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I.B. BAD INVESTIGATES UNSOLVED MYSTERIES

WINDOWS TO THE STARS: Kanye West continues to dominate the 2016 music-industry narrative, keeping everyone guessing as to what’s happening with his eagerly anticipated new album, The Life of Pablo. There’s no question that the Kanye brand is huge, but will he find a way to monetize it? At presstime, no one has any inkling as to when his album might come out, if at all. If and when the album is released, how closely will it resemble the version streaming on Tidal? Indeed, will Kanye even retain the title The Life of Pablo? If it remains a Tidal exclusive, how will the rights holders be able to monetize it? And what’s behind the Apple boycott? Insiders thought that there was an Apple exclusive in the works for the Kanye album not that long ago. Meanwhile, there’s some chatter that Samsung may have written a check to Kanye for its involvement. It’s unfortunate the narrative is not about his music, which many believe is his strongest in years.

Rhianna, meanwhile, has somehow managed to land on her feet following her botched Tidal/Samsung rollout, thanks in large part to her “Work” single, which appears to be on the verge of exploding, despite some initial skepticism about its commercial viability. Kanye’s albums averaged 3-3.5m TEA up to the last one, while Rihanna’s averaged 2-2.5m, which made for some hefty advances back in the day.

Is the recent exclusive content from Rihanna, Beyoncé and Kanye, with T.I. on deck, creating enough noise for Tidal to attract a buyer so that Jay Z can get his money back? Insiders believe Tidal is hemorrhaging north of $10m a year in red ink, and these exclusives don’t appear to have generated new subscribers in sufficient numbers to make the business sustainable. Whatever happens next, Jay Z’s woman behind the scenes Desiree Perez will be deeply involved. She’s riding herd over Tidal as well as Roc Nation and Roc Nation Sports, cuts all the deals for these entities and is known as a notoriously tough negotiator.

Exclusive content has become the Holy Grail for competitive purveyors of music; it’s an ongoing priority at Tidal, and look for Eddy Cue’s Apple Music to play that card even more extensively, dipping into its massive war chest. Some believe Spotify is now willing to pay for exclusive content of its own in what would be a significant shift in policy. On a closely related topic, look for one major rights holder to make a dramatic change in its windowing policy with two-tiered streaming services. Insiders differ on the details, but said policy could be patterned on the Adele strategy of allowing the services to stream the single while indefinitely withholding the album, an insistence on premium only or, more likely, some sort of windowing tactic. If windowing becomes the norm, will Spotify then be forced to soften its hardline stance? Daniel Ek would be hard-pressed to justify his stubborn embrace of ad-supported unlimited free streaming, given that Spotify’s total ad revenue for the first half of 2015 was reportedly just $162m—a fraction of the revenue the company pulls in from a subscriber base believed to be between 25-30m.

WHERE THE ACTION IS: Music publishers are eyeing a pair of former One Direction members with great interest. Harry Styles’ publishing is available, as is that of his former bandmate, Sarah Stennett-managed Zayn Malik, whose RCA debut single is Top 5 in sales and approaching Top 10 in airplay. These deals promise to be massive. U.K.-based Lawrence Engel is Styles’ attorney. Additionally, rumor has it that Styles may complete his album before pursuing any deal.

Cameron Strang’s Warner Bros. is close to breaking R&B stylist Andra Day and Danish band Lukas Graham, whose single “7 Years” is en route to becoming as massive in the U.S. as it is in Britain.

David Joseph’s UMG U.K. and XL/Beggars Group’s Adele were the big winners at the BRIT Awards on 2/24, as Universal artists picked up five statuettes, while Adele took home four before closing the show with a rousing rendition of “When We Were Young.”

Is MTV Networks circling the drain? In the year since Van Toffler left Viacom and management of MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central shifted to Doug Herzog, ratings have plummeted across the board. Thus far, Herzog has failed to create any viable programming to speak of, amid chatter that the major carriers are losing interest. In April, when the networks unveil their summer and fall shows, will Herzog be able to offer a programming slate that gets their attention, or will it be game over?

CLOSING BLIND: Whispers whispering during Grammy weekend that one label head is in trouble resulting from disappointing results during the last couple of years, casting serious doubt on his staying power. Insiders say he won’t make it to the end of the year, as the search for his replacement is ongoing.

NAMES IN THE RUMOR MILL: Max Lousada, OG Juan Perez, Jill Berliner, Jason Owen, Larry Jackson, Jeffrey Azoff and Maxwell.

 

NEAR TRUTHS: BLOWING THE WHISTLE
Pissing outside the tent. (2/14a)
BILLIE RELEASES HAUNTING, ETHEREAL BOND THEME
The siblings strike again. (2/14a)
HITS LIST:
SURPRISE, SURPRISE
We, too, are thinking of going public. (2/14a)
NATION BUILDER
JAY BROWN
Takin' care of business. (2/14a)
STEVENSON'S
NEXT MOVE
Nice run. (2/14a)
DON'T TALK TO THE PRESS
Also, don't leak the memo about not talking to the press to the press. Please.
GRAMMY VOTING
How the sausage is made.
BIEBER'S BIG BOW
Changes changes the conversation.
PRIMARIES
So hard to decide...
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