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"The era of the standard promo guy making $350,000-$700,000 a year is over.”
——a source in the N.Y. Post

THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER NEWS

The Music Biz May Be on Vacation, but Music Biz Reporters Never Rest
Apart from the occasional firing of a label head in the Admirals Club at LAX, mid-August isn’t an especially active time for the music industry, but news outlets that cover what’s left of the industry still have to fill empty space. Here’s what some of them have come up with.

The N.Y. Post decided to focus on the trend of declining compensation for record execs. For example, incoming EMI CEO Elio Leoni-Sceti will be paid less than $1 million a year plus incentives. "The era of the standard promo guy making $350,000-$700,000 a year is over," said one source familiar with the situation. "There's not a lot of million-plus players on the label level outside of the label heads."

There are exceptions, of course. While WMG Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr. has a base pay of $1 million, he can pocket a bonus of up to $6 million a year. He collected $3.4 million in total compensation in 2007, according to a regulatory filing. The topic of music industry pay stepped into the spotlight last week when one Wall Street analyst took Lyor Cohen to task after Cohen sold a quarter of his shares in the struggling company for a whopping $6.8 million. Critics charge that kind of money is symbolic of the business' excesses and a pay scale that is out of whack with its declining fortunes.

In contrast to other media executives, CBS boss Les Moonves collected $33.7 million last year, while Comcast chief Brian Roberts made $38.9 million and Disney CEO Robert Iger made $20.71 million, according to Forbes’ latest roundup of CEO pay.

Multiple sources said that labels have cut back on long-term contracts with guaranteed money. New deals tend to be more performance-driven and are often limited to 2-to-3 years in length. Private-equity players investing in music are also demanding belt-tightening. Pali Capital analyst Richard Greenfield—a noted critic of the salaries for Warner's senior execs—pointed out last week that the company is scaling back compensation for its employees.

One source who controls the purse strings for a major record label has a different take than Greenfield on the industry' executive compensation. According to this source, music companies are suffering a brain drain because the plunge in their financial fortunes are preventing them from competing aggressively for top talent. "Record companies can't keep their top people anymore," this source said.

Billboard apparently didn't see I.B. Bad’s revelation last week that Guns N’ RosesChinese Democracy will come out in Q4 as a Best Buy exclusive. A story in today’s Bulletin allows that “some concrete signs are finally emerging that the album's release could be imminent. That's because, according to sources, negotiations are underway for Chinese Democracy to come out as an exclusive at one of the big boxes—either Wal-Mart or Best Buy. Negotiations are also ongoing to have conventional record company distribution, another source says… It's unclear who initiated the Guns N' Roses exclusive negotiations—Front Line or Interscope. Representatives at Front Line and Interscope with knowledge of the situation couldn't be reached for comment by deadline… Best Buy representatives couldn't be reached for comment by deadline."

Rolling Stone’s Rock & Roll Daily notes that Jackson Browne has filed a lawsuit against John McCain after the Republican presidential candidate used a portion of Browne’s “Running on Empty” in a campaign commercial without permission. In the commercial, McCain mocks Barack Obama for suggesting that the country conserve gas through proper tire inflation. What bothers Browne almost as much as McCain’s lack of permission, the lawsuit alleges, is that using “Running on Empty” suggests that Browne supports McCain’s presidential campaign and the Republican platform. “In light of Jackson Browne’s lifelong commitment to Democratic ideals and political candidates, the misappropriation of Jackson Browne’s endorsement is entirely reprehensible, and I have no doubt that a jury will agree,” Browne’s lawyer Lawrence Iser said. Browne is seeking to prohibit the McCain campaign from using “Running on Empty” or any other Browne compositions, as well as asking for unspecified damages. The Republican Party is also listed in the suit.

Another tidbit on the Rolling Stone site says that Serj Tankian isn’t thinking too hard about what’s next for the pride of Glendale, System of a Down. Bandmates Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan released their debut as Scars on Broadway last month (Serj has the record, but hasn’t listened to the whole thing yet), and Tankian says the timing just made sense to take an indefinite breather. “You shouldn’t have to wait until people are not buying your records or your tickets for you to stop, I think that’s ridiculous,” he said. “So I think you should do it when it’s the right time, when it makes sense artistically and personally. It’s a hiatus, we’re all friends, the door’s open. We haven’t decided what the future contains, whether it contains System or not, and that’s fine.”

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