The Second of Two Parts
COUNTING STARS: With the follow-up to Adele’s huge global hit 21 likely to arrive during the first half of 2015, handicappers are setting odds on whether her first week will top the 1.3m debut of 1989. Swift helped her cause immensely by tirelessly working the PR/TV circuit around the release, which is something Adele is unlikely to duplicate—that’s simply not who she is. Instead, she’s likely to let the music speak for itself, and for an artist as revered as Adele is, a big underplay might actually be the most prudent course by keeping her above the fray.

Her manager Jonathan Dickins made headlines recently by publicly questioning Spotify’s longstanding policy of not allowing some albums to be restricted to paying subscribers, which was the basis for Swift’s disagreement with the service. Will the magnitude of Adele’s popularity cause Daniel Ek to change that policy in order to ensure that Spotify gets her all-important album? The embattled service is in desperate need of some positive PR given the ongoing debate about the size of its payments, suspicions that the whole thing is an IPO play for the major stockholders and the appearance of potentially formidable new rivals in Google’s Music Key and the iTunes/Beats Music combine. Adding to the drama, UMG’s deal with the Spotify is up at the beginning of 2015 and Sony’s soon thereafter; can they force a change in the business model?

BIG BANG THEORY: Some are speculating about the possibility of Apple starting a label and going after Swift, Beyoncé, Coldplay and Justin Timberlake, whose contracts are all nearing the ends of their terms, with the overt intention of crushing the competition in the digital sector. But the tech giant doesn’t need to get into the record business in order to accomplish that goal; all it needs to do is to sign these superstars to exclusive deals for digital rights, thus effectively shutting out Spotify and every other service. Even if each deal costs $20-30m, that amounts to a drop in the bucket for this moneymaking colossus. As a further selling point, it doesn’t hurt to have Jimmy Iovine—the best closer in the business—and Dr. Dre in the house.

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Don Passman, Michael Guido, Boyd Muir, John Esposito, Fred Davis and Monte Lipman.

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