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In terms of the big picture, most believe streaming can’t really be helping sales, no matter how much some are spinning that it does.

I.B. BAD: A SLIGHT EDGE

RCA Takes the Marketshare Lead at the Q1 Mark, WB Has a Deep Hole to Try to Climb Out Of
As the music business passes the quarter pole, Peter Edge and Tom Corson’s RCA has just overtaken Monte Lipman’s Republic, which had been the frontrunner all year, to take the lead in new-release marketshare, 10.1% vs. 9.3% year-to-date. The RCA surge has been led by a pair of immensely talented and distinctive artists in Justin Timberlake and P!nk, whose The Truth About Love, released last September, is approaching 1.4m while throwing off three smash singles, collectively totaling 4.8m and counting.

At the other extreme is Warner Bros. Records, whose share continues to erode, hitting an all-time low with 2.1%. Recently named label head Cameron Strang faces a major challenge in trying to turn it around. Insiders say he’s planning to make sweeping changes in the months ahead.

With the entire music business seemingly debating the viability of streaming as a potentially significant revenue stream, the biggest criticism being leveled at Spotify, the highest-profile existing service, has to do with the company’s longstanding lack of interest in helping to market the artists it streams. Critics have found it hypocritical that Spotify has asked artists to help promote the service but has done nothing on the artists’ behalf in return.

But now, bowing to industry pressure, and trying to shake its bottom-feeder reputation, Spotify has decided to feature Phoenix in its just-launched online ad campaign. Observers find it interesting that the company is going with an indie act as its initial beneficiary.

By contrast, Apple has consistently shone the spotlight on artists, giving a number of them—most visibly Coldplay—major exposure via TV commercials promoting the iPod and iTunes. Given the longstanding symbiotic relationship between iTunes and the music business, those labels that don’t allow their artists’ music to stream on iTunes while at the same time protecting their streaming partners appear to be missing an opportunity. Why not take advantage of a valuable discovery process inside the much-visited store of the dominant player in music retail?

Meanwhile, the majors are holding firm in their negotiations with Apple over its own planned streaming service, and with so many entities now in the streaming business, the labels are confident that they have the leverage to get their desired rate.

It will be interesting to see how iTunes handles the competition from Spotify, Google, Amazon and Jimmy Iovine’s Daisy, the last of which will undoubtedly provide major artist endorsements when the Beats service launches later this year. In terms of the big picture, most believe streaming can’t really be helping sales, no matter how much some are spinning that it does.

UMG’s new joint venture deal with Roc Nation means that Universal has locked up two of the biggest acts in the business in Jay-Z and Rihanna. Jay-Z has sold a whopping 28m albums and change in the U.S. alone, along with more than 10m singles. Rihanna has released seven hit albums in seven years, selling nearly 10m altogether in the States; she’s also sold north of 50m tracks during that period.

Rihanna is also massively successful internationally, selling as many records in the U.K. as she does in the U.S., as well as a ton of concert tickets. The 170k tickets  sold for her 10-show run at London’s O2 Arena in December 2011 broke the venue’s attendance record, grossing north of $12m. What isn’t yet known is whether the two artists will continue to release their records through the Steve Bartels-led IDJ, where each has had great success.

Jay Marciano
is taking oversight of AEG Live from the deposed Tim Leiweke, meaning that polarizing concert head Randy Phillips has a new boss—for the time being, at least. Phillips’ actions in the weeks leading up to the 2009 death of Michael Jackson are central to the Jackson family’s wrongful death lawsuit against AEG, with particular scrutiny being given to a series of damaging emails in which he demanded that Jackson press ahead with rehearsals despite his fragile physical and mental state.

Last week, Phillips’ hot seat got even hotter when Sharon Osbourne accused “certain people” at AEG of strong-arming Jackson and vowed to name names if she testifies. Are those emails from Phillips enough to cook the AEG goose, with or without Osbourne’s testimony? Is she really willing to throw Phillips under the bus?

She may appear to be just another TV-spawned celebrity to some, but in the biz, Sharon O. has built a rep as a formidable player, as she gets ready to reinvent Black Sabbath with a new album and tour. Ironically, Phillips appears to have job security until the trial is over, because if they fire him now, his own testimony could sink AEG.

Names in the rumor mill: Ronald Perelman, Roger Davies, Livia Tortella, Rob Wells, Jay Brown and Daniel Ek.
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