters to L.A.—marking the first time in the modern era that a major music group has been based on the West Coast—will set off a domino effect potentially involving key players from all over the major label landscape. Is Joel Katz, who reps many of the top execs in the business, involved in some delicate discussions involving a few key players? Allen Grubman, the industry’s primary kingmaker throughout the last quarter century, is supposedly remaining on the sidelines for this round of musical chairs, but he can never be counted out when there’s high-level action going down.

Doug Morris’ first year and a half at Sony has seen a remarkable turnaround, as he galvanized Sony and its not-so-collegial sister, the former BMG, into an efficient, smoothly running machine. Morris has accomplished this impressive feat—evidenced by the company’s 31.6% overall marketshare year to date—by putting strong hit-making teams in place and consolidating backroom functions. And next spring, the Sony ruler is expected to have another major career milestone as co-producer of the Broadway musical Motown, in what many believe will be a Jersey Boys-level box-office bonanza. Look for the legendary music man to remain as proactive as ever, his voracious executive appetite undiminished.

Rob Stringer, the now-sole leader of Columbia, is expected to make moves of his own to bolster what has been a spectacular, history-making year for the label, which boasts an industry-leading new-release share of 10.5%. But don’t expect a major overhaul of his winning team; if it’s not broken, why fix it? Stringer and co. will release the sophomore album from One Direction on Nov. 13, with expectations of a 500k first week.

Everybody’s asking what’s going on at Warner Music. Stephen Cooper and Len Blavatnik don’t really talk to any other industry leaders about their thoughts or plans. But most believe that their look under the hood at EMI during Warner’s failed attempt to buy it still has them perplexed. How could EMI do so much less business than WMG yet have a far better bottom line? In any case, WMG is expected to make a lowball bid for Parlophone. On a related subject, has the music business seen the last of Edgar Bronfman, or does he have another card to play?

Meanwhile, speculation continues around the business as to the next move of Lyor Cohen and his trusted lieutenants, Julie Greenwald and/or Todd Moscowitz. Cohen is thought to be raising venture capital ahead of trying his hand at entrepreneurship. One top dealmaker claims he can’t wait to hear Cohen’s pitch about how he plans to conquer the world. Michael Guido, a respected and well-liked dealmaker who for years handled Jay-Z (he made the Live Nation and Roc Nation deals), while currently repping Kanye West and Dr. Luke, is rumored to be helping Cohen in this undertaking.

Whisperers are whispering about the lack of harmony among the troops at one major label, characterized by political infighting over control and unhappiness over some key players’ roles.

Names in the rumor mill: Monte Lipman, Rob Cavallo, Sylvia Rhone, Lee Leipsner and Colin Finkelstein.
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