Incoming Warner/Chappell head Richard Blackstone and outgoing chief Les Bider have been huddling about staff analysis, adding to the already high anxiety regarding the pubco’s future, while Blackstone’s former home, Zomba Music, continues to search for his replacement.


SBMG’s Sobering Timetable, EMI’s Turnaround, WMG’s Turmoil, Spitzer’s Scrutiny, Blackstone and Bider’s List
Many in the know noting the pointedness of Andy Lack's comments at last week's Reuters new media confab, and speculating about what his agenda might be in uttering said comments, which ranged in tone from foxhole humor to seemingly candid admissions of his own company's A&R shortcomings. Lack's dour view of the music industry’s drawn-out timetable as it ekes its way toward significant profits from download sales stands in marked contrast and clearly discredits Edgar Bronfman Jr.'s hyperbolic cheerleading to the Wall Street crowd about an imminent Internet-driven turnaround. One popular theory is that Lack's Woody Allen-like self-flagellations—the most colorful being his quip that it would take a proctologist to analyze SBMG's digital revenue stream— functioned as an entertaining smokescreen, providing much fodder for press follow-ups, as he strives to become, in his words, "the most profitable ugly duckling at the dance" this year... In other Sony news, many corporate insiders say that Lack and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer have a friendly relationship. If this is so, as many assert, why has the NY-based investigation thus far inserted its probe so deeply into the Sony BMG companies, rather than putting the focus on another music group first?...After a less-than-stellar fiscal year, EMI's prospects now look brighter than they have in some time, as the two delayed albums that provided a fool-proof alibi for fiscal 2005's underwhelming performance kick-start the company's new fiscal year. Matt Serletic’s Gorillaz, the latest act to gain traction from an Apple TV spot, have a bona fide smash single as the cartoon group's second album debuts #6, while Andy Slater’s Capitol will ship 1.3 million on Coldplay's brilliantly set-up 6/7 release, which industry prognosticators predict will go 450k-500k but acknowledge the number could be bigger. A couple of worldwide hits would put even more distance between EMI, which has been considered the quarry in a possible merger, and the perceived pursuer, WMG, as internal friction at the latter company continues unabated... The latest Warner Music subplot involves promotion executive Ken Lane, who last week exited Island Def Jam. Speculators speculating that Lane will reunite with the former IDJ team of Lyor Cohen, Julie Greenwald and Kevin Liles at turbulent Atlantic. If they welcome him back into the clique, how will the move affect their already deteriorating relationship with reputed Atlantic head Jason Flom, who has never hidden his displeasure with Cohen's insertion of his henchmen into the Atlantic hierarchy. Lane's hiring could likely mean the removal of longtime promotion heads Andrea Ganis and Lisa Velasquez, who have been seen as vulnerable ever since Cohen's arrival. This sort of top-level in-fighting, critics say, is not likely to provide the sort of leadership needed to turn the troubled label around… Cohen's tenuous relationship with Flom puts the Atlantic veteran on a shockingly long list of fellow executives Cohen has alienated—a list that includes Caparro, Ienner, Mottola, Iovine, Ames, Levy, Rubin, Blackwell, Morris, Whalley, Schur, Gottlieb and Rhone, for starters… Add Cohen: Most consider the re-upping of David Foster a shrewd move despite the cost: In order to keep the consistent hitmaker in the fold, Foster's publishing was given back to him from Warner/Chappell, thereby redirecting millions in stable revenue from publishing to Foster's swelling bank account. Cohen was forced to go to Bronfman, who signed off on the long-term cash drain to avert another PR nightmare for the newly public company... And speaking of Warner/Chappell, incoming head Richard Blackstone and outgoing chief Les Bider have been huddling about staff analysis, adding to the already high anxiety regarding the pubco’s future, while Blackstone’s former home, Zomba Music, continues to search for his replacement… Atlantic isn't the only label not running on all cylinders. Industry jokers joke that V2 ought to be renamed V1/2 as the understaffed company makes a desperate attempt to set up the most critical release in its brief history, the White Stripes' latest, streeting 6/7, the same day as Coldplay, but with first-week sales expected to be a mere fraction of the English band's projected total. If V2 was a functioning record company, the Stripes release would be much-much bigger, critics criticize. After the failure of the latest Moby project, could an underperforming Stripes cause the company to fizzle?.. Names in the Rumor Mill… Allen Grubman, Van Toffler, Michael Jackson, Richard Branson, Rick Shoemaker and Andy Gould.