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For this sort of envelope-pushing undertaking to succeed, the music has to be great to begin with.
I.B. BAD ON THE GAME-CHANGERS
Jay-Z, Timberlake and Gaga Are Thinking Way Outside the Box on Their Latest Album Projects
In today’s music business, as in the NBA, the superstars are calling the shots more than ever. In doing so, they’re throwing out the rules regarding high-profile releases, essentially rethinking the nature and purpose of the album itself. For Jay-Z, who’s known as much for his brilliance as a businessman as he is for his artistry, the recent bold moves he made in setting up Magna Carta Holy Grail got more initial attention than the music on the album. But it’s important to note that, for this sort of envelope-pushing undertaking to succeed, the music has to be great to begin with.

The unprecedented campaign brought such heightened attention to the new album that it had a bigger first week, with 528k in traditional sales, than any of his releases since the 680k debut of 2006’s Kingdom Come, while making the Jay-Z brand even bigger, which also served to boost ticket sales for his summer tour with Justin Timberlake.

As Jay-Z’s partners Samsung and Google were employing the app as a delivery system, Lady Gaga’s team, led by manager Troy Carter, was conceptualizing the app as a container for multimedia content for the upcoming ARTPOP.

Timberlake, meanwhile, is at the midpoint of an extended campaign based on another novel concept: a double album with a staggered release, the second half being set up by the continuing momentum of the first, which has turned out to be the best-seller of the half-year by a mile, moving 2.1m units year to date.

In the midst of Republic and IDJ’s impressive runs, with Monte Lipman’s label #1 in new-release share YTD at 9.1 and Steve Bartels’ team up 1.5% to 4.5%, there’s lots of chatter regarding UMG’s East Coast power players. Specifically, some believe there’s simply not enough leg room for all the big ballers to sit at the same table. Insiders say these rumors are emanating from gossip mongers as the Barry Weiss-Lipman-Bartels triumvirate continues to drive in runs, just over two years after Lucian Grainge tapped Weiss to head Universal’s East Coast team.
 
The Guggenheim-VEVO deal will probably happen soon, but there’s another major telecom player that has raised its hand and appears ready to make a counterbid. Will Todd Boehly’s company seal the deal, thought to be in the $600-700m range, thus adding the valuable platform to its TV and media assets? Has Guggenheim brought in respected barrister Joel Katz to help close this deal with majority stake holders Sony and UMG?
The hotly debated, oft-criticized term of one major-label promotion head is rumored to be coming to an end. Look for a departmental realignment to be announced and a new head of promo to be named in the not too distant future.
 
Some industry observers believe that Lyor Cohen may be over, pointing to the fact that it's taking so long for him to fund his venture, but that verdict may be premature. With no major-label group interested in helping fund his startup, and no financial player willing to write a check big enough to float his boat, the big question has to do with how he’d carve out a meaningful platform for his new venture, to which he recently added longtime ally Todd Moscowitz? But recent speculation has it that Mr. Mixed Metaphor has located a deep-pocketed white knight, so don't count him out just yet.

Two years after abandoning the Fontana model at the urging of Zach Horowitz when distribution reported to him, UMG is back in the indie-distribution business. Most Universal execs saw the selling of Fontana as another manifestation of Horowitz’s fundamental lack of understanding of the business.

But soon after his arrival from Sony, CMG chief Steve Barnett, taking note the vacuum left by that move and how valuable that RED (with a whopping 7.2% new-release share year to date) has been for Sony, is building Caroline’s business under the leadership of Dominic Pandiscia and Mike Harris by giving artists and labels the opportunity to upstream to his CMG marketing team, led by Greg Thompson, which has developed a reputation for taking potential hits developed under the radar and slamming them home. Caroline has been acquisitive of late, notably inking a distribution deal with ATO, which gives the company the next Alabama Shakes album.

Scooter Braun is said to have gotten a giant check for a portion of his company, plus the funding to acquire additional assets. There’s talk that he’s looking to roll up management companies, much like Irving Azoff’s aggressively acquisitive strategy during the Front Line era.

Names in the rumor mill: Mark ShimmelMichele AnthonyJoel KlaimanDoug DavisDarryl EatonKaren KwakMike CarenSandy Crawshaw-Sparks and Beats.

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