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I.B. BAD: MARKETSHARE MANIA OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS

AN UNHOLY MESS: Billboard is still reeling after what many are calling the worst week in the history of what was once universally viewed as the Bible of the music business. Its Hot 100 Festival at Jones Beach, which turned into a PR and financial disaster, was coupled with Irving Azoff’s attack on the trade’s confidential executive survey in the New York Post, calling the whole thing “a new low, even for them.” The survey was finally scuttled in favor of a mock version after Sony Music threatened the Bible with Armageddon if they published the results. Monte Lipman was voted the second most important exec in the business and Scooter Braun the best exec not running a label. Was this a mere coincidence, given that The Weeknd and Justin Bieber were the festival headliners? The problem that top execs across the industry are having is that the decision-makers at the Bible don't know the difference between a stream and a one-stop, and many believe they've made their hallowed Top 200 album chart a mockery and far less important by including TEAs and streams.

Now comes word from inside BB that the magazine’s brain trust has chosen not to publish label marketshare during 2015 until year’s end in the wake of the 2014 marketshare kerfuffle. They’re clearly hoping to keep the heat out of the kitchen for as long as possible following their recent decision to once again rearrange what sub-labels’ shares certain majors are entitled to. Because the marketshare race has become personal for the top contenders, the Bible bosses had been lobbied hard to make changes in how they define what comprises—and differentiates—label and label-group marketshare.

Insiders at Billboard are saying the mag has determined that RED will not be made part of Columbia’s year-end marketshare total. No reason has been given for this decision, and Rob Stringer’s label has not yet been officially informed about it. Sony Music has a real problem with RED being excluded while Caroline won’t be removed from the share of Steve Barnett’s Capitol Music Group. Sony claims there’s no difference between the two relationships—that both distribute independent labels. Caroline has had #1 albums this year from acts on ATO, Voltron, Hopeless and Prospect Park, while RED has had big hits from the likes of Broken Bow’s Jason Aldean and Red Bull’s AWOLNATION.

Sony’s marketshare issues extend to Republic, which it claims is merely a promotion company that works Big Machine, Island and Cash Money records at Pop radio only, and that those labels’ shares—2.5% TEA for Island, 2% for BMLG and 1.3% for Cash Money—should not be part of Republic’s share, which stands at 9.6% TEA year-to-date. Meanwhile, Interscope and RCA are both claiming that they’re pure labels with real marketshare, while Columbia, CMG and Republic’s shares are in reality amalgamations of numerous labels. Additionally, Big Machine is said to be lobbying to have their marketshare standalone from Republic’s.

The enormous success of The Weeknd, an act signed directly to Republic, whose album bowed last week with an impressive 325k, suggests he could very well be the artist who drives Republic to this year’s marketshare top slot as the year-end race gets underway. Beauty Behind the Madness is already north of 1m in TEA and looks to be the breakout story of the year so far, with 2m-plus by year’s end a possibility. Lipman’s run for another first-place finish may also be aided by a new album from established superstar Drake. As it stands now, Columbia is a solid #1 in year-to-date TEA with 10.3%, seven-tenths of a percentage point ahead of Republic, while CMG stands at 7.5%, John Janick’s IGA at 7.4% and Tom Corson’s RCA at 6.2%.

WHERE THE ACTION IS: The Justin Bieber comeback looks like the perfect storm thus far, as the new single blows up worldwide. Scooter Braun’s ability to move the social-networks needle at critical times is resulting in massive streams and strong single sales, which are influencing the media gatekeepers in an extremely positive way, as Braun once again demonstrates his mastery of social-media manipulation. This bounty of positives should quell the recent Scooter bashing to a degree as he shops his music/TV/film deal to prospective strategic and financial partners for the asking price of $150m.

Does Len Blavatnik’s recently completed joint-venture deal with Sarah Stennett’s Turn First Management—which surprised industry observers, who had expected her to affiliate with UMG or Sony—signal a change of direction for the 25-times billionaire, who hadn’t made an acquisition of this significance since closing the Parlophone deal in early 2013? The newco, which will operate autonomously from Warner Bros. Records and Atlantic, will be a music-based company but will also dabble in film, TV and, of course, fashion, an area in which Turn First has thrived.  

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Joel Klaiman, Joe Riccitelli, Greg Thompson, Charlie Walk, Michele Anthony and Julie Swidler.

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