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Beginning this week, expect to see a lot of Cohen on the West Coast as he temporarily relocates to Burbank in order to undertake the task of remaking Warner/Reprise.

I.B. BAD: THE SEASON OF CHANGE

The Richter Scale Is Jumping as Seismic Shifts Shake Warner Bros. Records, EMI, Sony Music and, Just Possibly, IDJ
To those in the know, it wasn’t a matter of whether Lyor Cohen would replace Tom Whalley as Warner Bros. Records chief, but when he would pull the trigger. The long-running enmity between the aggressive Cohen and the laid-back Whalley dates back more than a decade to their days at UMG. In 2001, then-WMG topper Roger Ames, another former UMG player, hired Whalley, and Cohen reluctantly redid Whalley’s deal at least once during his nine-year tenure. The two continued their uneasy coexistence—which insiders liken to a bad marriage—only because Cohen had no one to replace Whalley with, while Whalley came up dry in his efforts to find another comparably big gig. Cohen set the wheels in motion for the changeover last October, when he brought in the well-liked, mega-successful producer and former WBR A&R man Rob Cavallo as creative guru for WMG as a whole. In making that move, Cohen was clearly earmarking Cavallo, many of whose hits had been with WMG acts (including Green Day and the Goo Goo Dolls, both of which he’d signed during a previous stint at WBR, and more recently Kid Rock, Paramore and the upcoming My Chemical Romance), as Whalley’s eventual replacement. Around the same time, Cohen put longtime loyalist Todd Moscowitz inside WBR as his Trojan horse under the guise of bringing an urban presence to Burbank. Together, these moves gave Cohen the moving parts he’d been seeking in his long-standing desire to oust Whalley… During his first five years, Cohen managed to bring Atlantic back from the dead, along with Craig Kallman and Julie Greenwald, and WMG’s East Coast operation is once again a solid competitor, capable of going head to head with the likes of Columbia, Interscope, RCA/Jive, Universal Republic/Motown and IDJ in the marketshare wars. Cohen will now attempt to duplicate this feat in reshaping the West Coast, as he undertakes WBR’s transformation into a modern, aggressive company under Cavallo, the highly regarded Moscowitz and marketing expert Livia Tortella, who moves from her Atlantic GM post. As WBR Co-Presidents, Moscowitz and Tortello will oversee the company’s day-to-day operations, and likely manifest their respective strengths in urban music and rock, freeing Cavallo to exercise his strengths in record-making and A&R. Considering their familiarity with the current WBR staff, it’s likely that Cohen, Cavallo and Moscowitz have already drawn up a plan that specifies the changes they’re going to make in terms of staff, specifically including senior executives from the former regime, at a label in desperate need of new-school thinking. Also sending off a signal was the swift removal of a top Whalley loyalist, COO and Reprise head Diarmuid Quinn, suggesting that other Whalley lieutenants may be in jeopardy… Beginning this week, expect to see a lot of Cohen (a.k.a. Lansky) on the West Coast as he temporarily relocates to Burbank in order to undertake the task of remaking Warner/Reprise… Interestingly, WMG announced the change in command on Sept. 14, the street date for WB’s Linkin Park, the label’s most anticipated release in what has been a distressingly fallow year, with the most conservative in-house projections at a 400k debut. But the album (following up a May 2006 LP that sold 623k en route to 3m) moved just 254k units in its first week. That outcome echoes last month’s disappointing start for Katy Perry (194k, and now at 437k after three weeks), but not for the same reason. Whereas some believe Perry’s singles sales cannibalized her album, Linkin Park fell short of expectations in large part because of a poorly chosen first single... As the WBR makeover begins, one big unanswered question already being asked is, with the Rick Rubin Sony experiment never really cohering, will Rubin (who produced the Linkin Park album) re-team with Cohen, or has that train left the station once too often?… Turning to Roger Faxon’s new EMI regime, who will handle A&R following the departures of Nick Gatfield and Billy Mann? Will he bring in someone from outside to run the department, or will he turn to creative executives like Big Jon Platt and Dan McCarroll, who worked under him at EMI Music Publishing? Or will it be a combination of the two? The U.S. company had undergone a miraculous turnaround under Ronn Werre and his savvy team—notably including Greg Thompson, Colin Finkelstein, Angelica Cob-Baehler, Dominic Pandiscia and Capitol Nashville’s Mike Dungan—and Werre’s exit has created a big morale problem inside the company. Many key staffers say they’re getting no vibe from Faxon, as rumors once again swirl about a possible sale of the company, as KKR/BMG continues to stalk the pubco. Can Finkelstein, who will now run the show as EMI Music COO for North America, assume a leadership role to fill the void created by Werre’s exit, or does Faxon have another move in mind? Additionally, wonderers are wondering what went down between Faxon and Irving Azoff that led to lingering acrimony between the two moguls? EMI staffers are said to be concerned that the problem hasn’t been resolved… Here’s further evidence that this is a transitional moment for the Big Four overall: Rolf Schmidt-Holtz submitted a plan to the higher-ups at Sony Corp. in which he suggested his own replacement as Sony Music Chairman, while he would stay on as a consultant, but the proposal was rejected. As a result, there is still no clear-cut resolution in the matter of who will replace Schmidt-Holtz or when the change in command will go down... And all concerned at UMG have emphatically denied rampant rumors this week about the imminent departure of IDJ ruler L.A. Reid—a move some had predicted from Lucian Grainge as part of his anticipated tweaking of the company. Nonetheless, the smart money is on Reid—who has been one of Universal’s most prolific rainmakers since taking charge of IDJ in 2004—to eventually make a career change that will find him as a judge on either X Factor or American Idol, while also returning to his entrepreneurial roots with an associated new label. The latter outcome would put Reid in close proximity to his IGA counterpart Jimmy Iovine, who is playing a key role in the revamping of the show following Grainge’s pick-up of the Idol musical franchise… This scenario would also put together two of the modern-day record business’ best creative minds, which would be a big deal indeed. In any case, this is a story that may well play out near the end of this year, which would then lead to further speculation—specifically, when and if Reid chooses to leave, what will Grainge then do with IDJ?... Finally, noting the dramatic sales spikes for Florence + the Machine, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Eminem, Lady Gaga and others following their VMA appearances, virtually everyone in the business is trying to figure out why this year’s edition of the long-running annual telecast turned out to be so much more impactful than in the recent past… Names in the Rumor Mill: Mo Ostin, Bob Cavallo, Marty Bandier, Don Passman, Steve Moir, Steve Bartels, David Massey and Chris Lighty.
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