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The primary contributor to Sony’s impressive 30.4% overall share (29.3% with TEA added) was Columbia, far and away the #1 label with a 10.3% year-to-date share, as Rob Stringer and, until his departure, Steve Barnett consistently put big numbers on the scoreboard.
I.B. BAD ON THE YEAR IN MUSIC
PART TWO: SONY MUSIC, WMG, NASHVILLE, DIY
Doug Morris Added to His Considerable Legacy, as Sony Enjoyed a Banner Year, Led by Rob Stringer’s Columbia, While Cameron Strang Emerged as the New Face of Warner and
Daniel Glass Plucked a
SONY MUSIC: During his first full year as commander in chief, Doug Morris led the venerable music group to one of the best years in its storied history. The ageless wonder galvanized Sony and its not-so-collegial sister, the former BMG, into an efficient, marketshare-gobbling operation, putting strong hit-making teams in place and consolidating backroom functions. Morris’ plan worked like a charm, as Sony Music led mighty UMG in overall marketshare for most of 2013 and was overtaken only after the EMI acquisition was finalized, which added the British company’s post-merger marketshare to the Universal total.

The primary contributor to Sony’s impressive 30.4% overall share (29.3% with TEA added) was Columbia, far and away the #1 label with a 10.3% year-to-date share, as Rob Stringer and, until his departure, Steve Barnett consistently put big numbers on the scoreboard. The label rode the Adele phenomenon for the second straight year, taking 21 past 10m domestically—4.26m this year alone—while breaking One Direction wide open (the boy band’s two albums are the year’s #3 and #9 albums at press time, with collective sales of 2.38m) and doing solid numbers with critically acclaimed artists like John Mayer (#34, 516k), Bruce Springsteen (#39, 479k), Jack White (#49, 420k), Bob Dylan (224k) and The Shins (216k).

On the heels of Barnett’s exit, Stringer tapped red-hot Republic promotion chief Joel Klaiman as EVP/GM, reporting directly to Stringer, in a significantly expanded new role for the savvy exec. Meanwhile, at Peter Edge and Tom Corson’s surging RCA, Joe Riccitelli recently inked a new deal as that label’s EVP/GM. The Riccitelli/Klaiman combo gives Sony Music two of the top hitmakers in the business, according to many observers.

Contributing to RCA’s 5.4% (tying the label for #4 with Atlantic) were albums from Whitney Houston (#10, 877k), P!nk (#14, 776k), Kelly Clarkson (#30, 536k), Dave Matthews Band (#42, 465k) and Usher (#45, 438k), along with strong new releases from Alicia Keys and Ke$ha.

And at long-struggling Epic (1.6%), L.A. Reid has been reshuffling the deck in search of a winning hand, and most believe it’s only a matter of time before the vaunted creative exec duplicates the success he had at Arista and IDJ with his current label. Reid and #2 Mark Shimmel will have another source of potential hits following the arrival of Sylvia Rhone, whose Vested in Culture imprint will go through Epic.

Two other major players in the Sony world are the highly respected Simon Cowell and his Syco joint venture, which yielded One Direction this year, and Kemosabe, launched by mega-producer Dr. Luke, which insiders predict will have a massive 2013.

WARNER MUSIC: After Len Blavatnik failed in his attempt to get EMI, many expected him to throw in the towel and sell off the company piece by piece. Instead, the Russian billionaire turned his attention to lobbying the EC against the merger and expanded the authority of CEO Stephen Cooper. A turnaround specialist, Cooper may be a music business novice, but he’s acted decisively nonetheless, forcing out Lyor Cohen, his chief rival (insiders claimed their relationship was like oil and vodka, as Cohen might put it), reorganizing the company into three divisions and completing a refinancing that reduced the cost of borrowing by 40%, saving the company around $50m a year.

The refi puts Warner in a better position to make acquisitions, potentially including Parlophone, backed by Blavatnik’s deep pockets. Such a move would dramatically strengthen WMG’s European operations, while also potentially boosting Warner’s share in the U.S. by virtue of the addition of Coldplay.

But Cooper’s most significant move may well turn out to be the anointing of Cameron Strang as the company’s heir apparent, in recognition of his rapid turnaround of Warner/Chappell, which he transformed into a creative force while also boosting the bottom line. In rapid succession this fall, Strang, who’d risen to prominence as an indie entrepreneur, was given responsibility for Rhino and for Warner Bros. Records, though he wasn’t given all of WMG, as had been rumored; Atlantic remains in the hands of Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald.

WBR’s share has slipped to 2.8%, with its biggest album The Black Keys’ 2011 release El Camino (#22, 615k on the year), on Nonesuch. Strang’s arrival resulted in the immediate departure of Co-President/CEO Todd Moscowitz, a Cohen protégé, while every remaining label exec, including Chairman Rob Cavallo and Co-President/COO Livia Tortella, now reports to the new boss.

It remains to be seen whether Greenwald (another former Cohen lieutenant) or Kallman will stick around for the long haul at Atlantic, whose 5.4% share is practically double that of WBR, with Bruno Mars’ second album hitting this week. But Greenwald has supposedly signed a one-year extension, giving her time to decide whether she wants to stay at Warner. It wouldn’t be a shock if both Greenwald and Moscowitz were to join Cohen in his new venture, or if Kallman makes the move to Sony or UMG when his deal is up. At this point, the only certainty is that further changes are in store for the company and its executives.

NASHVILLE: Music City’s power brokers flexed their muscles this year. Mike Dungan left Capitol Nashville to succeed Luke Lewis as the head of UMG Nashville (biggest seller: #6 Lionel Richie, with 1.05m), only to be reunited with his EMI roster (led by #8 Luke Bryan, with 967k) following approval of the merger, winding up with a 1.8% marketshare, which will likely increase in 2013. Gary Overton kept Sony Music Nashville (biggest seller: #7 Carrie Underwood, with 1.04m) on top with 2.8%, making it the #8 label group. Big Machine/Republic Nashville’s Scott Borchetta had the year’s biggest debut with Taylor Swift’s Red, the best-selling album released this year by a country mile. And Jason Aldean, on RED-distributed Broken Bow, had another big year, his two albums totaling 1.4m).

DIY: In Lyor Cohen’s first post-Warner move, the record mogul turned would-be entrepreneur took up residence in the N.Y. offices of private equity firm TOMS Capital, headed by another of his billionaire buddies, Israeli hedge-fund manager Noam Gottesman, where he’s in the process of forming a talent management company that will reportedly serve as an intermediary between artists and their labels. While Cohen wants to involve artists in his new deal, he’s reportedly looking for others to be their managers. Rumor has it, for example, that he’ll pick up Kanye West for management while also bringing in West’s manager, Izzy Zivkovic. Is Cohen trying to steal a page from Irving Azoff’s playbook by rolling up management companies?

Continuing the remarkable second act of his career, former major label exec Daniel Glass has enjoyed enormous success this fall with Mumford & Sons’ sophomore album, Babel, one of the year’s best-selling releases (#4, 1.24m) and the biggest RED-distributed album ever. Glassnote’s deal with RED is up soon, and most expect the indie label’s next deal, with either Sony or UMG, to redefine the model. Talks are now taking place at the highest level, which will probably result in Glass getting an offer he can’t refuse.

In September, The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey,” on Scott Robinson and Paul Roper’s maverick Nashville label Dualtone (1.8m and counting) topped the Modern Rock chart, followed by Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait,” marking the first time a pair of indie records had ever held the top two spots at the format. That was just the beginning for “Ho Hey,” which is now a Top 10 song at Pop, an unprecedented crossover move orchestrated by promotion legend Richard Palmese, who has taken up residence inside Irving Azoff’s Front Line.

The Civil Wars, on Nate Yetton’s indie sensibility, won two Grammys and were nominated for two more on next year’s slate. Their highly anticipated second album is expected to hit in 2013.

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