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Job security? There’s no such thing—even if you have a multi-year contract or a
multi-platinum
track record.
WHEELS AND DEALS: WHO'S PAYING FOR THESE DRINKS?
A Weasel's-Eye-View of the Changing
Industry Landscape
by Rodel Delfin

A&R players saw more dramatic changes in their world last year than ever before. At this point, only a handful (and we mean a handful) of A&R execs have actual signing power. Deals are much smaller. Established artist managers and attorneys are much less eager to shop new acts. Budgets and T&E have been slashed to the point where some execs can’t travel to see a band.

Job security? There’s no such thing—even if you have a multi-year contract or a multi-platinum track record, as underscored by the recent exit of Interscope Sr. VP Jeff Blue. And it doesn’t take a psychic to predict that the next six months will bring even more belt-tightening. So what lies ahead?

Hell if we know, but we have some more questions.

What will the label landscape be like at the Bronfman-led Warner Music Group? Are the much-rumored changes in leadership going to occur sooner rather than later? Will we feel the impact of pending label-group mergers (Sony-BMG, as well as a potential EMI-WMG combination) this year? Will A&R continue to feel the least impact? Will rock make a comeback? (We had to throw that in.)

Actually, some consumer rags seem to think a return to the old-school, guitar-driven, arena-style rock of decades past is in the making. Will a new crop of big-hair-wearing, monster-chops-wielding rock gods re-ignite the sales charts? And if so, will the industry’s indulgence of Emo finally fade? Or has it already?

Will research and song-testing play an even larger role in the signing process? Will labels continue to pursue aggressive deals involving participation in tour and merch income?

We have no freakin’ idea, but we’ll let you know if we find out. We now return you to your regularly scheduled weaseling.

Buzz continues to build on unsigned Chrysalis Music act Ray LaMontagne. The singer/songwriter emerges from the backwoods of Maine to play a set at the Mercury Lounge next week. Expect a who’s who of the current weasel community at the show.

Slingers are peepin’ NYC-based Regina Spektor, as the singer/pianist attracts scads of interested label reps to her recent hometown shows. Her buzz factor has been elevated since her stint opening for the Strokes last year, and she descends on Tinseltown this week to play Spaceland, so don’t sleep.

Word on the street is that Sony, Lava and Lost Highway are all coming with paper for singer/songwriter Gary Jules following his collaboration with Michael Andrew on the Tears For Fears song “Mad World,” which soared to the top of the U.K. chart last week. Stay tuned.

Weasels from Warner Bros., Capitol, DreamWorks, RCA, Epic and Virgin turned out for the Steve Sessa-repped Jessica Dobson show at the Hotel Café last week. Keep your eye on this one—label meetings are now being solicited. Her next show is on Friday (1/23) at the Ugly Mug in the O.C. (that’s Orange County, CA for those who don’t own TVs).

The success of reality series The Simple Life has yielded big benefits for The Penfifteen Club, whose “Hey Ms. Hilton”—the show’s theme—has garnered spins at KJEE and other stations. Meanwhile, Chris Applebaum (Fountains of Wayne) has signed on to direct and shoot the band’s video. Rumor has it that the titular Ms. Hilton will make a cameo appearance.  

BUZZIN’: Paul Pontius...

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