Vegas lists Warner as the 8-5 favorite to come out on top. If the handicappers are right, WMG will then be forced by Citigroup to pay for the cost of regulatory and assume all the risk.


Jay-Z & Kanye, Doug Vs. Lucian, WMG + EMI, Execs’ Salaries + 100% Bonuses
The entire industry is buzzing about the rollout of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collaboration Watch the Throne, initiated by the two artists themselves. To minimize the chance of leaks, the physical album didn’t ship to retail until Monday morning for Friday’s physical release, hours after the album became available as an iTunes exclusive as of 12:01 ET. The gambit worked, as the first leak appeared on Pirate Bay and other file-sharing sites only after iTunes started selling it. While it’s impossible to quantify the strategy in terms of hard numbers, the absence of early leaks is virtually unprecedented for a high-profile release and has to be considered a rousing success. At presstime, first-week sales estimates were well above 500k for the unconventional staggered release, which includes the added wrinkle of a Best Buy exclusive on the deluxe version. Will it hit 600k? And given all the positives in play, will this concept become the new model for superstar releases? That would be much to the displeasure of brick & mortar, who feel hosed by the tactic… Jay-Z and West’s album leads a procession of heavyweight UMG releases for the rest of 2011, including Lil Wayne, The Game, Mary J. Blige, Blink 182, 50 Cent, American Idol winner Scotty McCreery, Drake, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Rick Ross and, just possibly, Dr. Dre. This array of potential big sellers, coupled with the fact that Doug Morris is still putting his Sony Music team on the field, increases the likelihood that Lucian Grainge’s Universal will retain its #1 marketshare for the year. In contrast to Grainge, who has been in sole charge of Universal throughout the year, the impact of Morris’ moves and changes won’t be fully felt for at least 18 months. The irony of the situation is that, for now, at least, Morris is essentially competing against himself, in the sense that all of the above were signed and developed during his tenure. In terms of the competition for executive talent, Grainge is prioritizing A&R, having already snapped up such gunslingers as Gee Roberson, David Foster, Brandon Creed, Tom Whalley and Rob Stevenson, while also re-upping Karen Kwak and Ethiopia Habtemariam... The bids for EMI as a whole are reportedly higher than the $3.3 billion Len Blavatnik paid for Warner Music, with most said to be north of $3.5 billion. One insider claims recorded music overhead and A&R spending were cut so dramatically during the Terra Firma reign of terror that the bottom line seems disproportionate to the top line. EMI senior management has complained for some time that the label is significantly understaffed in comparison to the competition, leading one potential bidder to ask, is that a good thing or a bad thing?… All three majors believe they can absorb recorded music. As for publishing, the sheer size of UMG’s pubco precludes the company from making a deal for EMI Music Publishing, with its 1.3 million-song catalog, while Sony Corp.-owned Sony/ATV appears to be in a good position to add EMI’s publishing assets, possibly in partnership with Ron Perelman, who would get records. This scenario would put the Michael Jackson estate, which owns half of Sony/ATV, into the thick of the publishing business.... Another reported bidder is Apollo Global Management, which is being separately consulted by Jeff Kwatinetz and Charles Koppelman... Vegas lists Warner as the 8-5 favorite to come out on top. If the handicappers are right, WMG will then be forced by Citigroup to pay for the cost of regulatory and assume all the risk… Are any key EMI executives poised to make an early exit, leaving their bonuses for remaining through the sale on the table? These bonuses range from 50-100% of yearly salaries. Lyor Cohen, who is expressing confidence that Warner Music will get the deal, has stated he would only keep the acts and their contracts, and that he’s not interested in retaining staff. But EMI’s three biggest acts have close ties to current executives: Katy Perry to SVP Media & Creative Services Angelica Cob-Baehler; Lady Antebellum to EMI Nashville chief Mike Dungan; and Coldplay to EVP/GM Greg Thompson through his relationship with manager Dave Holmes, while Thompson’s wide-ranging responsibilities give him overlapping relationships with Perry and Lady A as well… Lots of talk centered around a possible changing of the guard in Nashville, with the sale of EMI conceivably resulting in a shuffling of the deck. Will Dungan become a hot free agent, or will Cohen try to keep him? People are also talking about Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta, whose biggest acts are Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, as a possible major-label chieftain… Names in the Rumor Mill: Colin Finkelstein, Dan McCarroll, Manish Arora, Michael Guido, Sylvia Rhone and Ron Fair.
Team Lipman doubles up. (11/26a)
Big numbers for "30." (11/29a)
Deck the Grammys with boughs of Holly. (11/24a)
Rolling out our U.K. Special print issue (11/24a)
Putting the audio into audio-visual. (11/29a)

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