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With Janet’s departure all but a fait accompli, the obvious question is, where will she go? The two names atop everyone’s lists of possibilities are L.A. Reid and Clive Davis.
I.B. BAD: COUPLINGS & UNCOUPLINGS, BEGINNINGS & ENDS
Janet & Jermaine, Marty & Edgar, Merck & Irving, Morris & MySpace, Tower & the Big Four
SO SO DONE? 20 Y. O. is the final album under Janet Jackson’s current deal with Virgin, her label home since the Jeff & Jordan era, and recent events suggest that it could be her final Virgin release period. A story last week in the N.Y. Daily News contended that the label President of Urban Music Jermaine Dupri had threatened to quit because he felt Virgin hadn’t properly marketed Janet's album. The report surprised many in the industry in that the super-talented Dupri was not only responsible for making the record but also for the creation and implementation of the marketing plan. According to those in the know, Dupri’s strategy was predicated on an attempt to establish Janet in the Urban sector first, personally writing and producing the first two singles expressly for that purpose. It appears that his plan has backfired, even though Lionel Ridenour and his team delivered a #1 Urban Mainstream hit for the first single, "Call Me," and a rapidly rising second Urban hit in "So Excited." Unfortunately, it hasn't translated into album sales, which surprised few with any knowledge of black music. As one rival exec noted, “She’s no Mary J.”…  Most believe Janet’s latest album will be her last for Virgin, and that Dupri will accompany her out the door. Levy and Munns had expected that the executive who’d played such a key role in Mariah Carey’s historic comeback last year would have a far bigger impact on Virgin/EMI’s black music profile than has been the case. With Janet’s departure all but a fait accompli, the obvious question is, where will she go? The two names atop everyone’s lists of possibilities are L.A. Reid and Clive Davis, both of whom have shown time and again (Mariah, Alicia, etc., etc.) that R&B/pop is right in their power alleys. When and if the time comes, Don Passman will be handling the hondling… The dismantling of Tower Records may reflect present-day market conditions, but that doesn’t make the passing of the archetypal music retailer any less depressing. Tower’s debt to each of the Big Four is the subject of continued chatter, and the number that jumps out is the roughly $25 million owed WMG, which has a 15.8% total marketshare year-to-date, compared to the just-under $20  million owed Sony BMG (24.5%), the approximately $15 million owed UMG (31.3%) and the $6-7 million due EMI (9.1%). Warner watchers believe this disproportionate figure is another example of the lack of experienced leadership at the top of WMG’s chain of command… A few weeks ago, UMG's Doug Morris singled out YouTube and MySpace as major copyright infringers that owe his company tens of millions of dollars. The outcome of UMG’s issue with YouTube has now been settled, leaving wonderers to wonder, what will UMG do about MySpace?… Marty Bandier’s unexpected early exit from EMI Music Publishing has buzzers buzzing about a possible alliance with Edgar Bronfman Jr., as the WMG leader continues obsessing over EMI. Some contend that Bandier is trying to sell Edgar on his ability to influence prominent EMI board members and shareholders, but those in the know insist the longtime EMI exec has little or no real yank there. Does Bronfman see Bandier as his Trojan horse, or is Edgar using the fabled gunslinger as another ruse to push up the price of WMG stock? In any case, will Bandier wind up heading Warner/Chappell for Bronfman and Scott Sperling? Skeptics say that procuring his services will be very expensive, and WMG’s leaders haven’t been making those kinds of deals. Besides, they add, if Bandier really wants to run a publishing company, why isn’t he still at EMI?... Meanwhile, at Sanctuary, Rod Smallwood is finally untangling himself from the company he co-founded, taking cornerstone act Iron Maiden with him. Will his departure from the much-maligned company clear the way for Merck Mercuriadis to get his own exit deal done so that he can join Irving Azoff's management firm? Merck's situation is relatively complicated, as he will continue to manage Elton John for Sanctuary while taking Morrissey and Guns N' Roses with him to Azoff… From this vantage point, deep into the fourth quarter, it’s now possible to take a preliminary snapshot of the year as a whole. What is immediately apparent is that Columbia and IDJ are performing in keeping with their status as perennial powers, while Disney is way up—nearly 2.5% over last year—and Interscope is way down, losing a shocking 4%. But lest we forget, the house that Iovine built accumulated a winning streak of historic proportions in recent years, and the label is now setting up potentially big albums from The Game (11/14; with 2.3 million on his debut LP), U2 (a singles collection, coming 11/21) and Gwen Stefani (12/5; 3.8 million)… Names in the Rumor Mill: Jay-Z, Johnny Wright, Allen Grubman, John Branca, Bob Flax and Richard Blackstone.
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