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I.B. BAD ASSESSES THE YEAR
IN THE MUSIC BIZ
WMG, NASHVILLE, INDIES, PUBS, TV, GRAMMYS, MGMT., TOURING, TECH & MORE

Len Blavatnik: The $20 billion man

WARNER MUSIC: Today's record businesses is clearly a two-horse race between Sony and Uni, but never underestimate Len Blavatnik, a Russian Member of the Tribe worth more than $20 billion. Those who know the WMG owner say he would buy both of the other two major music groups if given the opportunity. Although Blavatnik failed in his attempt to buy EMI, he did snag Parlophone, the jewel in the crown of the British company, for $765m. But as a pair of music industry novices, Blavatnik and CEO Stephen Cooper don’t seem to realize that the classic money strategy of cutting A&R budgets eventually shrinks a company—quite the opposite of what they had in mind… WMG’s core labels went in opposite directions, as Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald’s Atlantic slipped .6 of a percentage point to 4.8% in frontline share; its biggest hits were 2012 releases from Bruno Mars (#4, 1.38m this year) and Fun. (#30, 611k), while Cameron Strang’s Warner Bros. Records began its comeback, increasing its share by .7 to 3.5%, led by Blake Shelton (#9, 1.07m) and Michael Bublé (#19, 694k). WBR's year culminated on a positive note, as veteran creative executive Dan McCarroll accepted Strang's offer to become President of the label, putting a renewed—and much-needed—emphasis on A&R... Ironically, Mike Caren, WMG’s worldwide creative head and ace record maker, spent his time and energy building his massive pubco—and his own bank account—while continuing to serve as a huge A&R asset for Warner’s competitors... And speaking of ironies, Blavatnik and Cooper welcomed back Lyor Cohen a year after canning him, attaching the newco—the curiously named The 300—to Atlantic. But many believe Cohen is over and that The 300 is doomed to failure.

NASHVILLE: Mike Dungan had his biggest successes with Capitol Nashville, the label he’d left in 2012 when he took the reins of UMG Nashville. Dungan’s biggest seller by far was Luke Bryan, who not only had the year’s #3 album in Crash My Party, which sold 1.4m, but also moved another 1m on his two previous Another Capitol Nashville act made the Top 50: Lady Antebellum (#40, 512k). UMG Nashville also has 2013’s biggest holiday album in The RobertsonsDuck the Halls (#24 with 619k and counting). These hits put Dungan’s company at an impressive #6 in frontline marketshare with 5.4%... Gary O’s Sony Nashville may have been outnumbered by Universal’s dramatically expanded counterpart, but the label still managed a 2.2% share, putting it at #10… Between them, Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine and his joint venture Republic Nashville landed four albums in the Top 50: #6 Florida Georgia Line, #14 Taylor Swift, #44 The Band Perry and #50 Tim McGraw.

INDIES & DIY: The DIY story of the year was hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who scored the #2 track of 2013 in the gargantuan "Thrift Shop," at 6.4m units (7.2m overall), while moving another 7m+ in combined sales on three subsequent singles, with Warner Bros. Records handling the promotion. Macklemore’s The Heist is the year’s #11 album, with just under 1m units… Daniel Glass inked a new mega-bucks deal with Sony for Glassnote, which once again notched up the best-selling indie album of the year in Mumford & Sons’ 2012 release Babel (#10, 1.07m this year alone)… Dualtone’s The Lumineers continued to sell big following the group’s 2012 breakthrough, moving another 815k, good for #15 … Garth Brooks evidenced undiminished clout in his return as a DIY artist, with his just-released Walmart exclusive comeback album currently #47 with 481k… Country star Jason Aldean, on RED-distributed Broken Bow, was the other indie act to make the Top 50, as his 2012 LP sold another 518k to finish at #43… XL RecordingsVampire Weekend and Merge’s Arcade Fire scored #1 debuts, with 135k and 139k, respectively, as the indie sector continued its momentum following a breakout 2012… Bob Morelli and Alan Becker’s RED held its lead in the indie-distribbery competition with 6.1% in frontline share, while Dominic Pandiscia and Mike Harris were in expansion mode with Caroline (biggest pickups: Jeff Kwatinetz’s Prospect Park and Coran Capshaw’s ATO), following Steve Barnett’s mandate to fill the void created by the sale of Fontana, which now operates as INgrooves under the leadership of Robb McDaniels.


Marty Bandier: Smoking titan

PUBLISHING: After expanding his empire with the 2012 acquisition of EMI Music Publishing, publishing titan Marty Bandier and his Sony/ATV towered over the business, his dominant status further enhanced by the efforts of co-Presidents Jody Gerson and Danny Strick… Meanwhile, Warner/Chappell, having rebounded following a couple of down years as the result of Cameron Strang’s capable leadership, continued to put points on the scoreboard, while Bandier protégé Big Jon Platt was named President of the pubco, as expected, in December… Hartwig Masuch’s BMG Chrysalis continued to grow, launching a record division and absorbing Larry Mestel’s Primary Wave… The newest power in the publishing business is SONGS, whose Matt Pincus and Ron Perry scored one of the year’s biggest coups, outmaneuvering the competition for Lorde’s publishing.

MUSIC TV: NBC’s The Voice strengthened its hold on the American consciousness this year, moving major tonnage for Blake Shelton and Adam Levine’s Maroon 5, while Christina Aguilera assisted in the breaking of newcomers A Great Big World, nicely setting up the Epic duo’s upcoming album... Simon Cowell’s The X Factor continued to struggle for ratings and credibility, while American Idol’s experiment with warring divas Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj was deemed a bust. Fox is hoping the pairing of holdover Keith Urban with Harry Connick Jr. and the returning Jennifer Lopez will create the chemistry the show lacked this year when it returns in January... Interestingly, NBC’s a cappella show The Sing-Off accomplished what neither The Voice nor The X Factor has yet accomplished—establishing a platform for new act Pentatonix, which is using social networking to expand it... Meanwhile, tracks spun off from Fox’s Glee continued to enhance Columbia’s bottom line... The Grammys once again spiked sales for several acts, notably some of those who performed on the telecast, including The Lumineers, non-winners whose performance powered their rapid ascent to #1, while non-nominee Justin Timberlake used the show (along with a Budweiser TV campaign) as a key part of the crisply orchestrated setup for The 20/20 Experience... And by announcing the nontraditional release of Magna Carta Holy Grail in dramatic fashion during the NBA Finals, Jay Z, Roc Nation and Samsung elevated the commercial to the status of event television.


Neil Portnow: The fixer?

GRAMMY, WE HAVE A PROBLEM: This has been a big year for both Justin Timberlake and Jay Z, but you’d never know it from the Grammy nominations, as they were cock-blocked in the Best Album, Song and Record categories. Add in the incomprehensible slights of Imagine Dragons and Lorde slight for Best New Artist, and you’re looking at one hell of a mess. Who is in the room and making these decisions on the nominees? Have the Grammys jumped the shark? Industry insiders are looking for Neil Portnow to find a way to prevent a travesty of this magnitude from happening ever again. The Recording Academy topper has the power to seize control of what is clearly an out-of-control situation, but will he choose to do so? The entire industry awaits the answer.


Michael Rapino: The live wire

MANAGEMENT: Mega-managers Scooter Braun and Troy Carter joined forces as the acquisitive Braun began to make use of a war chest reportedly valued at north of $100m to roll up other big management companies in the Azoff-ian tradition. The project appears to be moving along briskly, despite Carter’s divorce from Lady Gaga, with Brandon Creed (Bruno Mars), Drake’s management team and Larry Rudolph (Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus) among the high-profile managers either in the fold or in discussions about becoming part of Braun’s projected empire… Meanwhile, Live Nation’s Michael Rapino closed a $30m deal with Paul McGuinness Principle Management, and reportedly tapping Guy Oseary to handle the day-to-day for the band. Additionally, Rapino has quietly reorganized the management aggregate Artist Nation, formerly known as Front Line, and is moving forward with far fewer management companies in tow.

TOURING: Rapino’s Live Nation had a record-breaking quarter, widening its lead over AEG LiveBon Jovi may not sell records the way it once did, but the veteran band can still put asses in seats worldwide like few others, with more than 2m this year, grossing $205m. John Branca and Cirque Du Soleil’s Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour was #2 with a $157m, while #3 P!nk ($148m) edged Bruce Springsteen by just $300k. Rihanna ($140m) rounded out the Top 5.


Irving Azoff: the big baller

MUSICAL CHAIRS: Lest we forget, the 2013 party began, fittingly, on New Year’s Eve 2012, when Irving Azoff shocked the world by splitting from Live Nation, causing rampant speculation about what he might have up his sleeve, and vaulting Michael Rapino to king of the live business. These plotlines played out later in the year when Azoff teamed up with James Dolan to form the multifaceted, deep-pocketed MSG Azoff Entertainment, which is expected to flex its muscles in 2014, while Rapino’s chief rival, the polarizing Randy Phillips, was fired as AEG Live boss in November after embarrassing Phil Anschutz’s parent company during the Michael Jackson wrongful-death trial; Phillips’ replacement is Jay Marciano.


Jimmy Iovine: The multitasker

TECH: The streaming/online radio/VOD bandwagon was—and is—in full swing with the launch of iTunes Radio, the growth of iHeartRadio and the bidding war for VEVO, as Spotify, Pandora, Rhapsody and Rdio hung on for dear life. Will Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre and Luke Wood put another nail in the coffin of embattled Spotify with the January launch of the Beats Music "curated" streaming service? Whatever transpires during the course of 2014, next year promises to be another wild ride in the music biz.


Michele Anthony: On deck 

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A peek at how the deal went down. (8/13a)
THE GREAT CATALOG GOLD RUSH
Is mining the past the future? (8/10a)
MAYBE, JUST MAYBE:
THROUGH THE FOG
Breaking down the radio charts - or just breaking down. (8/13a)
TOP 20: WAVE ELECTION
Taylor holds firm. (8/13a)
THE BABE & THE MULE
Interscope's co-MVPs (8/7a)
BTS BRINGS IT
They're so dreamy.
VOTE BY MAIL
It's a conspiracy, because everyone does it.
IS IT CHRISTMAS?
No, but we're thinking about cookies.
WOKE MUSIC
Protest songs that sound like now.
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