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I.B. BAD PREVIEWS WHAT WILL BE A Q4 TO REMEMBER

THE ONE & ONLY: The launch of the less-is-more marketing campaign for Adele’s Nov. 20 album, 25—formulated by the artist, Columbia chief Rob Stringer and manager Jonathan Dickins—was a model of economy and efficiency, from the brilliantly minimalist 30-second spot that appeared out of the blue during The X Factor in the U.K. through the midweek surgical strikes on social media to the arrival of the album preorder and the lead single “Hello” on Friday. Following this series of calculated moves, the album immediately shot to #1 in country after country, while the single will sell north of 1m in its first week, obliterating the previous record. The reigning Queen of Pop won’t be ever-present leading up to 25’s release in the Taylor Swift manner; Adele’s appearances will continue to be highly select and strategic, befitting her enigmatic persona, just as Swift’s ubiquitousness around her releases is a reflection of her effervescent personality. In a lockout deal with NBC, she’ll appear on Today and Fallon on dates TBA and SNL on Nov. 21, while a Nov. 17 performance at Radio City Music Hall will be taped for a prime-time special airing during Thanksgiving week, according to inside sources. The Grammys on CBS next February will be the lone exception to the lockout.

But if the artist herself will remain at a distance, the opposite will be true of the album. The plan is for the LP to own physical retail from release date through the end of the holidays; hence, it will be everywhere from supermarkets to truck stops, including a major, major initiative from Target, its centerpiece a deluxe exclusive version of 25 with three bonus tracks. If the overall plan is carried out properly, Adele CDs will be stacked so high at the cash registers that shoppers will be tripping over them. Clearly, the initial order will need to be massive in order to blanket retail. Some handicappers believe 25 will debut with 1.5-1.7m, eclipsing the 1.3m first week of Swift’s 1989, though not approaching the record of 2.4m set by NSYNC’s No Strings Attached back in 2000. Sustaining big numbers through the holidays is the next step in the plan; the graphic below, showing sales of 1989, from its release on 10/27/14 through the first week in January, will be a useful measuring stick for Adele’s performance. 

How will the emphasis on physical product impact Team Adele’s streaming strategy? The single is available on all the major services—and it, too, is breaking records—but it remains unclear whether the album will be held back altogether or limited to premium. In the latter scenario, would Spotify alter its policy in order to be in the Adele business?

FOUR WILD CARDS: How do the expected Q4 releases from Columbia’s Beyoncé (whose previous album bowed with 618k on 12/15/13), Roc Nation’s Rihanna (238k, 11/25/12), Def Jam’s Kanye West (327k, 6/23/13) and Parlophone’s Coldplay (383k, 5/25/14), all with release dates TBD, fit into the picture? Beyoncé will debut at #1 no matter when her album drops, apart from 11/20, of course; otherwise, Adele is a heavy favorite to hold the top spot through the rest of the year. There appear to be two or three windows—12/4, 12/11 and possibly 12/18—and the prognosticators believe a first week of 300k could knock Adele off the top perch. Considering their respective sales histories, Beyoncé and Coldplay have shown they can hit or surpass the magic number, while Rihanna’s previous five releases have averaged just under 200k, and Kanye’s track record is too erratic to make a call one way or the other. If Beyoncé’s album makes it this year, it will almost certainly crush the others, while Coldplay would outperform Rihanna and Kanye. And although Kanye is not hot record-wise, he should still outsell Rihanna, whose forthcoming album has no vibe yet. It’s also worth noting that there’s a Tidal connection to all four releases. The three solo artists and Chris Martin were all at the launch and all have business and personal relationships with Jay Z.

ANTI will be Rihanna’s first album on her new label deal with Roc Nation, which is also her management company, a combination unheard of for a superstar. Her team had previously slated the album to drop on 11/6, but they’ve moved off that date, quite possibly because it won’t be ready in time. 11/13 would seem to be out, due to the double whammy of SYCO/Columbia’s One Direction and Def Jam’s Justin Bieber, both of which were initially projected to sell north of 350k—and while the Bieber projection has been lowered to 300k, the just-released single “Sorry” could reignite the Purpose preorder. Putting things in perspective, although Rihanna’s recent singles haven’t been smashes, possibly lowering the ceiling on ANTI’s first-week, her brand is bigger than ever, and in big-picture terms, her brand is where the big money is.

TWO LEGENDS: The impending buy/sell on Sony/ATV initiated by Sony Corp. in Tokyo thrusts uber-publisher Marty Bandier and mega-attorney/dealmaker John Branca together yet again in a business and personal relationship that dates back 30 years. The stage was set in 1985, when Branca acquired ATV Music Publishing, which included the Lennon & McCartney catalog, on behalf of Michael Jackson at the bargain price of $47.5m. Their paths crossed a year later, when Branca represented Bandier, Charles Koppelman and Stephen Swid (SBK) in the purchase of CBS Songs from Walter Yetnikoff; that became the foundation of EMI Music Publishing. In 1989, when EMI acquired SBK, Bandier was named the head of EMP, while Koppelman took charge of recorded music; Branca represented SBK in the deal. It was then that Bandier began building EMP into the #1 pubco, a status it retained throughout his 17-year reign.

One of the primary building blocks was Berry Gordy’s Jobete Music, of which Bandier took a 50% stake in 1996 for $132m, upping it to 100% three years later; Branca represented Gordy in both transactions. In another foreshadowing, Branca and Sony Entertainment’s Mickey Schulhoff engineered the merger of Jackson’s ATV and Sony Music Publishing, creating Sony/ATV, in 1995. After Bandier stepped down as the head of EMP in October 2006, Branca advised his longtime friend to turn down a similar offer from Warner Music and take the Sony/ATV job instead. Thereafter, Branca repped Leiber & Stoller in the sale of their catalog to Sony/ATV. In 2011, Bandier was reunited with EMP, as it was joined with Sony/ATV to form the world’s largest pubco; Branca was a consultant to Sony in the purchase. As for Sony/ATV’s future, the most knowledgeable people in the business are split about whether Sony is a buyer or seller (Sony’s piece of EMP is not part of the buy/sell), Branca has made it clear that he wants to buy out Sony—but he doesn’t want Bandier’s job, in part because he believes no one could do it better.

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Dave Holmes, Martin Mills, Jay Brown, Scooter Braun, Richard Griffiths and Irving Azoff.

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