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As the Q4 crunch intensifies, the battle for current, or non-catalog, marketshare looks like a four-way derby for win and show among two Sony Music and two Universal Music Group divisions.
Q4 HEAT: FOUR FOR FIGHTING
In the Home Stretch, Columbia, IGA, Epic, IDJ Vie for Marketshare
As the Q4 crunch intensifies, the battle for current, or non-catalog, marketshare looks like a four-way derby for win and show among two Sony Music and two Universal Music Group divisions.

With only 13 weeks left in the year, Sony's Columbia and UMG's Interscope Geffen A&M (which includes the recently hot DreamWorks Records) are currently tied for #1, with 8.4% of the market each. UMG's Island Def Jam and Sony's Epic, meanwhile, will grapple for #3, with 6.4% and 6.3% of the market, respectively. The four labels are well positioned to fend off competition from below—no other label currently carries a non-catalog marketshare above 5%. (Non-catalog marketshare figures focus on the most competitive aspect of the business—breaking new records. Looking at both catalog and current marketshare, however, Columbia is already significantly ahead of the pack and will likely end the year at #1.)

Of course, this year's Q4 bears the horrific taint of coming uncomfortably soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But besides the obvious soul-searching and anxiety-inducing uncertainty the suicide hijackings have provoked, the continuing focus on news reports and news-related programming has made gaining exposure for artists in the mass media an even more difficult proposition than usual at a critical time. Combine that with a global music business already down as much as 5% (thanks in large part to a slowing economy and rampant CD-burning, according to IFPI research), and the pressure on the system is greater than ever. Indeed, at a time when careers (both artist and executive) are on the line, breaking through has never been harder.

None of that will stop the aforementioned four labels from doing their part to further pack and penetrate an already-packed pipeline, however. Columbia has a powerhouse Q4 slate that includes releases from Billy Joel, John Mellencamp, Charlotte Church, Journey, Harry Connick Jr., Jermaine Dupri, Marc Anthony, Cypress Hill, Mobb Deep, Lil Bow Wow, Nas and Wu-Tang Clan. Interscope, meanwhile, has new albums from Garbage, Enrique Iglesias, Rob Zombie, Smash Mouth, Sting, 2Pac, Ruff Ryders and No Doubt, as well as the Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg soundtrack to The Wash, and debut collections from Timbaland protg Bubba Sparxxx and hot producer Swizz Beatz (on DreamWorks), among others.

And, of course, Interscope will be releasing the "soundtrack" to the recent "America: A Tribute to Heroes" televised fundraiser—an unprecedented wildcard of an album that could conceivably put the label's marketshare over the top following its Nov. 13 release. That is if, as many are guessing, it sells in the millions out of the box.

Not to be outdone, Columbia is releasing a tribute of its own, titled "God Bless America," Oct. 16.

In the race for #3, IDJ, which currently has the #1 album for a third week (Jay-Z's The Blueprint), is looking to bolster its current 6.4% share with releases from the likes of Ja Rule, DMX, Ludacris, Kelly Price, Shelby Lynne and the Beastie Boys (a 15th anniversary reissue of their groundbreaking Licensed to Ill album). New-artist debuts include Murder Inc. rapper Cadillac Tah and buzzing rock act Hoobastank.

Epic, meanwhile, will be counting on new albums from Ozzy Osbourne, Incubus, Shakira, Jill Scott and Ginuwine, as well as the much-ballyhooed set from Michael Jackson to pump up its current 6.3% share. New artist releases include VH1 "Bands on the Run" winner Flickerstick.

When the dust settled last year, the top four labels were IGA (8.9%), Columbia (8.2%), teenpop potentate Jive (6.8%) and Epic (5.6%).

Interscope Geffen A&M (8.4%)

Garbage 10/2
Pressure 4-5 10/2
Apex Theory 10/9
Bubba Sparxxx 10/9
Mike Walker 10/9
A Very Special Christmas 4 10/30
Enrique 10/30
The Wash ST 11/6
Unwritten Law 11/6
America: A Tribute to Heroes ST 11/13
Rob Zombie 11/13
Smash Mouth 11/13
Ali ST 11/20
Sting 11/20
Toby Keith 11/20
2Pac 11/20
Ruff Ryders 11/20
Swizz Beatz 12/11
No Doubt 12/18

Columbia (8.4%)

Billy Joel 10/2
Peter White 10/2
Steve Tyrell 10/2
Charlotte Church 10/9
Leonard Cohen 10/9
God Bless America 10/16
John Mellencamp 10/16
Journey 10/16
Harry Connick Jr. 10/23
Destiny's Child (Xmas) 10/30
Jermaine Dupri 10/30
Marc Anthony 11/6
Tony Bennett 11/6
Neil Diamond 11/13
Cypress Hill 11/20
Mobb Deep 12/4
Blaque 12/11
Lil Bow Wow 12/11
Nas 12/11
Wu-Tang Clan 12/18

Island Def Jam (6.4%)

Chiamara 10/2
Ja Rule 10/2
Machinehead 10/2
Boozoo Chavis 10/9
DMX 10/23
Misfits 10/23
Saul Williams 10/23
Def Leppard 11/6
Kelly Price 11/6
Ludacris 11/6
Beastie Boys 11/13
Cadillac Tah 11/13
Shelby Lynne 11/13
Hoobastank 11/20
Fear Factory 12/18
Hip-Hop Hits Vol. 5 12/18

Epic (6.3%)

Sonic Flood 10/2
Red Star Sounds (var.) 10/9
Chris Rice 10/16
Ozzy Osbourne 10/16
Incubus 10/23
Michael Jackson 10/30
Flickerstick 11/6
Cappadonna 11/13
Jill Scott 11/13
Shakira 11/13
Ben Taylor 11/20
Ginuine 11/20
Sandi Patty 11/20
Colorado Mass Choir 12/18

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