The Grammy Brain Trust Has Some Work to Do; Columbia’s
Late Scoring Drive; '13 Marketshare Results; '14 Q1 Preview
With the Grammys under two weeks away, NARAS head Neil Portnow, executive producer Ken Ehrlich and CBS EVP Specials, Music & Live Events Jack Sussman are doing everything possible to put together a great show. But absent from the talent lineup as of now are Justin Timberlake and Jay Z, two of music’s biggest stars, who were snubbed in the major categories, and whose presence on the telecast is crucial in the team’s concerted effort to recover from last year’s ratings slump. CBS is in year two of a 10-year deal to televise the Grammys, shelling out a reported $60m annually for the rights—and the show’s ratings derive directly from the wattage of its combined star power. According to Timberlake insiders, JT has turned down the invitation to perform and isn’t likely to change his mind.


Ken Ehrlich:
Still two aces short of a full house.

Will the principals be able to lure Beyoncé, the reigning queen of pop culture with a still-growing album that has broken 1.5m in just four weeks—and such a mega-draw that her last tour was red-hot with no new music behind it? Could there possibly be a Mr. and Mrs. Carter moment on the 1/26 telecast? That will happen only if Jay Z is willing to look past the disrespect he was shown by the secret committee with this year’s nominations, who seem to have been afflicted with a bout of collective insanity. Longtime Grammy watchers can’t remember another year like this one, when so many obvious candidates were overlooked in the categories they were expected to dominate.

This is not to say that the show itself is bereft of star appeal. The list starts with Katy Perry, who’s riding a huge single in “Dark Horse,” while her previous smash “Roar” will be heavily included in promos for the Sochi Winter Olympics on NBC. The combined effect of this massive exposure could result in a perfect storm for Perry, with a commensurately massive sales explosion. Another big draw, Lorde (puzzlingly snubbed for Best New Artist), will be making her first major TV appearance. But will the collective appeal of Perry, Lorde, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (can we expect an all-star Beatles tribute?), Daft Punk, Taylor Swift, P!nk with Nate Ruess, Robin Thicke, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Sara Bareilles, Imagine Dragons (also passed over for a Best New Artist nom), Kendrick Lamar and several other big names be enough to generate a ratings turnaround? Observers are waiting to see what Portnow, Ehrlich and Sussman have up their sleeves as they try to salvage what they’ve long hyped—not inaccurately up to now—as Music’s Biggest Night.

In a related matter, if CBS is paying $60m for the show and the labels are being made to shell out as much as $500k per performance, wonderers are wondering where all the money is going.


Rob Stringer:
If Manning goes down, he's ready to go in.

There was action aplenty during the final days of the 2013 frontline marketshare battle, as Rob Stringer’s Columbia executed the music biz equivalent of the two-minute drill to perfection, scoring with that spectacular late move from Beyoncé and another strong showing from One Direction (1.2m)—both selling for full price at iTunes, representing a real windfall for Columbia—to finish the year at 8%. This late charge brought Team Stringer to #2 in the final standings, and all signs point to the label owning Q1, with continuing sales on Beyoncé and 1D, along with a new Bruce Springsteen album this week and Foster the People in March, while the soon-to-b-released sophomore album from Broken Bells (whose first sold 420k) and the debut from Glee’s Lea Michele are the wildcards.

Monte Lipman’s Republic won the 2013 frontline competition with 9%, and the expected Grammy spike for Lorde will be the first significant catalyst in a still-building sales story that will likely see the teenage phenomenon eclipse her remarkable 2013 performance by the end of this year. Will Lipman get new records from Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift and Florida Georgia Line this year?

Peter Edge and Tom Corson’s RCA (#3 with 7.7%) has 2014’s first event record in Shakira’s new single featuring Rihanna; the international star’s RCA label debut hits on 3/25. Also expected this year are new albums from Foo Fighters, Usher, Miguel, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and possibly Miley Cyrus.

In the overall/TEA sector, Jimmy Iovine’s IGA (7.7%) triumphed, buoyed by its blistering hot singles sales. Along with its carryover hits, the John Janick-led label expects 2014 albums from U2, Maroon 5, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga-Tony Bennett and Kendrick Lamar, while sales on “The Man” from rookie Aloe Blacc (coming off a star turn on Avicii’s smash “Wake Me Up”) blew up on Sunday (11/12) after it appeared in a Beats commercial featuring 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick that happened to run at the turning point of San Francisco’s playoff victory over Carolina. Columbia (7.5%) surged to #2 in a tightly packed overall/TEA Top 5 that also included RCA (7.3%), Republic (7.2%) and Steve Barnett’s Capitol Music Group (7.1%).


Steve Barnett:
Standing tall with Katy, Beatles.

CMG, which is doing an expert job on Perry’s project, is also growing the hot-selling debut album (184k) and single (1.05m) from U.K.-based Bastille, on Virgin. Barnett’s latest moves include the additions of renowned artist Morrissey and intriguing newcomer Banks to Harvest, which is being positioned as a hip indie inside a major, a la XL.

L.A. Reid’s Epic continues to heat up, with a possible #1 debut for A Great Big World on 1/21—which could turn out to be the first bona fide breakthrough act since Reid’s arrival.

Len Blavatnik’s Warner Music faces a long uphill climb this year following its struggles in 2013. WMG’s frontline share declined precipitously to 11% from 13.2, a telling statistic in that it illustrates what happens when a record company stops spending money on A&R—a classic mistake made time and again by music-business neophytes as previously occurred at EMI during the Terra Firma years, BMG pre-merger and Sony BMG under Rolf Schmidt-Holtz. Indeed, an in-depth profile of Blavatnik in the current issue of The New Yorker intimates that he views music as another commodity, like aluminum and oil, on which he made his fortune. (The piece also quotes Edgar Bronfman Jr. as saying Lyor Cohen “threw [him] under the bus.”)


Len Blavatnik: Bruno Mars or pork bellies?

Acutely aware of the A&R vacuum, Warner Bros. Records head Cameron Strang has chosen to put a renewed emphasis on A&R at the label by bringing in experienced creative exec Dan McCarroll as President in a move that should hasten WBR’s rebound following several fallow years. Strang has also hired A&R veteran Peter Thea, most recently part of the UMG East Coast team.

McCarroll won’t be replaced as Capitol President; instead, A&R head Mike Flynn will take on additional responsibilities.

Former IGA Vice Chairman David Cohen is bringing his wealth of knowledge back to the company in a senior role that includes oversight of business and legal affairs. Cohen has been consulting since his retirement in 2009; since then he’s been playing in celebrity pro-am golf tournaments and is known for his excellent short game.

Names in the rumor mill: Sylvia Rhone, Allen Shapiro, Michele Anthony, Jason Flom and Gene Salomon.

Dynamic duos (12/3a)
She'd make one helluva CEO. (12/3a)
Ch-chingle bells (12/3a)
Adele is money. (12/3a)
Reshuffling the deck (12/3a)

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