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Does the Doug Morris-led Sony Music have enough firepower to fend off UMG in this year’s marketshare war?
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Len Blavatnik is trying to engage Lucian Grainge in a game of chicken, as he throws caution to the winds in a desperate attempt to stop the UMG-EMI merger. Will he go so far as to sue the European Commission if it approves the merger after having blocked WMG-EMI more than once? Given the EC’s track record, it can’t be seen as rolling over in approving this merger, and Blavatnik is counting on the commission taking a hard line with UMG-EMI—because it could be checkmate for him if he loses this battle.

Universal has made it clear that it has no intention of allowing Warner to buy any of the assets that it will have to divest as conditions of regulatory approval. That said, what other potential buyers are out there? If Blavatnik wins, however, all bets are off. The Russian billionaire may not know a lot about owning a music company, but he obviously knows how to read a financial statement. If he can kill the merger, grab EMI and employ that company’s model with a combined WMG-EMI, he’ll look like the smartest guy in the room.

Some believe Blavatnik's fascination with the EMI model will inspire him to install Roger Faxon to run the company. Even if he doesn’t wind up at WMG, Faxon will pocket an $8m golden parachute from EMI and will likely be considered for other high-level posts in the future.

Barry Weiss’ hiring of WBR’s Joie Manda, one of Lyor Cohen and Todd Moscowitz’s top urban music executives, to head up Def Jam reputedly had nothing to do with the bad blood between the two companies; nonetheless, UMG execs are said to be delighted at the chance to stick it to Warner. Manda’s move also supports the hypothesis that WMG executives are looking to jump to rival majors more inclined to pay top dollar for their services. Will Atlantic/Elektra’s Mike Caren and John Janick be next?

Breaking down the seemingly endless hot streak of Columbia (13.4% in new-release marketshare year to date), which has been in sole possession of the top of the album charts for the entire year, Adele is the product of traditional A&R, while this week’s chart-topper One Direction is a contemporary phenomenon, having been assembled by Simon Cowell out of contestants on the U.K. version of The X Factor, and Bruce Springsteen has been a core artist on the label for 40 years. Next up for Columbia: The Shins.

With the Stringer/Barnett colossus, Peter Edge’s star-studded RCA and L.A. Reid’s radically transformed Epic, does the Doug Morris-led Sony Music have enough firepower to fend off UMG in this year’s marketshare war? Sony is at 31.2% in overall share year-to-date, compared to UMG’s 28.7%.

Regarding the much-ballyhooed battle of Brit boy bands pitting One Direction against The Wanted (IDJ), both acts are repped worldwide by Rob Light’s CAA. David Zedeck handles both acts (as well as Justin Bieber) in the U.S. out of CAA’s New York offices. Given the out-of-the-box commercial potency of these two groups, could we possibly be witnessing the genesis of a phenomenon on the order of Backstreet Boys-NSYNC back in the late ’90s?

The Wanted are part of the growing empire—or the house that Bieber built—of Scooter Braun, who also signed the buzzing Carly Rae Jepsen (managed by Jonathan Simkin) to his Schoolboy imprint through Interscope. The former Canadian Idol finalist is another IGA act who broke first in Canada. Some initially dismissed Braun as a flash in the pan, but this next-gen entrepreneur is proving the naysayers wrong in dramatic fashion. 

Apple paid the Beatles $80m for an iTunes exclusive rights to the catalog in a deal that runs out at the end of the year. Will the two parties re-up, or will the Beatles/EMI tandem shake things up by heading to an iTunes competitor? Will Spotify write the Beatles a big check for streaming rights and/or begin to make payments directly to artists in an attempt to rectify the perception on the part of many big acts that it erodes sales?

Spotify’s Sean Parker stated at SXSW that the money being paid to the labels by the service simply isn’t trickling down to the acts. The self-serving Parker also boasted that the service would overtake iTunes as a revenue source for the labels in less than two years.

What role might Jimmy Iovine be playing in Beats Audio’s rumored pursuit of MOG? If Beats succeeds, it would give MOG a big leg up in the competition among subscription services.

Insiders confirm that VEVO is negotiating an exclusive content deal with Facebook, thus spurning original partner Google/YouTube once its arrangement expires early next year. Some are claiming that Google’s arrogance doesn’t make for cozy bedfellows.

Names in the rumor mill: Clive Calder, Lou Pearlman, Larry Rudolph, Steve Bartels and Daniel Ek.
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