Rubin was conspicuous by his absence during an event in which he was showered with accolades from various artists, but then, the Grammys came at a particularly sensitive moment for him.


So Many Questions: How Big a Grammy Spike Will the Dixie Chicks Enjoy? Will WMG Allow Rick Rubin to Go to Columbia? Will Edgar Bronfman Jr. Lure Irving Azoff to the Fold?
A WIN-WIN PROPOSITION: The Feb. 11 Grammy Awards resulted in a huge victory not just for the Dixie Chicks but also for their label, as Columbia artists Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, John Mayer and John Legend took home armloads of trophies. The Steve Barnett-led label thus puts an exclamation mark on a year that saw it finish #1 in both new-release and total marketshare. The secret of Columbia’s success lies in its mix of legends and new stars, many of whom came through last year… In their acceptance speeches, the Chicks singled out producer Rick Rubin, making it clear once again that not only is he a skilled record maker but also a bona-fide source of inspiration to seemingly everyone who works with him. In a move that typifies Rubin's savvy, he insightfully teamed the trio with former Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson, who co-wrote several songs on Album of the Year Taking the Long Way, including Song/Record of the Year “Not Ready to Make Nice.” Following the Chicks’ Grammy triumph, which doubled as a resounding validation of their bold response to controversy, sales of Taking the Long Way have taken off, with expectations of a six-figure week, while the biggest initial gains in airplay for the just-reserviced “Not Ready to Make Nice” have been at Hot AC… Noters noting that Rubin was conspicuous by his absence during an event in which he was showered with accolades from various artists, but then, the Grammys came at a particularly sensitive moment for him. Although he has yet to make any public statement about the Columbia co-chairmanship he’s been offered by Rob Stringer and Barnett, Rubin has confided to those close to him that he very much wants the job; the sticking point is that Warner Music has yet to let him out of his contract. Landing Rubin would be quite a catch for Columbia; most believe he will have a profound impact on the label's creative team, while at the same time significantly enhancing Columbia’s relationship with the artistic community. But even prior to being named Producer of the Year for his helming of the Dixie Chicks and Red Hot Chili Peppers albums, among others, wonderers were wondering what was holding back Edgar Bronfman Jr. and Lyor Cohen from acceding to the wishes of Cohen’s close friend, when refusing them could result in the very real possibility that Rubin will decline to produce any more Warner acts, including the upcoming Metallica project to which he had previously committed. Insiders claim that Warner Bros. Records chief Tom Whalley has the biggest problem with letting Rubin walk, because Whalley was behind the deal that put Rubin’s American Recordings in the WB stable. Nonetheless, it has become obvious that the arrangement hasn’t worked out as originally envisioned… At this point, the last things the WMG executives need are the loss of a valuable creative resource and yet more negative headlines. In the last two weeks, the company's stock has taken a nosedive, plummeting below its previous 12-month low of $19, a descent that began shortly before WMG released its abysmal results for the critical final quarter of last year—a drought that has inevitably continued well into the first quarter of 2007… In light of recent events, Bronfman’s attempt to acquire Irving Azoff’s management assets makes sense in that it would add value to WMG’s portfolio at a critical time, while also unifying the holdings of common investors like Thomas H. Lee Partners and making Azoff’s empire part of a publicly traded company. Sources inside WMG still believe the deal will happen, but other observers believe that WMG is no longer in either first or second position, as other potential buyers have moved ahead in the competition to acquire Azoff’s company… Snagging the management powerhouse would be a much-needed score for Bronfman, who did himself no favors by criticizing Steve Jobs‘ entreaty to the music business to put an end to DRM, with many noting that this self-proclaimed champion of digital salvation is sounding more and more like a Luddite. With impeccable timing, Eric Nicoli stole Bronfman’s thunder, rattling his saber about possibly unwrapping the EMI catalog from its DRM shackles. While Nicoli is thought to endorse an experimental approach, utilizing a gradual approach to the removal of copy protection, he’s making everyone nervous by bringing renewed attention to the troubling fact that the music business hasn’t yet begun to solve the riddle that has plagued it throughout this decade— namely, how does it begin to effectively monetize the digital revolution?... Names in the Rumor Mill: Mark DiDia, Rob Cavallo, Michael Rapino, Andy Slater, Jay-Z, Michele Anthony and Miles Copeland.