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NEAR TRUTHS BY I.B. BAD

Big Radio Has Increased the Speed Limit, Putting
the Majors' Four Overlords in the Driver's Seat

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE: Clear Channel/iHeartRadio has speeded up the system by aggressively adding records on a chain-wide basis. This speed-up is the result of the radio giant taking its relationships with the labels to an enhanced level of partnering in helping to develop new talent. The current approach of these broadcasters is a reversal of their longstanding programming strategies of playing fewer new artists and keeping the labels at arm’s length. This intersection of music and broadcast was epitomized some three decades ago, initiated by the same visionaries, Bob Pittman and John Sykes, who, with Tom Freston, co-wrote the MTV playbook. At Clear Channel, Pittman, Sykes and programming chief Tom Poleman employ a similar strategy to enhance the CC/iHeart brand in ways that extend far beyond the traditional terrestrial broadcast platform, encompassing the Internet, TV and concert promotion.

Clear Channel, with Poleman in the driver’s seat, may have been the first company to adopt this policy, but others have followed suit, notably including Cumulus, led by the well-liked and respected John Dickey, and CBS Radio, with the highly regarded Michael Martin calling the signals at Pop and Rhythmic. With these major chains all moving much more quickly and aggressively, an atmosphere of cooperation between broadcasters and rights holders has been created, resulting in more and more new artists breaking through. Indeed, the business is now driven by new artists.

Consequently, a handful of high-level label executives who have longstanding relationships with these broadcasters—namely, Columbia’s Joel Klaiman, RCA’s Joe Riccitelli, Capitol’s Greg Thompson and Republic’s Charlie Walk—have become more valuable than ever before. They’ve parlayed these strategic relationships into big jobs with salaries that have climbed back into the seven-figure range. All four are EVPs, with two also holding the title of GM, and their responsibilities include overseeing other departments as well as managing their promotion teams. The effectiveness of these four overlords in reshaping the business has had a trickle-down effect on the top heads of promotion, whose jobs are also coveted and highly paid.

None of the above-named radio heavyweights needed to be persuaded to add Taylor Swift’s "Shake It Off," on Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine, in heavy rotation as soon as it was serviced last Monday (8/18), with the exception of Country programmers, who uniformly pretended it didn’t exist. Swift has been a pop superstar of the first order for the last half decade, selling an enormous number of albums and singles, and the only sense in which her new smash (which sold about 550k in its first week) could possibly be considered a disappointment is that she has set the bar so high to begin with.

Ariana Grande may not yet be on Swift’s level, but Republic has left no stone unturned in setting up her sophomore album, hitting multiple platforms including MTV, the VMAs, CC/iHeart, network TV, Beats-Target and social media; as a result, there has been no more highly visible artist in the media or on the charts this summer. Pop divas rarely have blockbuster first weeks, but in terms of TEA, the most revealing measurement in the modern day music business, she’s having a terrific year, with an estimated total of around 600k. Most importantly, this diminutive woman with the big voice has laid the groundwork for a significant career.

PUB CHATTER: Whether Jody Gerson begins her new job as the head of UMPG on or before the announced start date of Jan. 1, most believe that she’ll transform the long-conservative pubco into a more dynamic company by putting the focus squarely on her specialty—A&R. Will she add to UMPG’s creative team, which is presently spearheaded by Motown’s multitasking Ethiopia Habtemariam in the urban sector and Monti Olson in pop and rock? What sort of role will President Evan Lamberg play going forward, if at all? And will Gerson’s UMPG become a formidable competitor to mentor Marty Bandier’s Sony/ATV or former colleague Big Jon Platt’s Warner/Chappell?

ALSO: What two major-label players in similar posts are engaged in an intense game of one-upmanship in terms of their respective accomplishments in breaking records at radio?... Industry observers are wondering what impact Billboard’s new all-inclusive chart methodology, debuting in September, and the IFPI’s proposed worldwide street-date change will have on the business... Names in the rumor mill: Jimmy Iovine, Scooter Braun, John Ivey, Kevin Weatherly, Cameron Strang and Danny Strick.

TAGS: nograybox
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