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I.B. BAD ON BRAND BUILDING & OTHER HOT TOPICS

BRAND NAMES: Rihanna is not only a superstar, she’s also the creator of one of the most distinctive and valuable brands in the entertainment sector. Indeed, her brand is so bulletproof that it has brought her a #1 album debut and the #1 Most Added track at Top 40, Rhythm and Urban on lead single “Work,” featuring Drake, despite what some are calling a nightmare rollout. It’s worth noting that ANTI is on her own label, Westbury Road, through Roc Nation, making it the first of her eight album releases that hasn’t had Def Jam’s fingerprints all over it, apart from the slam-dunk radio-promo effort overseen by label ruler Steve Bartels. This otherwise botched affair stands as persuasive evidence of the record being a distant second to the tour and brand partnerships in terms of present-day superstar economics. But did she do any damage to her brand during the last six months of false starts and garbled messages?

The problems plaguing the 1/29 release were partly triggered by Rihanna herself, when, on 1/28, she tweeted out the link to a free download of the album on the Tidal site. This seemingly impulsive move instantly sabotaged Samsung’s planned exclusive giveaway of 1m albums, part of the $30m Samsung had reportedly committed to its sponsorship deal for the tour and album. Meanwhile, the Industry Bible, because of the leak, put ANTI on its chart early at #26. Team Janice certainly had the discretion to look the other way in this case, but their refusal to do so, even for one of music's biggest stars, is further evidence that they lack any nuanced understanding of the biz.

While Rihanna was on her roller-coaster ride, Zayn Malik—or ZAYN, as he’s being billed—bolted out of the gate with his first RCA single, “PILLOWTALK,” which immediately rocketed to the top of the iTunes charts worldwide and is accruing giant sales, humongous streams and significant spins. The track racked up a first-week tally of 267k, far outpacing Rihanna’s “Work.” Joe Riccitelli’s team is crushing it at Pop.

Drake also came with the new track to tease Views From the 6, premiering it on his OVO Sound Beats 1 show on 1/30, and revealing that the eagerly awaited Young Money/Cash Money/Republic album will drop in April. “Summer Sixteen” overtook ZAYN’s cut to take over #1 on the iTunes chart, par for the course for this genre-transcending superstar. But the track appears to be directed specifically toward Drake’s urban core.

Insiders are saying that Beyoncé, whose next Columbia album was also thought to be coming in April, is still working on the project, and it will come when it comes. The new song from her brief appearance with Coldplay during the Super Bowl halftime show may not be released as a single; it’s thought to be primarily intended as a perpetuation of her brand and a setup for her just-announced tour.

THE AGENCY WARS, PART TWO: CAA’s Rob Light-led music department got a lift in its gloves-off battle with WME when hot young agent Jeffrey Azoff opted to stay on, while also representing Harry Styles in conjunction with dear old dad. Jeffrey, along with fellow agents Bobby Cory and Jeff Krones, has become the Death Star’s brightest hope of beating back a hard charge by WME, which has gained much momentum over the last few years with the new and developing acts under the aggressive hand of Marc Geiger. In the eyes of numerous senior label executives and managers, WME appears to have become the place to be for cool new acts.

Among the big acts that have broken over the last three or four years, WME boasts a list of breakthrough artists that includes The Weeknd, Florence + the Machine, Arctic Monkeys, Eric Church, James Bay, George Ezra, Kygo, Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Macklemore and A$AP Rocky. CAA has Meghan Trainor, Sam Hunt, Pentatonix, Twenty One Pilots, Brantley Gilbert, 5 Seconds of Summer, Ariana Grande, Lana Del
Rey
, Kacey Musgraves and Leon Bridges. Interestingly, Sam Smith, Bruno Mars and Hozier are among the high-profile artists who have chosen to go with WME in North America and CAA internationally; Adele is with WME in the States and ITB in Britain. 

ETC.: Those rumors flying around the business about Apple Music buying a hot management company have no basis in fact, according to Cupertino insiders. Don’t look for Eddy Cue, Jimmy Iovine and their team to go into management or records; they prefer to be all things to all people. But deep-pocketed former Guggenheim Partners CEO Todd Boehly is rumored to be interested in buying into big management companies. Boehly’s newco has a major interest in Allen Shapiro’s DCP as well as the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter unit, which is expected to have losses this year of more than $20m, and whose editorial credibility is at an all-time low.

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Colin Barlow, Richard Griffiths, Jay Brown, Jordan Feldstein, Robby Fraser, Darryl Eaton and Emma Banks.

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Getting global with it.
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And this time it's not from our bong.
WHAT COMES AFTER TIKTOK?
Shorter videos! Weirder trends!
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