When all is said and done, Mariah Carey’s comeback LP will be the year’s biggest seller, L.A. Reid’s third in a row, following OutKast in 2003 and Usher in ’04.
Andygate, the Warner IPO, the Jason Flom Saga, the Rootkit Fiasco, the Spitzer Rules, Merger Malaise and Other Weird Tales From the Always Wacky World of Weaseldom
2005—ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: The music industry lost ground again in 2005, with year-to-date sales off around 10%. Nonetheless, for some it was a decent year and for a handful it was cause for celebration. Here are the major plotlines of 2005…

UMG: Marketshare baron Doug Morris had another sensational year, far outdistancing the competition as the orchestrator of what can now legitimately be called a dynasty. Not content to rest on the laurels of a stunning 35% piece of the current pie, up from 32%, Morris found time to lead the charge on VOD, which was quickly adopted by the other majors, opening up a brand-new revenue stream. He’s also out in front in proposing a world without SoundScan in a confrontation still to be resolved... Morris has two of the four active world-class record men in IGA's Jimmy Iovine and IDJ's L.A. Reid, as the pair claimed the top two spots in current marketshare, with 11.3% (from 10.5% last year) and 7.3% (vs. 5.9%), respectively. Iovine has cobbled together a powerhouse by merging the disparate pieces of his empire—Interscope, Geffen, A&M, MCA and DreamWorks—into a seamless whole, scoring some of 2005’s biggest albums with 50 Cent, 4.7m; Black Eyed Peas, 2.4m; Gwen Stefani, 2.2m; The Game, 2.1m; and Eminem's Encore, 1.3m. Reid was responsible for one of the biggest turnarounds in recent history, performing a Lazarus-like miracle with Mariah Carey by restoring her to superstardom in a year that was capped by eight Grammy nominations. And when all is said and done, her comeback LP will be the year’s biggest seller, Reid’s third in a row, following OutKast in 2003 and Usher in ’04. Additionally, IDJ was the only label group to break a new rock band, with The Killers and Fall Out Boy. Reid’s biggest albums are Carey, 4.2m; Kanye West, 2.1m; Killers, 2m; Fall Out Boy, Nickelback and Young Jeezy, all 1.2m; Ludacris, 1m... The UMG juggernaut was further fortified by Mel Lewinter’s Universal/Motown, down a point with 4.4% (top sellers: Jack Johnson at 1.6m and 3 Doors Down at 1.2) and Luke Lewis’ Nashville label group, holding steady at 1.9%, with Toby Keith at 1.3m and 1m, Sugarland at 1.2m and Shania Twain at 1m...

SONY BMG: Though led by Sony’s Don Ienner and BMG’s Clive Davis, the industry’s other elite dynamos, the merged music group slipped this year, dropping from a combined 30% in current marketshare last year to 25%, split evenly between the Sony and BMG sides. Most of the fall-off came from BMG, which dropped from 17.8% to 12.5%, while Sony was up a half point from 12% last year to 12.5%... But declining marketshare wasn't the biggest problem in SBMG's first full year as a combined entity. The year's major plotline involved a clash of cultures between a pair of strikingly dissimilar companies in a roiling controversy that has come to be known as "Andygate." Bertelsmann head Gunter Thielen has been pushing Sony chief Sir Howard Stringer for Lack’s removal since the announced resignation of COO Michael Smellie, BMG's highest-ranking executive, this summer. Adding to the furor was Lack's re-signing of Bruce Springsteen in a deal some believe is worth $100m, supposedly angering the German high command. Then came the XCP “rootkit” fiasco, now manifesting itself in a barrage of lawsuits, which is not likely to go away any time soon. Insiders say Lack’s biggest problem is his inability to manage those working for him, along with his apparent disdain for some of the key music business players. Bertie remains firm in its insistence that Lack be removed, with former BMG topper Rolf Schmidt-Holtz taking his place and Smellie remaining as COO. But the Beemers may not be pushing for too much by insisting that their men hold the top two positions at the merged company. According to those in the know, Sir Howard has the unilateral authority to appoint the CEO of SBMG until 2009, and Lack cannot be fired by the BMG partner until next August. Thus, Sir Howard seemingly has quite a bit of leverage as he plays his strategic hand during the subsequent scenes of Andygate, which is becoming one of NYC hottest cloak-and-daggers of this Broadway season... Meanwhile, at 550 Madison, Sony Music N.A. ruler Ienner showed that he remains fully in charge of his own empire, appointing S-Curve chief Steve Greenberg as President of the Columbia Records Group early in the year, and ending 2005 with a complicated maneuver that put Epic's Steve Barnett atop CRG as Chairman, replacing Will Botwin, with Columbia's Charlie Walk becoming President of Epic. Additionally, he awarded Michele Anthony with the presidency of Sony Music Label Group. Sony’s hits included System of a Down's Mezmerize (1.5m), John Legend (1.4m), Destiny's Child, Gretchen Wilson and Il Divo, (all around 1m). Down the street at BMG, Davis hit paydirt with Kelly Clarkson (2.8m), Dave Matthews Band (1.3m) and Foo Fighters (1m)... Davis was supported by the talents of his key executives, Charles Goldstuck and Zomba chief Barry Weiss, who hit with Ciara (1.5m), Usher (1.2m), R. Kelly (1m) and Fantasia (1m). Joe Galante’s Nashville operation had a pair of million sellers from Kenny Chesney

WARNER MUSIC: It was a roller-coaster year for WMG, but the company still managed to increase its share a half point to 13.5%. A disappointing IPO was preceded by the very public threatened defection of Linkin Park, one of WMG's top-selling bands (eventually resolved), which did little to instill confidence among prospective investors... Tom Whalley’s West Coast operation was up .5% to 6.4%, led by Green Day (3m), Faith Hill (1.1m) and Michael Buble (1m), but he had the advantage of two promotion departments... The situation was much shakier on the East Coast, which was virtually flat at 4.5% despite its own two promo staffs, as North America boss Lyor Cohen oversaw the ongoing dismantling of the combined Atlantic and Elektra, whose only million-seller was Rob Thomas. Cohen brought in his functionaries Julie Greenwald and Kevin Liles, and he fired Co-Chairman Jason Flom, a 26-year Atlantic veteran and one of the most respected A&R execs in the business. While the chatter from WMG was that Flom's removal had improved the situation at Atlantic, this attempt at scapegoating was neutralized as EMI, UMG and SBMG actively vied for the services of the free agent... There’s continuing talk of a merger with EMI, but if it does happen, the smart money says it will be EMI taking over WMG. The company’s other big seller was Mike Jones, on incubator label Asylum, at 1.4m. Warner's biggest problem remains the lack of capable leadership…

EMI MUSIC: The British company may once again be pulling up the rear in current marketshare with 8.4%, down from 9.3%, but North American chief David Munns has made some solid moves for the future. He renewed the deal of highly regarded A&R/marketing whiz Andy Slater at Capitol (holding steady at 3.4%), which has thus far sold 2.5m Coldplay albums. More recently, Munns installed Flom as the new top dog at Virgin, replacing Matt Serletic, who’d seen his marketshare slip .2% to 1.3%, despite a hit with Gorillaz (1.3m). Additionally, he promoted well-liked veteran Phil Quartararo... Along with solidifying his executive lineup, Munns greenlighted a nontraditional revenue-sharing deal with Korn dreamed up by the band's manager, Jeff Kwatinetz, which got off the launching pad encouragingly this week, as the band's first Virgin album debuts at a robust 226k... Moving southward, EMI’s Nashville operation scored with Keith Urban, who sold 1.4m... Looking ahead, Levy and Munns know full well that the only way to compete with giants UMG and SBMG is to get bigger, making EMI's desire for a partnership with Warner Music a no-brainer. But they now realize the inevitable problems resulting from a merger of equals, having witnessed the stormy relationship between Sony and BMG, and they’re not about to repeat history…

SANCTUARY: The long-profitable indie saw the bottom drop out this year, as the company overextended—including investing heavily in an urban division that proved to be a disaster—and is now hanging on by a thread. It was all too much for Sanctuary head Andy Taylor, who stepped down following several failed attempts to locate a fiscal savior…

iTUNES: Downloads accounted for a substantially increased percentage of overall sales via iTunes and the services chasing it, but more and more executives have come to believe that, rather than being the answer, a la carte downloads are contributing to the problem as they increasingly cannibalize album sales…

AZOFF/KWATINETZ: For a time, it appeared that Irving Azoff and Howard Kaufman's Front Line and Jeff Kwatinetz's Firm, the two big management powers, would be rolled into one, with Azoff heading the combined company, resulting in a stand-alone IPO or an add-on to the Warner offering following Thomas Lee Partners' investment in the re-formed Front Line. But none of the above scenarios took place, as rumors of mutual unhappiness between Azoff and Scott Sperling swirled. Now, many expect Azoff to buy out Thomas Lee, and at a greatly reduced price…

SPITZER CHANGES THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT: Only two of the Big Four have settled so far, but the rulebook has been rewritten for the entire industry. Previously, the majors believed they were operating within the law, but that was before the New York Attorney General made up new laws, and they are being followed scrupulously both by those who have settled and those who await the knock on their doors. Despite published allegations that certain leading executives knew of now-outlawed promotion practices while others remained blissfully unaware, anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the music industry knows full well that every top exec knew exactly what their promotion departments were doing. Another effect of the Spitzer settlements is that they've leveled the playing field for the indies, because it's no longer about how fat your checkbook is; instead, it's about how well you know your sector…

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Craig Kallman, Michele Anthony, Monte Lipman, Bruce Tyler, Steve Bartels/Jay-Z, Sylvia Rhone, Jim Urie, Michael Rapino, Tony Brummel, Merck Mercuriadis, Rob Light and Peter Grosslight.

It doesn't make sense. (11/25a)
Cue Archie Bell & the Drells. (11/24a)
Who's hot in Blighty? (11/30a)
A big first inking. (11/30a)
A new drum beat in D.C. (11/30a)
Bring your umbrella.
Mulling possible surprises.
We're virtually stuffing ourselves.
He's lost 25 out of 26, and so tired of winning!

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