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While Marty Bandier’s Sony/ATV and KKR/BMG will likely be in a dogfight for EMI Music Publishing, Warner Music will have some fierce competition in its bid for the record company.

I.B. BAD ON THE THRILL OF VICTORY AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT

With the Home Stretch Still to Go, the Year in Music Hits a Crescendo, While EMI Approaches the End of an Error
Taylor Swift’s enormous 1.044m first week—which had jaws dropping all over the music business—indicates that great records filled with relatable songs from bona fide stars will sell in any era, even this one. Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta and Universal Republic’s Monte Lipman have once again collaborated on a masterful setup… While there’s been no official word on the subject, the smart money is now on L.A. Reid getting a new deal to stay on at UMG. With new ruler Lucian Grainge rumored to be drawing up the blueprint for a remodeling of the company’s East Coast operations, most believe he would be loath to lose one of UMG’s most prolific rainmakers. “Why would Lucian not want L.A. on his team?” stated one attorney. “He made some of the biggest albums of the last 20 years.” Reid’s impressive CV includes TLC (whose biggest album sold 7.3m in the U.S.), Toni Braxton (with two 5m sellers), Usher (9.8m), OutKast (5.7m) and Pink (5.5m) at LaFace; Avril Lavigne (6.8m) and Dido (4.2m) at Arista; Mariah Carey (5.9m), The Killers (3m), Kanye West (3.2m), Rihanna (2.6m) and Justin Bieber (1.9m and counting) at IDJ. The still-unresolved situation begs the question: What would IDJ look like without Reid?… As for that expected remodeling, wonderers are wondering what Grainge’s new-look operation will contain, particularly regarding the number of A&R centers and promotion teams… Concurrently, Grainge appears to be in the process of staffing up with some of his trusted European executives, beginning with the installation of President of Global Digital Business Rob Wells, as the West Coast becomes the new world headquarters for UMG. So it was that Grainge’s Euro A-team—UMGI chief Max Hole, red-hot U.K. head David Joseph, legendary Universal France topper Pascal Negre and Germany’s Frank Briegmann—gathered in L.A. last week for meetings with the boss… In a closely related matter, the Barry Weiss-to-UMG scenario continues to be a heavy topic of water-cooler conversation, with the RCA/Jive head possibly winding up with a high-level job at the reconfigured UMG East Coast entity. But some question why Weiss would walk away from what appears on paper to be a bigger job. Most observers believe it would be inconceivable that Weiss would leave before he knows who will be the next head of Sony Music—especially considering that the top job could be his somewhere down the line. At UMG, by contrast, he’d have to get in line behind several senior executives, starting with Grainge himself… Given all these anticipated changes, Universal Motown empress Sylvia Rhone is heating up at just the right time, with first singles from the upcoming Nelly, Kid Cudi, Akon and Nicki Minaj albums all experiencing dramatic upward movement… Sony Music insiders are describing Amanda Ghost’s relatively brief run as Epic President (she took the job in February 2009) as an experiment that simply didn’t work. While Ghost’s lack of knowledge of the U.S. music business was a major handicap, those who’ve had dealings with her at Epic or during her years as a successful songwriter believe she’s eminently qualified for a high-level A&R position… Columbia-Epic ruler Rob Stringer will take charge of Epic until a replacement is named for Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, which Sony insiders are now hopeful will take place before the end of the year… On a related subject, after a two-year hiatus, is Charlie Walk, Ghost‘s predecessor at Epic, returning to the business in a head-of-promotion gig?… In other Sony Music action, Rick Rubin, , one of the industry’s most renowned producers and creative executives, is said to be eager to return to Warner Music, for which he’s made a number of important records during his sojourn at Sony, including Metallica, Linkin Park and the upcoming Josh Groban LP. The one remaining issue is that Rubin still has 18 months on his current deal with Sony and wants to be paid in full to leave. But considering that he didn’t deliver for Sony, and that “psychologically he already gone,” according to one confidant, those in the know believe the situation will be resolved sooner rather than later… Industry observers are in a state of disbelief that Guy Hands carried out his lawsuit against Citigroup, and hired the most expensive of trial attorneys in David Boies, without so much as a shred of substantive proof behind his allegations. Following the jury’s swift and unsurprising dismissal of Hands’ charges against Citi, most assume it’s just a matter of time before Terra defaults, setting the wheels in motion for Citi to separately sell off EMI’s two components. While Marty Bandier’s Sony/ATV and KKR/BMG Rights Management would appear to be the front-runner for EMI Music Publishing, Warner Music, which has had EMI’s record company in its sights for more than a decade, will in all likelihood have some fierce competition. Along with UMG and Sony Music, who had both previously been engaged in talks with EMI about a licensing and/or distribution deal, other contenders could conceivably emerge… Meanwhile, EMI has only one significant Q4 release in Keith Urban, challenging the savvy Greg Thompson to make the situation look as viable as possible, given the surrounding uncertainty… As for Cerberus, whose alleged phantom bid caused Hands to overpay for EMI in the first place, details just emerging reveal that the Cerberus team that kicked EMI’s tires in 2007 was captained by none other than veteran record executive Roger Ames. That would seem to explain why Hands chose not to install Ames in a key position at his new acquisition despite his being as qualified as anyone to run the record company… What big act unhappy with its current agency was talked out of changing horses because of the manager’s dislike for a high-ranking agent at the band’s chosen destination?… While no remaining 2010 release is likely to challenge the first week of Swift’s Speak Now, a number of potentially big records will arrive in the next few weeks. These include Susan Boyle (whose 2009 debut is now at 3.82m) next Tuesday; Josh Groban (5m), Kid Rock (3.2m), Rascal Flatts (1.3m), Rihanna (1m), Keith Urban (900k) and Nelly (221k), along with a greatest hits collection from Pink (1.8m), on Nov. 16; Kanye West (1.7m), My Chemical Romance (1.5m), Ne-Yo (1.2m), Ke$ha (960k) and Akon (765k) on Nov. 22… Names in the Rumor Mill: Dick Parsons, Edgar Bronfman Jr., Roger Faxon, Mel Lewinter, Angelica Cob-Baehler, Steve Bartels, Dave Holmes and Adam Granite.
HITS LIST: AMPERSANDS
Dynamic duos (12/3a)
TAYLOR'S TREMENDOUS YEAR
She'd make one helluva CEO. (12/3a)
THEY CALL THE WINDFALL MARIAH (HOLIDAY EDITION)
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CHESTNUTS
Roasting.
STOCKINGS
Stuffing.
PIPERS
Piping.
SANTA
Coming.
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