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This will go down as the year the artists took more control—and a bigger piece of the revenue pie.
I.B. BAD ON THE YEAR IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS—PART TWO
In the Concluding Half of This Two-Parter, Our Resident Industry Observer Examines the States of EMI and WMG, Plus Artists, Managers, Pubberies and Retailers Who Moved the Needle
EMI: In a year of dramatic transition, it became difficult to tell the players without a scorecard—but that’s nothing new at EMI, which has been shedding executives at the ends of their first contractual terms for well over a decade. Employing a plan dreamed up by then-consultant Roger Ames, Eric Nicoli ended the Andy Slater era at Capitol in a restructuring of the North American company that resulted in the creation of the Capitol Music Group under fair-haired boy Jason Flom, while also ousting the ruling tandem of Alain Levy and David Munns, only to be ousted himself after the company’s acquisition by Guy HandsTerra Firma. Not surprisingly, marketshare slipped to 8.2% from 9.3%, with the year’s biggest seller Norah Jones’ 2006 album (#13 at 1.4m) from Bruce Lundvall’s relatively stable Blue Note operation. Along with sending out a stream of not especially revealing missives, Hands added writer/producer Billy Mann and several non-music people to the board as part of an ongoing attempt to shake the long-struggling company out of its malaise. The new boss took pains to underscore the prominence of EMI Music Publishing head Roger Faxon in the new regime, but Hands’ plans for Ames, who replaced Munns as the head of North American operations, remain unclear. Hands’ interest in the acquisition of Warner Music Group is also the subject of continuing speculation… WMG: Still a mess, and with no prospects for improvement as long as the far-out-of-his-depth Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Lyor Cohen,  Bronfman’s poster boy for arrogance and self-aggrandizement, remain in charge, WMG got a fervently desired Christmas present from producer/svengali David Foster, as the seasonal album from his deftly developed charge Josh Groban becomes December’s hottest seller, moving well over 500k a week, with two more weeks until Christmas, giving it a shot to finish the year at or above 2.5m, putting it in the year’s top three. Despite the sales on Groban, the Rubin-produced Linkin Park (#3, 1.9m) and the deal with Roadrunner that included #8 Nickelback (1.6m on the year), Warner’s marketshare declined to 14.8% (from 15.3%). Tellingly, none of the above acts was signed by a current WMG executive. Meanwhile, the stock plummeted from the mid-20s in January to the $6 range this week. All in all, it’s shocking to observe the current condition of what was once the pride of the music business… ARTISTS: This will go down as the year the artists took more control—and a bigger piece of the revenue pie. Madonna’s mega-bucks deal with Michael Rapino’s Live Nation, The EaglesWal-Mart exclusive (which has the veteran band at #6 and climbing with 1.9m), Radiohead’s headline-grabbing, precedent-setting "pay what you like" digi-release, Starbucks’ signings of legends Paul McCartney and James Taylor, and Nine Inch Nails’ acrimonious split with Interscope were among the year’s biggest stories.  Already possessing the biggest stable of name artists in the business and eager for more, Irving Azoff sucked up assets like a Hoover, while Barry Diller provided the money to buy out T.H. Lee, thereby becoming a partner in Front Line Management. And Coran Capshaw’s Red Light Management is growing into a formidable entity, with respected veterans Will Botwin, Phil Costello and Ron Laffitte in the fold, and Radiohead on the release schedule of the newly formed TBD label… PUBLISHING: Marty Bandier took the reins at Sony/ATV and promptly began snapping up assets such as Famous Music, while Universal Music Publishing finalized the acquisition of BMG Songs, vaulting the David Renzer-led company past Roger Faxon’s EMI Music Publishing to become the #1 pubbery. WMG’s recorded-music woes began to trickle down to Warner/Chappell, already reeling from several years of mismanagement. At leading indie Chrysalis, longtime holdout Chris Wright finally succumbed to pressure to consider selling the publicly traded company, whose North American operation has become a powerhouse during Kenny MacPherson’s five years at the helm… MUSIC RETAIL: As the industry struggled to come to grips with the loss of Tower, the most talked-about players were iTunes, Starbucks and Wal-Mart, which has sold a ton of Eagles records. Apple’s dominance continued to grow, as the hardware maker became the #2 music retailer, behind only Wal-Mart. But a potential new powerhouse in the download wars emerged in the familiar form of Amazon, which launched its own digital store, selling only DRM-free MP3s. Going the exclusive route along with the Eagles were the reunited Spice Girls, who slipped into bed with Victoria’s Secret, selling an undisclosed amount of CDs. And the most promising potential growth area is as close as your music-enabled cellphone, providing a flicker of hope—or a lifeboat on the Titanic, depending one one’s degree of cynicism—to the majors as the decline of CD sales accelerates... GRAMMYS: Amy Winehouse is getting the biggest initial spike, and Kanye West is likely to get a new head of steam, following last week’s announcement of the nominees for the Grammy Awards, which will turn 50 in February. But most of the initial attention was on the surprises (Herbie Hancock, Vince Gill, Paramore, the virtually unknown Ledisi) and the key-category snubs (Bruce Springsteen, Daughtry), capping off a wacky year in suitably wacky fashion… Names in the Rumor Mill: Scott Sperling, Steve Jobs, Ron Wilcox, Roger Ames, Russ Solomon, Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, Charles Goldstuck, Paul Kremen, Donnie Ienner and Capt. Edward John Smith.
ANOTHER BILLIE BANGER? (UPDATE)
Are you free Wednesday afternoon? (11/12a)
BIEBER BY CHRISTMAS?
How's that for a tease, Bieber Nation? (11/12a)
NEAR TRUTHS: MEET
THE NEW BOSSES
Not the same as the old bosses (11/12a)
CMA CENTERPIECE
CARRIE UNDERWOOD
This sure feels like her moment. (11/12a)
WHO'S GETTING ZERVAS?
It's down to two bidders. (11/12a)
THE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS
They'll soon be here, and then we can start obsessing about who'll win.
U.K. SPECIAL
Forget Brexit--it's our yearly survey of doings in Blighty. And if you still can't forget Brexit, try drinking.
ZERVAS STATION
Who's going to land the hottest unsigned property in music?
WEED!
That's what Hollywood smells like. Seriously. 24/7.
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