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Lots of changes went down in weasel land this past year. Who will be the last A&R exec standing in 2008? Here’s a brief rundown of this year’s highlights…
WHEELS & DEALS:
YEAR-END TIDINGS
Aren’t You Glad This Year’s Over?
Are You Ready for the Next One?
By Rodel Delfin

Q1: The year starts with the ouster of EMI execs Alain Levy and David Munns by Chairman Eric Nicoli. Capitol and Virgin Records merge forming Capitol Music Group headed by Jason Flom. Capitol prexy Andy Slater steps down. And big layoffs commence at the music group… V2 Records closes its doors. V2 act the White Stripes becomes a hot free agent and later signs to Warner Bros.… Label chatter starts to build on Radiohead, who are reportedly working on their next record… Marty Bandier takes over Sony/ATV after he exits EMI Music Publishing, while Roger Faxon takes over Bandier’s former EMI post…Coachella Music Festival announces Rage Against the Machine’s reunion as this year’s headliner…Due to a big radio buzz from LA’s KROQ, Aussie group the Sick Puppies spur a good ol’ fashioned bidding derby. CMG’s Flom beats out the pack of chasing label presidents and signs the band… Boutique pubcos Stage Three, Spirit, Bicycle and Dimensional, among others, are making aggressive plays on available publishing catalog. Larry Mestel’s Primary Wave Music Publishing acquires a 50% stake in the song catalog of Daryl Hall & John Oates, with a price tag of $25-50 million…The acts in the ’07 Grammy’s Best New Artist category are James Blunt, Chris Brown, Imogen Heap, Corinne Bailey Rae and Carrie Underwood. What’s surprising is the absence of Gnarls Barkley in this category. And shouldn’t acts such as The Fray, Arctic Monkeys and Wolfmother be included as well? Several majors have deals on the table for singer/songwriter Colbie Caillat, who has been at the top of the unsigned artist chart on MySpace.com. The songstress later signs with Universal Republic…Major A&R staff changes happen at the former Capitol, while 30 acts are dropped… We journey through SXSW with an injured knee and a cane, but still manage to see a plethora of showcases and parties. Our South-By A&R panel this year consisted of three record producers (David Bendeth, Brian Howes and Mike Flynn) and three major label A&R executives (Roadrunner’s Ron Burman, Warner Bros.’ Craig Aaronson and Interscope’s Mark Williams)… Viacom announces that it’s putting Famous Music on the block… James Diener and his Octone Records move from the RCA Music Group to Interscope/Geffen/A&M

Q2: Sanctuary Records exits the frontline music business. They retain their successful catalog acts, but current acts the Ataris and Tegan & Sara become free agents… System of a Down front man Serj Tankian picks up Dave Holmes as a manager and a new label deal for his solo release with WBEpic makes some A&R staff changes, handing out pink slips to several senior executives…Coachella proves itself as a new music breeding ground by featuring burgeoning new acts like CSS, Rodrigo & Gabriela, Spank Rock and the Klaxons Warner Music Group announces worldwide layoffs. Sources share that approximately 400 staffers worldwide will be let go…L.A.-based The 88 signs with Rob Stevenson at Island … New Columbia Co-Chairman Rick Rubin begins assembling his creative team. Former Capitol exec Mark DiDia steps into a new position at the company, while Columbia’s head of promotion and the head of marketing exit their posts at the label… Sony/ATV announces it’s completed the purchase of Famous Music. Meanwhile, the European Commission approves UMG’s acquisition of BMG Music Publishing… Tracks for the Arthur Spivak-managed Billy Howerdel have weasel ears perking. Howerdel later signs with IslandSire Prexy Michael Goldstone swoops in and signs Tegan & Sara… Former Sony Soundtrax exec Glen Brunman steps into a senior position at Warner/Chappell. Dave Johnson is the new Chairman of the pubco, while Richard Blackstone steps down… Manchester Orchestra signs with Steve Ralbovsky’s new Columbia imprint, Canvasback Music. The band signs a pub deal with Chrysalis Music Kingpin Kenny MacPherson and A&R player James Cerreta… The Howard Sadowsky-repped Revelation Theory signs with Brian Howse and Jeff Sosnow at Interscope

Q3: We give props to RCA veteran music exec Ashley Newton for his A&R involvement in Mark Ronson’s new album, featuring Amy Winehouse, Lilly Allen and newcomer Daniel Merriweather… British private equity group Terra Firma, owned by Guy Hands, acquires EMICraig Averill-repped Airbourne signs with Ron Burman at Roadrunner, which exits its relationship with UMG and jumps to Warner Music Former Third Eye Blind member Kevin Cadogan signs a publishing deal for his TEB catalog share with Jake Wisely at Bicycle MusicNickelback frontman Chad Kroeger and Nickelback producer Joey Moi form a new label venture and sign a joint-venture deal with Clive DavisJ RecordsVancouver rock outfit Jet Black Stare fuel a big bidding derby. The group is repped by Hinder’s manager, Chief, and the tracks were produced by Nickelback’s sound guy. The band sign to Island … The Amplify Music Conference sizzles in Sin City and proves itself as a viable music destination to scout unsigned talent as well as serving as an intimate hang for industry folks, reminiscent of SXSW’s early days… Label execs start making the trek across the pond to step up the courting on Radiohead as rumors spread on the band’s imminent album release… L.A. faves Nico Vega sign with MySpace Records

Q4: EMI Music Publishing head Roger Faxon names Big Jon Platt as President of West Coast Creative and promotes Dan McCarroll to Executive Vice President East Coast Creative. Longtime EMP exec Jody Gerson exits her post and becomes a hot free-agent… Insiders share that ATO Records and WB are duking it out to sign Radiohead. The band announces that their new album In Rainbows will be available online, while leaving the price of the album up to their fans… New artist 360 Deals garners lots of media attention as numerous publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone cover the subject… Two big standouts at this year’s CMJ were the Black Kids and Cool KidsRed Light Management player Ron Laffitte quickly sets up an impressive clientele that includes Chris Cornell, Alanis Morissette, Band of Horses and The Decemberists… Hotly pursued act Lykke Li sells out the Mercury Lounge with nothing but industry peeps in the house, as N.Y. and U.K. labels jockey for position to sign the act… Interscope act Revelation Theory signs with EMI Music Publishing... Label offers come in for Atlanta singer-songwriter Zac Brown… As the year closes, several A&R hitters become free agents, including Mark Williams, Paul Pontius, Rob Stevenson and Leigh Lust, among a number of others. Where will these players land? Stay tuned…

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