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The industry hasn’t seen a rivalry of this intensity since the glory days of CBS and Warner Bros. under Walter Yetnikoff and Mo Ostin.
I.B. BAD: THE CLASH OF THE TITANS
It’s Game On, as Doug Morris’ Revitalized Sony Music Prepares to Do Battle With Lucian Grainge’s Heavy-Hitting UMG
The competition is ratcheting up between the two superpowers of the modern music business, as incoming Sony Music ruler Doug Morris and UMG leader Lucian Grainge go head to head. The industry hasn’t seen a rivalry of this intensity since the glory days of CBS and Warner Bros. under Walter Yetnikoff and Mo Ostin, respectively. Since succeeding Morris at Universal at the beginning of this year, Grainge has made a series of high-level deals, including those with American Idol, The Voice, Kanye West and David Foster. Meanwhile, after leaving UMG in early March, Morris spent four intensive months preparing to put his team on the field, and now that he has taken command at SME, he’s moving swiftly and decisively to put his plan in place. First came the L.A. Reid-to-Epic official announcement, even as Reid was getting ready for the September premiere of The X Factor, while also overseeing the making of a number of records for his new label. Morris then began installing executives in other key positions. These include former EMI A&R chief and Island U.K. head Nick Gatfield, who replaces Ged Doherty on the throne of SME U.K. and Ireland, and Edgar Berger, the current Sony Music Germany Switzerland Austria topper, who replaces New York-based Richard Sanders as the head of SME’s under-performing international division. Berger’s current operation is SME’s most productive outside the U.S. He’ll be based in London. SME President Europe Kevin Lawrie will also have a major role on Morris’ team, according to insiders… The level of competition between the legendary record man and his onetime protégé turned formidable foe should become even more fierce when Morris’ no-poach stipulation is lifted in January... As Morris was moving pieces on his chessboard, the New York Post’s Page Six gossip column reported that he was bringing in recently departed Universal Motown chief Sylvia Rhone to resuscitate the Portrait imprint, working closely with Reid. The item then claimed bad blood between Reid and Rhone, asserting that the two don’t get along. The next day, another item appeared painting Reid as “incredibly difficult,” and attributing the following quote to him: “I don’t want no ugly people working here; I only want good-looking people.” The former claim couldn’t be further from the truth; Reid and Rhone are good friends whose families vacation together. The subsequent “quote” is a complete fabrication. What’s more, Rhone is not going to Sony, at least not at this time. The pressing question in terms of all this disinformation is, who is behind it and what is their agenda?… As to changes that are actually afoot at UMG, Barry Weiss and Steve Bartels are interviewing candidates for the top spot at Def Jam. Among those they’ve met with are Kevin Liles, Chris Lighty and Chaka Zulu, and while they also sat down with Irv Gotti, that meeting involved a possible A&R post… At Warner Music, Lyor Cohen has been named Chairman/CEO of Recorded Music, while the Cameron Strang-led Warner/Chappell, formerly part of Cohen’s empire, now reports to outgoing Chairman Edgar Bronfman. Relations between Bronfman and Cohen are said to be not what they once were… Citigroup is eager to pull the trigger on the sale of EMI, with bids due this Thursday. Along with Len Blavatnik/WMG, the likely bidders for all or part of the company are Sony, UMG, BMG Rights Management, Live Nation, the Gores brothers, Ronald Perelman and Apollo Global Management (with Jeff Kwatinetz consulting). Meanwhile, those guaranteed big bonuses for certain EMI staffers to stay until the sale is complete are having the desired effect, as poachers are being stymied in their attempts to lure some of the company’s few key executives… Another prominent manager is exiting Mike Green’s The Collective, as Larry Jacobsen escapes with his act, Avenged Sevenfold, in tow, unlike some previously departed managers who had to leave their acts behind… There’s a big buzz surrounding Spotify, which some are predicting will be as big a game changer as iTunes. According to the terms of the majors’ licensing deals with the service, the three sources of revenue—advertising, subscriptions and, in the near future, downloads—are all split 70/30 in the labels’ favor, a la iTunes, with streaming usage calculated on percentage splits among the Big Four… What top producer is getting his own full-service label at a major?... From the Ripley file: Randy Phillips says that he’s signed a new contract with AEG and adds that he hasn’t told a lie in years… Names in the rumor Mill: Steve Ross, Dick Asher, Brian Ross, Pink Floyd and Bob Morgado.
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